HIGH land prices led Terry Steed and Jane Watson, Strathalbyn, to get creative about expanding their operation.
They run 120 breeding cows and about 300 sheep - focusing on vealer cattle and first-cross ewes - across 980 hectares, and six properties, up to 170 kilometres apart.
While based at Strathalbyn, Mr Steed spends half his time at their second block at Coombe, near Tintinara.
Initially, Mr Steed and Ms Watson had bought the three blocks at Coombe to grow out their cattle.
"The original plan was to breed at Strathalbyn and finish them at Coombe," he said. "But then the money in vealers meant it wasn't much more profitable to grow them out. So we're running more cows to target that vealer market."
Mr Steed said they had shifted their focus and instead largely ran the properties as two distinct blocks - one in the Upper South East and one on the Fleurieu Peninsula, made up of properties at Strathalbyn and Clayton Bay.
Mr Steed has been breeding Murray Greys for about 30 years, not following any particular bloodlines, and said they were generally "trouble-free" cattle.
"They calve fairly easy and we've done alright out of them," he said.
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Occasionally, Mr Steed has experimented with other breeds - most recently putting a Poll Hereford bull over the Murray Grey cows, with the offspring "handy grey baldies".
They aim for the vealer market, at eight to 10 months - "just off the cow", with an April/May calving for the cattle to sell in early March, usually at the 250-kilogram mark.
With the two properties, he has access to two saleyards - Strathalbyn and Naracoorte - but also sells direct to processors on occasion.
Mr Steed said the goal is to keep it simple, with the cattle grassfed, except for hay when the season requires it.
They run Merino ewes, joined to Border Leicester rams, with the wethers sold direct to processors, while the ewes are sold as future breeders at first-cross sales in November.
"We have grown them out to 1.5-year-olds, but usually we're better off to sell them as lambs," he said.
When he initially moved away from contracting and wanted to run more cattle, land prices forced Mr Steed to look a little further from home.
He said at the time, land prices near Tintinara were about one-quarter of that near Strathalbyn, where he is based, while larger blocks were also available in the Upper South East.
He began looking at that area due to family links, with his grandfather owning a farm at Keith and his uncles involved in the AMP Society scheme, clearing land for farming near Senior and Willalooka.
This divided operation can involve a lot of time on the road, and a lot of equipment.
Mr Steed estimates he has 20 tractors - albeit some a bit older - with at least one per block.
"The biggest drama is switching batteries," he said.
The Coombe property has access to a 12-hectare irrigation pivot, where he grows lucerne for hay production.
He also grows a small amount of hay or grain for sheep feed.
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