John Richardson is not one to rest on his laurels and believes those not constantly improving their herd are not doing their job – and it will cost them.
For the past 19 years, Mr Richardson has been running and building the Hereford herd at the Wetherow family-owned Wandilo property Shiloh Park for logging operation Tabeel Trading.
The 809-hectare property is stocked with 500 breeding cows, and 1200 first-cross ewes. A couple of centre pivots producing stock feed round out the operation, which had just 50 cows when he began managing the farm.
“We’ve built it up slowly and steadily over the years,’’ he said.
Although the heifers are joined to an Angus for ease of calving – with the progeny sold through the store sales at Mount Gambier – Mr Richardson’s management is primarily designed to produce and maintain the traits the Hereford breed is best known for.
“If you’re going all right and your cattle are good – when you’re on a good thing, stick to it,’’ he said. “But you’ve got to improve every year. If you’re not improving every year then you’re not going anywhere, and in four or five years you’ll fall behind.’’
Shiloh Park has an autumn and a spring calving and Mr Richardson’s commercial aim is to sell his calves at 10 months of age, with steers weighing up to 360 kilograms and going mainly to feedlots.
But it is the work Mr Richardson does to retain and strengthen the fundamentals of Hereford cattle, to make his cattle, a showpiece that gets attention for the breed, which highlights just how much thought he puts into his job.
If you’re not improving every year then you’re not going anywhere.
“I like to match my bulls to the cows,” he said.
“Sometimes you might have a mob of cows that are a little bit low on their pigment in their eyes, the hood of the eyes, so I pick a bull with a good hooded eye and good pigment and put over them.
“Everyone says they haven’t got any bad cows. Well if you say you haven’t got any bad cows you’re not doing the job right. You should always be improving.’’
Mr Richardson culls his cows hard with up to 50 cows going out of the herd each year, on a range of traits, including temperament.
“When you’ve got a good lot coming through, you can afford to cull hard,” he said.
CORRECT COLOUR CONSIDERED IN BUYING CRITERIA
When Mr Richardson goes to the Allendale/Days Whiteface sale at Bordertown, he knows just what he is looking for in a bull.
“Big hooded eyes to keep the sun out of the eyes,” he said.
“I don’t buy any bulls that don’t have 100 per cent pigmentation, a good coloured bull and they’ve got to have very straight feet.
“Like most people, you want a good length of bull and a good frame but sometimes you can have trouble putting meat on too big a frame.
“Some of my cattle are pretty big in the frame, so I put back over them a shorter bull with more muscle, just to put more meat on them, otherwise it just gets too hard for the fellas who buy them to put meat on them.’’
Further highlighting Mr Richardson’s commitment to creating cattle that honour the true Hereford traits is his occasional use of a Maine Anjou bull to put the rich red coat back into the herd.
“I’ll put a Maine Anjou bull over some specially picked cows if they’re too light,” he said.
“It will correct any faults with the colour and the eyes and any milk faults.
“You’ve got to put those heifers back to a Hereford so I pick a really good Hereford bull and put that over them.’’