Genetic selection for ease of calving, 400-day growth and eye muscle area is playing out in greater productivity for Angus producers Janet Furler and Richard Willing.
The father and daughter team based at Hindmarsh Tiers, south of Adelaide, run 100 breeders mated to bulls from Elle Moyle's Pathfinder stud operation.
Elle Moyle, who is also a district veterinarian, is the third generation of the Moyle family to run Pathfinder.
The Willing's high rainfall property is characterised by heavy loam over clay soils and undulating paddocks.
Their farm receives an average of about 800 millimetres of rain annually.
They have three generations of the family involved in running their 518 hectare property "Minnawarra", which also supports a small self-replacing Merino flock for wool production.
But the Angus enterprise is the main game for the family, who have run cattle for more than 45 years.
Joining in the cattle operation starts in May and bulls are kept in for nine weeks, giving cows and heifers three cycles to get pregnant.
Conception rates are consistently above 95 per cent.
Pregnancy scanning is conducted and empty females are culled and sold.
Calves are born in March-April and fed on improved and native grass pastures for 15 to 18 months.
Some heifer calves are retained for breeding.
But current strong demand for breeder cattle from restockers has spurred the Willings to sell more of their young heifers as "pregnancy tested in calf".
"This has been a highly lucrative opportunity in the past two years," Ms Furler said.
"It has been driven by the prolonged drought in many areas forcing producers to heavily destock and the subsequent shortage of breeding stock."
The Willings are accredited for the European Union market and sell steers at 15-18-months-old.
At this point, these steers are weighing about 350-400 kilograms.
They typically go through the saleyards, direct to feedlotters or are sold at the Narracoorte feature sale.
Last summer's PTIC heifers brought in $2600 per head.
In September 2021, nine steers with an average weight of 375kg made 575c/kg, or $2152/head.
The Willings' feedbase is predominantly made up of good perennial pasture stands comprising mainly ryegrass and subclover, with some native pastures.
Rigorous fertiliser and liming programs are adhered to, along with spreading of chicken manure and mushroom compost.
"Our native pastures are getting more productive as the soil quality improves," Mrs Furler said.
"Liming has been particularly important and is resulting in higher soil pH levels."
Ms Furler said alongside the fertiliser program, stocking rates were kept deliberately lower than what had been used in the past to ease the pressure on paddocks.
She said they used rotational grazing and were happy with the growth rates being achieved by their livestock.
Calves weighed in January this year had an average weight of 300kg and ranged in weight between 250kg and 390kg
When it comes to bull selection, the sought-after genetic traits by the Willings are easy calving, 400-day growth and eye muscle area - along with visual appraisal.
Ms Furler said they were confident the Pathfinder Angus stud was making good genetic gains in these key management and profit-driving traits.
"We don't want to be assisting cows during calving," she said.
"Last year, we only helped pull one calf from a mob of 100 head.
"So, we know the selection emphasis on the ease of calving is working and paying-off in ease of management."
In future, Mr Willing said they may put more emphasis on body weight.
"Our cattle size is gradually increasing, but we don't want to have problems at calving," he said.
"It is a balancing act.
"We are more interested in having highly efficient feeders that make use of available paddock feed and achieve rapid growth.
"So, we are really focused on production of medium-sized cows.
"And we want them to drop fast-growing calves."
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