Beef’s Hall of fame
BASED on the western edge of the NSW Macquarie Marshes, Garry and Leanne Hall’s cattle production system is a little different than most.
The way they manage their angus cattle, and how many breeders they join, is heavily reliant on water availability and environmental flows held in upstream Burrendong Dam.
The Halls’ focus is on producing angus cattle with good meat eating quality on their 5250ha property, The Mole, 114km north of Warren in the NSW Central West.
“Our main breeding country is in the Macquarie Marshes so water impacts our production system greatly,” Garry said. Similar to an irrigation crop farmer, their management and production is influenced by environmental releases and tributary flows that provide beneficial flooding. “It dictates the number of cows we join, the number of calves we hang on to, but it’s no different to an irrigator and we can budget on the available water,” Garry said.
“Water is the key driver of the ecosystem function of the wetland. All grasses that grow here are frost sensitive and they dry off in winter, so they require inundation in the spring,” Garry said. “It is a complex grazing system.”
The Hall family has owned The Mole since 1934 and Garry said they continued to work with the environment and were constantly adapting to a changing environment.
For the past 26 years they have run Angus cattle, currently joining between 700 and 900 females, working on the premise that the optimum number of calves is 720.
Users of genetics from the Te Mania Angus stud at Mortlake for the past 15 years, the Halls joined the Team Te Mania program in 2009.
TEAM Te Mania is a partnership between beef cattle producers and Te Mania, allowing members access to the latest genetics through a bull leasing program and discounted artificial insemination. It also provides team members the ability to collectively market their cattle under the Team Te Mania brand with production feedback provided back to Te Mania to provide valuable genetic information. Garry said being part of Team Te Mania and leasing the bulls meant they received access to genetics they otherwise probably couldn’t afford.
“Bulls are true to type and they are selected to suit our breeding objectives, we then provide our slaughter data back to Te Mania so we can then continue to improve on the objectives,” he said.
Artificial insemination is also used, with between 200 and 300 joined with fixed-time AI each year, depending on the season. Garry said being part of the team meant they were always one step ahead on genetic gain.
“I like the excitement of being involved in those new sires early in their breeding careers,” he said. Cows and 15-month-old heifers are joined in October to calve in July-August. “Females are run in the Marsh country and the pasture is high in protein for a short period in spring and summer, so when the calves hit the ground the feed quality is good,” Garry said. NORTHERN EXPOSURE
CALVES are weaned at about six months, depending on feed availability, for seven to 10 days.
“They are restricted in a small yard for two to three days, then moved to a holding paddock so they get used to being handled by people, dogs and horses,” Garry said.
“It gives them exposure to different things so they know how to be educated for the rest of their life.” Garry and Leanne also use horses and dogs for handling stock.
“Using horses on cattle in the Marshes works well and it means we can retain all of our senses,” Leanne said. The Halls aim to breed steers for the export feedlot market because it suits their production system. The steers are grazed on forage crops of barley, oats or wheat from when they are 230-250kg weaners and grown to 400-500kg, when they are sold to feedlots. The heifer progeny is assessed and either kept as future breeders, culled, or sold through Team Te Mania avenues. Fertility and longevity were two key breeding objectives.
“Females have to rear a calf every year. It is no good having animals on the place which aren’t productive,” Garry said.
The Halls have a long history of pregnancy-testing and any females not in calf or that come in at branding without a calf are culled.
“The real criminals in our system are those females who are tested in calf, then come in at branding without a calf, they have gone 12 months without any increase in value.”
GARRY said they liked selecting for a short gestation length, which helps with calving ease because the calf is smaller and heifers have longer to recover before getting back in calf.
Meat-eating quality is also important to the Halls.
“We are food producers. If we want to achieve a premium we have to produce a high-quality product,” Garry said. “We choose moderate carcass traits, but we still want them to perform above average for eating quality, so it is about finding the balance.”
Garry said they were not only conscious of improving the quality of their cattle, but also the quality of the landscape, soil and ecosystem.
FAMILY AFFAIR: Farmers Garry, Teague, Jet and Leanne Hall conduct cattle work on horseback on their property north of Warren in NSW.