A HEALTHY combination of cattle, sheep, an Angus stud and a small amount of cropping has ensured Kangaroo Island farmers Stephen and Jo Davidson can work on just about anything.
Farming about 1000 hectares at Wisanger - a combination of what they own and lease - they run 1200 first-cross Merino ewes and mate about 300 Angus females a year.
And they crop about 46ha of canola, marketed through Kangaroo Island Pure Grain.
They were largely focused on Merino wool production until the wool market collapse of the late 1980s, but have since had more of a focus on cattle.
In the past 10 years, they have been slowly shifting over to more meat production with their remaining sheep rather than wool, because they mate those ewes to Border Leicester rams and put White Suffolks over the second-cross.
The bulk of the lambs - 60 per cent - are sold at 16 weeks at store sales, with the rest finished on-property on beans or lupins.
"If we sell them off that way it lightens the load quickly, because once the feed lightens off after spring there's not much more there for the rest of the year," he said.
Stephen aims to turn steers off as close to 450 kilograms as possible, but this is dictated by the feed on offer and the potential of the spring.
"This year the cattle were lighter at 15-17 months, whereas last year they were over that at the same age."
They do not sell any cattle as weaners, preferring to wean them on-property and value-add to the cattle.
"If we sell them off at 450kg we get more money back, which is what ultimately counts," Stephen said.
Stephen does not have a favoured method of selling. He usually watches different markets and makes his decision based on what is fetching the best price.
They have previously sold steers and heifers through the Strathalbyn saleyards, while some of the heavier cattle go to Naracoorte.
Stephen says a lot of their steers end-up in feedlots but some are picked up by backgrounders to grow out.
The cost of freight is one of the biggest issues on Kangaroo Island, because the cattle are transported via the Sealink ferry.
Stephen and Jo also sell between 60-70 pregnancy-tested in-calf heifers locally and as far as Mount Gambier.
Their High Gums Angus stud is something Stephen's parents started in 1967 and is based on The Basin blood.
It mostly sells to local breeders, and is now KI's only Angus stud.
Stephen says they still "must be doing something right" after 45 years in the game, because they sell about 20 bulls a year to repeat clients.
"I've noticed increased demand for yearling bulls, so more blokes are looking at bulls at this time of year," he said.
"I guess so long as they've got good growth and calving ease, it doesn't really matter.
"Bull breeding is a sideline to farming that I really enjoy."
All bulls are sold privately.
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