RECOGNISING a sure thing when he sees it, Glen Innes-based farmer Jim Benton has been breeding Hereford cattle for the past half-century and certainly has no plans to shift focus.
Initially operating as a sheep and cattle enterprise, for the last 25 years Mr Benton and his wife Yvonne have focused on their purebred Hereford herd run across 4000 hectares at “Glenreagh”, Strathbogie, and finished on 136ha at “Weathervale”, Glen Innes.
Mr Benton joins 500 Hereford cows to Hereford bulls each year, targeting cattle that are true to type, have a good temperament and good weight gain, with a strong focus on deep set eyes and pigment.
Of late the family has also been paying close attention to estimated breeding values (EBVs).
“We’re more aware of EBVs these days,” Mr Benton said.
“We make sure the bulls we buy are true-to-type as well.”
Fertility is also a target trait and Mr Benton selects only the best heifers to re-join.
“We try and chase fertility all the time,” he said.
“We’ve got 100 heifers joined now; we joined them for three or four months, then we will pregnancy test them and anything that’s in that later joining, we’ll sell as PTIC cattle.”
Any heifers not in calf after a short joining time are re-joined to Angus bulls.
Not only does this allow for a few extra dollars to be made, but with both Hereford and black baldy progeny, the family are able to target a broader market.
“We calve around 400 cows and the others are sold as PTIC,” Mr Benton said.
“We join our first calf heifers to Angus bulls and we calve them in late summer/early autumn.
“Those calves are weaned just prior to the normal spring joining time, the heifers cycle pretty well and are then joined to Hereford bulls.
“This gives us some blacks to sell which are favourable at the moment and the heifer portion are joined and sold as PTIC; they’re ‘Mickey Mouse’ black baldy things and they sell pretty well – this year we joined our cull cows and got an extra couple of hundred dollars than we would selling them to the meatworks.”
Weaner steers and cull cows are finished at “Weathervale” through a rotational grazing system before being sold in mid-summer at an optimum weight of 325 kilograms, which Mr Benton sees as the best value for money.
“It’s also the optimum use of the feed. If you start putting feed into cattle and they’re putting weight on but the price per kilo is going down, you’re better off running a few more.”
As far as crossbreeding goes, the occasional black baldy is as far as Mr Benton is planning to go, happy with his predominantly Hereford herd.
“They’re very quiet cattle, they’re very good to handle and they have good weight gain,” he said.
“People are always willing to buy Hereford cattle.
“It’s hard enough to breed good cattle with one breed. I’ve seen blokes with a good purebred herd and they get terrific results when they cross for hybrid vigour for one or two years and then down they go.
“We’ve got a good thing here so we’ll just stick with Herefords.”
Don’t miss your copy of Northern Hereford Advantage in this week’s The Land.
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