Produce helps lift cattle production

Meadows farmer finds balance with vegetables, cattle

Beef
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WHILE market gardening may be his major venture, for Meadows farmer Wesley Hart, cattle are his "pride and joy".

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WHILE market gardening may be his major venture, for Meadows farmer Wesley Hart, cattle are his "pride and joy".

And at an age when many might be considering stepping back, he is instead in the midst of a major shift in his breeding.

Mr Hart runs a small herd of about 120 head at his 67-hectare property.

For years, he and his family ran Herefords but in recent years began the switch to Angus. He made the change after speaking with Elders Strathalbyn agent Brett Peters.

"Angus seems to be a good way to go, as they're usually up a bit more cents a kilogram," he said.

The first of his Angus weaner steers, alongside the Hereford steers and heifers, went to market at the Strathalbyn weaner sale last week, with the tops of the Angus reaching $1610 or $4.85/kg, the Hereford steers selling to $1360 or $5.05/kg and the Hereford heifers at $1220 or $4.86/kg.

This year he decided to hold on to the Angus heifers.

In previous years, he might have sold the majority of heifers and bought back in, but with restocker prices at high levels, his focus is on rebuilding through breeding.

He has also recently put more of a focus on the store market, selling as yearlings.

"I've found the store market has been just incredible the past couple of years," he said. "You can get big money at the store sales."

The shift to Angus females is not the only change, with him also buying a homozygous black Limousin bull from Raven stud, Field.

He said the bull and its offspring had "beautiful big rumps", and allowed the growth benefits of a crossbred while still keeping the cattle black for the saleyard premium.

Mr Hart said cattle and vegetable production, while not the most obvious fit, worked quite well in the rotation.

When it comes time to rest the paddocks after growing vegetables, he rotary hoes the ground, and sows a quick-growing pasture mix suited to the high rainfall area, before the cattle are let loose to graze.

He usually rests the paddocks for seven to eight years before they are used for vegetables again.

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While imperfect vegetables might otherwise just be rotary hoed back into the ground, Mr Hart has found another good use for them in his operation.

He has sold the majority of his cattle herd as yearlings into the store market in recent years but he sometimes holds on to some of the "weedier" stock.

"It's not something I deliberately do but if they're too small to go to market, I can put them in the paddock closest to the house and feed them scraps," he said.

"They go from a weedy calf to something worth $2500 a few months later."

He said the cattle perform really well on the scraps.

"If I had more veggie scraps, I'd probably keep a few more," he said.

Potatoes also prove very popular with his bull.

Mr Hart grows a range of vegetables, including cabbage, broccoli, leeks, onion and more, before selling them at the Adelaide Farmers' Markets and the Willunga Quarry Market.

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