SOUTH West Slopes steer operation ”Woolpack Creek” has, for two decades, been tapping into the genetic advancements in meat eating quality of the Shorthorn breed.
They want to keep feedlot operators – searching for the marbling traits required to fill the premium end of their trade – knocking on the door.
In recent years, ”Woolpack Creek” manager Cliff Workman has also been able to secure some impressive production benefits namely high growth rates, fertility and top milk production by looking to the cutting edge of the breeds genetics.
In a game where the pay language is cents per kilogram and profits are dependent on how much beef you get for your inputs buck, sourcing bulls able to provide that little bit extra is crucial.
Three years ago, he bought a bull from regular Dubbo vendors Nagol Park Shorthorns at Tamworth, looking for those weighforage improvements.
This year (2012) that decision has combined perfectly, with good seasonal conditions to deliver up to 30-kilogram weight improvements in 10-month-old heifers and impressive returns in January-sold steers.
A line of 52 steers, around half by Nagol Park Challenger, averaged $950 and topped at over $1000 to Rockdale Feedlot.
Challenger is by Broughton Park Millennium, specifically used by Nagol Park for its high growth rates with muscling and top milk production.
Mr Workman said Challenger is one of the best bulls “Woolpack Creek” has had.
“His 10-month-hold heifers this season have reached a top of 384kg and are averaging 341kg, and while a mild, wet summer meant we had green feed right though and helped the heifers along, they were still a good 30kg heavier than other calves dropped at the same time,” he said.
“The best of his steers, born 40kg, are doing well over 1kg a day (weight gain) off pasture.
“Ultimately we get paid by cents per kilogram so thats whats important.”
That is, of course, so long as steers are able to perform in the feedlot as well.
However, that is a given with Shorthorns, said Mr Workman.
Certainly the resurgence in Shorthorn numbers over the past 30 years in line with the feedlot sector backs up his belief.
Mr Workman looks after the 800-hectare Woolpack Creek on behalf of a Canberrabased owner.
Its mostly undulating country of both improved and natural pastures.
About 250ha is planted to phalaris, cocksfoot, clovers and chicory, with the aim to improve additional paddocks each year.
Above-average rain in 2010 and 2011 progressed the pasture improvement program significantly, Mr Workman said.
The operation runs 120 pure Shorthorn breeders, with foundation bloodlines coming from other Dubbo sale regulars the Leeds familys Broome Shorthorns at Jerilderie and more recently genetics have been sourced from Graham and Judith Halls Oakton stud near Young, along with Nagol Park.
Steers are sold direct to feedlots, with weights of 450kg to 500kg targeted by 18 months.
Weaning happens at eight months, with steers going straight onto improved pasture with no supplementation other than some hay in winter.
Heifers go out onto creek flat pastures until they reach 300kg.
Mr Workman said the aim was to reach the target weights within 18 months, without the costs of heavy supplementation, and to that end, the property was generally slightly understocked.
Heifers are joined from late September for six weeks and cows from October for eight weeks at ratios of 1:50.
“We have been restricting joining times in order to breed more fertility into the herd and get a better average weight into our steers,” Mr Workman said.
While crossbreeding has been trialled at ”Woolpack Creek”, Mr Workman said temperament was affected and feedlots were keen on his purebred Shorthorns.
“The feedlots keep coming back for our steers is feedback that we are providing the type of article they want,” he said.
“Shorthorns fit the bill for what we are doing on a number of levels milking ability, temperament and weightfor age.
“Their fertility is excellent - our calving rates are consistently around 92 per cent.
“There are the genetics available now within the breed to achieve many of the production benefits crossbreeders chase, its just a matter of making the right choices.”
Source: Shan Goodwin, The Land