'Green change' for Blackmore beef

Blackmore's Santas thriving on hills pasture

Beef
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Santa Gertrudis cattle are appearing more at local markets, and soon butcher shops, in the Adelaide Hills following a move to the region by beef breeders Chris and Kate Blackmore.

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WHILE not typically seen in the milder climates of the Adelaide Hills, Santa Gertrudis cattle are appearing more at local markets, and soon butcher shops, following a move to the region by beef breeders Chris and Kate Blackmore.

The couple were running Santas at their Mount Little Station near Hawker, before selling the property in 2018.

"As much as we loved the Flinders Ranges, we thought it was time to slow down and spend more time with the grandchildren, who also live in the Adelaide Hills," Mr Blackmore said.

They made the "green change" to a 20-hectare property at Macclesfield and had to bring 230 head with them due to a challenging selling climate at the time.

There were concerns about the effect of the move south on the herd's health.

"Most of the cows had never seen green grass, so we were worried about pulpy kidney," Mr Blackmore said.

"But it only took about a week for the cattle to adjust, after an induction process.

"We could then move the weaners and some of the 90 cows with calves to three other leased properties.

We saw a noticeable increase in the amount of milk the mothers produced, which significantly helped the growth rates of the calves. - CHRIS BLACKMORE

"We saw a noticeable increase in the amount of milk the mothers produced, which significantly helped the growth rates of the calves."

Mr Blackmore said the first lot of calves were weaned in February and the steers were sold in July at Mount Compass - the 10-month-olds averaged about $930, or $2.95 a kilogram.

"We were very happy with that, considering it was the middle of winter," he said.

"At Mount Little, we would never sell calves that young. Normally they would have to be about two years old to be finished well enough."

The heifer weaners were kept, while the weaner mothers were a little harder to sell.

"At the time, cows were being sold to slaughter because of the drought, which we didn't want to do," he said.

"We were lucky to sell the best 50 to two Loxton buyers, but the rest were disappointingly sent to Warrnambool, Vic (Midfield Meats)."

The Blackmores have since downsized to 60 Santa and 10 Hereford-Santa females, with 40 run at the home block and 30 at a leased property in Myponga.

The 30 Myponga heifers will have a Nangaringa stud bull from Loxton put over them, recently purchased for $10,000 at the Walmona Invitational Sale at Truro.

They are still supplementary feeding as "we are probably still running a few too many", Mr Blackmore said.

"But everyone in the hills is doing that, it's just been the season," he said.

"It's lucky we have perennial grasses, that had big rains in January and February."

They sold six surplus heifers - empty two-year-olds - at Mount Compass on Wednesday last week, which sold to $1535, averaging $1413.

The Blackmores were again happy with the prices as Santas were not a common breed in the region.

They also sent 36 head to an interstate feedlot this week - the last of the Mount Little-born steers - with the 18-month to two-year-olds, averaging 449kg, selling for $3.75/kg.

"Considering we're going into autumn, we were happy with how they've finished off," Mr Blackmore said.

BEEF MAKES THE CUT FOR BUTCHERS

TO further promote Santa Gertrudis beef in the Adelaide Hills, Chris and Kate Blackmore have started supplying Hereford-Santa weaners to local butchers.

The first lot of 10-month-olds, processed late last week, dressed out at 160 kilograms and averaged $907 a head.

The couple were pleased with this "being at the long end of the year" and have consigned another handful of slightly larger weaners to another butcher this week.

The Blackmores prefer Santas for their good temperament, growth rates in all conditions, mothering and ease of calving, "particularly as we get older".

Their herd was built on 50 Santa females from Kate's family's station in NSW, but more recently has featured Walmona, Truro, and Nangaringa, Loxton, stud genetics.

"Santas are an ideal crossbreeding combination," Mrs Blackmore said.

"We have excellent growth rates from putting a Santa bull over our Hereford-cross cows.

"Santas worked well for us at Mount Little, but in our short time in the Adelaide Hills, the cattle have adapted well and we are happy with the prices they are bringing."

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