Gemma Dorotich, Gembrooke stud
In mid-April I was offered an incredible opportunity by the NZ Hereford Association. This was to be the 2016 Trans-Tasman – NZ Hereford ambassadorship to Australia. The time came on the 12th of May to board my plane to Australia and this is my Australian story…
Wodonga National Show and Sale
After being picked up at Albury airport by John McKew (Herefords Australia CEO) we travelled to the Wodonga National Show and Sale. I was only here for a short time due to a delayed plane but what I saw was magnificent. The quality of the cattle was a true eye opener. Some of the points that hit me were that all the bulls had tremendous thickness throughout them and I did not see one bull with bad feet. After talking to a few people it became clear that the main traits they are chasing within their cattle are carcass, fats and EBV’s. The time and effort each exhibitor puts into their team of bulls is something to truly appreciate.
Lachy and Lou Day ‘Days Whiteface’ – Bordertown - South Australia
After the sale of the last bull at Wodonga I headed 8.5 hours across country to South Australia with Lachy Day. I couldn’t believe how flat the land was. I woke up in the morning from arriving at the Days at 1am to flat land for as far as I could see. There were neither skylines nor hills. Lachy and Lou Day run a White Suffolk Stud alongside the Herefords which they run over the three blocks of land totalling 1011 hectares. They have 200 stud cows and 300 stud ewes along with 150 composite maternal ewes.
Over the next few days I helped Lachy around the farm and learnt about Days Whiteface. Lachy has a keen focus of continuing to provide genetics that the industry requires and bringing the Hereford bulls into Angus herds.
Genetics takes priority over cosmetics for Lachy when he is selecting stock. This is due to providing for his client needs. He has a very precise replacement and selecting process, this is as follows. 80% of heifers will be kept as replacements while 20% will be sold for store. Heifers are not culled for having less than average EBV’s as he believes after having the third calf the EBV’s should have sorted themselves. No heifer or cow will receive a second chance unless they have twins and the cow will be sold if it does not rear a calf. Any bull calf that is not believed to be good enough will be steered and may be showed at carcass competitions. Bulls are selected for muscle and EBV traits. The latest genetics that have been used are Days Robin Hood H38, Days Patrick H37, TH Mr Hereford 34Z, Allendale Waterhouse and Days Callibre. Each year two senior bulls will be used along with six yearlings and six to ten A.I sires.
Farming in Bordertown was a true eye opener as the last two years rainfall has been halved to 250mm. There was barely any grass and his soils don’t allow crops to grow too evenly. The property consisted of red and black soils where the black soils have bad germination. It therefore takes a lot of time for the crop to fully establish enough to be grazed. The other two properties were sand soils. Due to the sand soils having bad germination and water just running off they have started a new technique. In simple terms they dig clay out of the ground, spread this over the sand and mix it in. This creates a higher water holding capacity in the ground and creates a better soil for pasture and crops to establish on. Regardless of the low rainfall and pasture which struggles to establish all the cattle were in superb condition and looked a picture. Every year feed is bought in. In the past year Lachy has fed out 600T of oaten hay as this is great for fattening cattle. All pastures are clover and ryegrass mix. Grain, lucerne, oats and barley are the main feeds that Lachy will feed out while all sale bulls and rams are fed lupins as well.
Andrew and Annie Bell – Millicent – South Australia
I was then driven down to Naracoorte to meet the Bells before heading to Millicent. Andrew is the director of Herefords Australia and also a large part of the progeny test. Andrew and Annie Bell are in partnership with Andrew’s brother Gregory. Together they own roughly 4046 hectares where Andrew looks after the stock side of the business and Gregory looks after the cropping.
Before arriving at the Bells I hadn’t heard a lot about the progeny test. The Bells run a commercial herd of 2000 Herefords. Each year a certain number of cows are used for a progeny test. The progeny test is designed to generate data on modern Hereford Bulls for hard to measure traits such as female reproduction, abattoir carcass measurement; meat quality attributes and feed efficiency. It is also to build a comprehensive phenotype and genotype database for genomic validation. All sires and the number of cows going to the progeny test are nominated by Hereford Australia members. Only commercial cows are used for the progeny test due to being able to get so much more progeny from one bull to get more reliable data. This also creates a better scope across the entire breed.
Only heifers are used for the progeny test due to the ease of management with them not already having a calf at foot. The Bells will record all data for the heifers as they will not be sold on and they will record all the data for the steers until they are 12 months old. After 12 months the steers are sold to a feed lot in Armadale. While they are here the feed lot will continue to measure the traits. All of the traits from the progeny test are evaluated and converted to EBV’s by Agricultural Business Research Institute (ABRI).
The Bells see this as an advantage to them because they are using genetics in their herd that they wouldn’t normally use. They believe is very worthwhile doing as if it is helping the Hereford breed advance genetically.
Mawarra Hereford Stud – Peter and Deanne Sykes – Longford – Victoria
After leaving the Bells I flew across to Melbourne where I caught the bus and train to Sale where Deanne Sykes met me as I got off the train. Mawarra is a family orientated business and are very proud of the stud they run today with the slogan “our client’s success is our greatest reward”. The stud started in 1963 with the first cows being bought from the Norwood stud. Mawarra was registered in 1964 and the first on-farm bull sale was in 1974.
On my first day I was guided around their property by Peter and Deanne’s son Logan viewing the cattle and learning about the genetics, I was also lucky enough to see a fox while we were out there (not something we see every day in New Zealand). Mawarra runs 350 breeding cattle where breeding is focused on females as they are the heart of the herd. The selection process is based on a number one focus of structure followed by cosmetics, carcass traits with balanced EBV’s and sire appeal. Their herd consists of 1/3 polled and 2/3 horned, this is appropriate for Mawarra as it suits their client needs.
While I was at Mawarra I got plenty of sight-seeing in. After touring across flat land I was privileged enough to be taken into the mountains to a picturesque place called Gelantipy where Peter and Deanne are originally from. It was wonderful to see some hills again! While I was in Gelantipy I didn’t just see cattle I saw everything from wombats to wombat holes to kangaroos, massive eagles, a snake, dingo traps and photos of dingoes that have previously been trapped. After leaving Gelantipy we travelled to McKillops Bridge – a bridge in the absolute middle of no-where down gnarly roads with beautiful scenery of the Snowy River and mountains to Africa! We then headed down to Ensay to visit Newcomen Hereford Stud. Newcomen also run a proportion of commercial Herefords which are crossed with a Shorthorn bull (a very common thing to do in that area). All offspring are sold as a first cross or second cross where the first cross look like a Shorthorn and the second cross can look like a Shorthorn or a Hereford.
My final on-farm session, before returning to New Zealand involved watching and learning more about breaking in cattle at Mawarra.
I would like to thank the NZ Hereford Association, Herefords Australia, Lachy and Lou Day, the Bell Family and the Skyes Family for allowing me to have the trip of a lifetime. One of the things I was most grateful for was being able to join in and work with the families in their day to day activities. This gave me an opportunity to see how each business works differently. I met some amazing people saw amazing things and will definitely be returning one day!