Anvil – breeding more than just bulls
“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, which is why the team travels internationally to view each animal. Pictured (from left) is Jack Muir, Ian Bates from Anvil Angus and Steve Mohnen from Mohnen Angus in South Dakota during an earlier trip to America.
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.