Beef’s Hall of fame

Warwick Daily News - South West Queensland Rural Weekly - - Find A - Ni­cola Bell news@ru­ral­weekly.com

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 EF­FORT

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.”

SHORT STOP

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.

PHOTO: CON­TRIB­UTED

FAM­ILY AF­FAIR: Farm­ers Garry, Teague, Jet and Leanne Hall con­duct cat­tle work on horse­back on their prop­erty north of War­ren in NSW.

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