First-generation graziers Russell and Marnie Kamp might be new to breeding cattle, but after 10 years they have managed to stamp their mark on the local cattle market.
The Kamps run about 400 Angus females at Willalooka and after a continued focus on breeding top-line females to produce a quality calf, steers returned about $1030 a head on AuctionsPlus in November last year.
Mr Kamp said he had used top quality stud genetics in an artificial insemination program to ensure the female herd “was as good as it could be”.
“At the end of the day we are breeding females, the higher quality genetics we use the greater impact it will have on our entire female herd to produce the best progeny,” he said.
“It is important to remember females are half of the genetic pool. Sometimes I do not believe enough credit or focus is given to them.
“We can buy a fancy bull but if the ground work has not gone into the female herd, half of how good a bull is genetically goes down the drain because it is dragged down by the female herd.
Females need to exude structural correctness and quality feet to help breed the best calves, says Mr Kamp.
"On a few occasions our commercial cows have actually produced a better bull from a phenotypic perspective than our stud cows – so our selection process is working," he said.
“We are ruthless on feet structure because if females cannot walk they cannot eat and they will get lame and go down on the feet.
“Foot structure is also vital because of our country – we have soft country with a lot of sand so the whole herd needs correct feet.”
Recent genetics used in the joining program include bloodlines from Mandayen stud and United States stud Vintage Angus Ranch.
The self-replacing female herd is based on Willalooka Basin, Coolana and Stoney Point bloodlines.
About 120 heifers are retained each year and after classing and pregnancy testing, about 100 cows are maintained in the herd, with the remaining females sold at local sales or privately.
“We keep as many of our young heifers as we can, providing that they stack up structurally, because of the hard work that goes into them,” Mr Kamp said.
Mr Kamp also said he looked for the best docility figures available when sourcing new genetics.
”Again it comes back to the importance of maintaining a quality female herd because literally, on the day a new calf is dropped we catch them for tagging and data recording,” he said.
“Docility is paramount in our operation because to be able to grab a calf from its mother within a few hours requires a calm female.”
Mr Kamp hoped to market this year’s progeny at the Willalooka Blue Ribbon sale in November.
WORKING DOGS MAINTAIN PEACE
HEIFER health, behaviour management and an efficient weaning program have become top priorities for Willalooka cattleman Russell Kamp to help ensure his Angus cattle herd is calm and easy to work with.
It begins with joining heifers at the beginning of May, prior to the main cow herd, to allow sufficient time to monitor the health of heifers before and after calving.
“We dedicate a lot of time to just checking heifers and the calf to make sure they are on track because ultimately we want all heifers to grow into a healthy cow herd,” Mr Kamp said.
“We yard wean calves at seven months old for a minimum of seven days and we are quite fussy about our weaning program,” he said.
During weaning, females and calves receive health treatments and liquid minerals to build up their health and reduce stress.
Mr Kamp also said a key component to his operation was behaviour management.
“We use working dogs extensively, particularly with females and their calves and, bulls,” he said.
“It calms everyone down and limits the flap and panic.
“But also down the track when bulls reach 1200 kilograms and they have a scuffle, they can still relate to the dogs if they remember being worked by them from a young calf. Cranky cattle stick out early, too, and they often do not make it into the main herds when we realise that.”