Anvil – breed­ing more than just bulls

North East & Goulburn Murray Farmer - - FRONT PAGE - BY RHYLL McCOR­MACK rm­c­cor­mack@ne­me­

“ANY­ONE with a cal­cu­la­tor can breed a bull with great num­bers – we want to breed a cow that will last 10 years, have at least eight calves with­out is­sue, and pro­duce a qual­ity line.”

So says Anvil An­gus stud prin­ci­pal, Stephen Hand­bury.

In a mar­ket that is sat­u­rated with es­ti­mated birth val­ues, weight per­cent­ages and mar­ble scores, Mr Hand­bury said the Anvil point of dif­fer­ence was to de­velop strong ma­ter­nal char­ac­ter­is­tics.

“A lot of bulls that look good on pa­per don’t look good in the flesh,” he said.

“Num­bers are easy to pro­duce, and easy to mar­ket – but the weight of a calf doesn’t mat­ter much if there is poor ud­der at­tach­ment.”

Mr Hand­bury has been with Anvil An­gus since the stud’s in­cep­tion, and helped over­see the move from Bev­eridge to Acheron, just out­side of Alexan­dra, more than a decade ago.

“We wanted to base our­selves in an area where cat­tle prop­er­ties were,” he said.

“We wanted to grow the stud, and knew we needed to be in an area that was ac­ces­si­ble but also pro­duc­tive.”

Six years ago, Anvil in­creased their hold­ings by pur­chas­ing an ad­join­ing 900 acres, and bol­stered that with a fur­ther 500 acres, bought on the edge of the Goul­burn River, two years later.

“The river block came with a 100 acre cen­tre pivot – that has re­ally changed our on-farm pro­duc­tiv­ity,” Mr Hand­bury said.

The pivot block has helped Anvil move from round-bale pro­duc­tion to large square silage bales.

It has also helped the suc­cess of the stud’s twice yearly calf drop.

“The Goul­burn River flats re­ally com­ple­ment our au­tumn calvers – they seem to do well there,” Mr Hand­bury said.

“The pivot has also meant that if we don’t get a good spring – or au­tumn – we can cre­ate our own 100 acres of sea­son.”

Anvil runs 800 reg­is­tered An­gus cows and up to 200 re­cip­i­ent fe­males on al­most 1500 hectares, with an av­er­age dis­trict rain­fall of around 800mm.

The twice yearly bull sales are an­other point of dif­fer­ence that has helped Anvil cre­ate a niche mar­ket.

“The mar­ket has evolved, and breed­ers are now happy to buy bulls at 18 months,” Mr Hand­bury said.

“By hold­ing a bull sale twice a year, we can tap into both the spring and au­tumn mar­kets.”

The Anvil Spring Bull Sale is on Septem­ber 13.

Last year, Anvil topped the state with a 2016 sale record of $34,000.

The high price, Mr Hand­bury said, came after years of care­ful se­lec­tion.

“We do a lot of work on sourc­ing the right ge­net­ics – I spend time trav­el­ling in­ter­na­tion­ally to get the right mix, and make sure the bulls rep­re­sent what we are look­ing for.”

The out­crop ge­net­ics have proven suc­cess­ful for Anvil thus far, with al­most all top priced sale bulls be­ing the son of an in­tro­duced sire.

“I think that shows that we are headed in the right di­rec­tion – our buy­ers know that we aren’t just buy- ing a bull on pa­per; we are look­ing at th­ese an­i­mals be­fore we bring them in,” Mr Hand­bury said.

In 2009, Anvil bought, in part­ner­ship, US bull WK Re­play for $US67,500.

The bull went on to sire Anvil’s two high­est-priced bulls.

“It’ a long time be­fore you see the re­sults of the de­ci­sions you make,” Mr Hand­bury said.

“From the out­set, we are look­ing for those ma­ter­nal char­ac­ter­is­tics.”

How­ever, it’s not just about the daugh­ters at Anvil.

“Of course, pro­duc­ing a steer that is a good size and shape is also in­cred­i­bly im­por­tant,” Mr Hand­bury said.

“We have spent a lot of time and ef­fort in de­vel­op­ing bulls that of­fer an all-round pack­age.

“That’s what sets us apart.”

BREED­ING FOR THE FU­TURE: Anvil An­gus – a stud based out of Alexan­dra in North East Vic­to­ria – im­ports some of the best An­gus ge­net­ics in the world. Part of the stud’s phi­los­o­phy is that the qual­ity of a bull can­not be as­sessed by breed­ing val­ues alone,...

BUY­ING IN­TER­NA­TIONAL: Stud prin­ci­pal at Anvil An­gus, Stephen Hand­bury, is look­ing for­ward to the up­com­ing Anvil spring bull sale, to be held on Septem­ber 13.

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