James and Coralie Gerhardy, Keyneton, have been selling vealer cattle for the past 25 years, but are making the switch to selling weaners, with the hope of spending less time on animal husbandry.
The pair run an average herd size of 50 cows, predominantly Angus and Murray Greys, with calving taking up a significant portion of the year.
"Whilst we had cows calving, we always had two mobs of about 25 cattle each, and by the time the first and last of each calves, that could be close to 10 or 12 weeks, then you get the other mob in and that happens again, so with cows calving we couldn't go away for any period of time, and now we are wanting some time to be able to get away and travel," Mr Gerhardy said.
They will now switch to buying calves in, at about six months of age, and will grow them out and sell through the markets when the calves are 12 to 14 months old.
While breeding vealers, the Gerhardys sourced pregnancy-tested in-calf heifers or cows with calves at-foot, buying when there were local cows available. A bull - usually Limousin - was brought in for the second calving round for each mob.
We'll be guided by the market and the advice of our agent, but if we can get them up to feedlot weight and the price is right, they can go.
"We'd have one calving in April or May, and sell the vealers in January, and we'd probably have another lot that calve in September or October, and then we could sell them in the middle of the following year," Mr Gerhardy said.
The Gerhardys have "not been fussed" about breeds through the years, but have switched to buying Angus cows in recent years due to them being the "flavour of the month".
"We felt that people liked the black coats to go into the feedlot, so if we had calves that didn't quite make it to the butcher vealer stage, they'd have the right colours to be picked up by feedlotters or restockers," Mr Gerhardy said.
The calves averaged a weight of 350 kilograms at about 10 months, when they were sold through either Dublin or Mount Compass markets. Mr Gerhardy intends to sell his weaners at 12-14 months, with selling weight dependent on market trends.
The first lot of calves that will be sold as weaners were bought in December last year, with an average age of six months and average weight of 220kg.
"We'll be guided by the market and the advice of our agent, but if we can get them up to feedlot weight and the price is right, they can go," Mr Gerhardy said.
The calves will graze on lucerne pasture when it is available in the early months of the year, and will also be fed oaten hay, as well as FibrePro, a dry granular lick.
"The lick will be available to (the calves) all the time, they apparently only take as much as they need, hopefully it gives them some minerals and vitamins," Mr Gerhardy said.
LIMOUSIN BULLS A GOOD CHOICE FOR VEALER MARKET
WHILE Keyneton's James and Coralie Gerhardy have grown out a range of calves for the vealer market during the past 25 years, the use of Limousin bulls has been a constant through the decades.
The pair have used Angus, Red Angus, Charolais, Murray Grey, Santa Gertrudis and black baldy heifers and cows in the past, and started with a Hereford bull, but quickly switched to using Limousins, which resulted in improved growth rates.
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"When we started out, for the first few years we had a Hereford bull, and when we got to producing 300-kilogram vealers we thought that was a good calf, but since then we've got better cows, and went for the Limousin bull, which has been better for us," Mr Gerhardy said.
Mrs Gerhardy said the Limousins had good hybrid vigour.
"They're solid all the way through, and it's lean meat," she said.
"Over the time the market has come to recognise the Limousin-cross as being a desirable vealer to eat.
"They had a reputation for being flighty a few years ago, but that has basically been bred out."
The Gerhardys sourced their bulls from Sandra Keatley at Pebbly Range Limousins, Tungkillo.
"We've had a couple of Limousin bulls from other studs over the years, only if Sandra didn't have a bull for us when we needed one, but her bulls have been good for us," Ms Gerhardy said.
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