Genetics quest lifts business

Genetics quest lifts business


Stock and Land Beef
Farm manager Myles Treseder and Matthew Williams at the Thornton property.Farm manager Myles Treseder and Matthew Williams at the Thornton property.

Farm manager Myles Treseder and Matthew Williams at the Thornton property.Farm manager Myles Treseder and Matthew Williams at the Thornton property.

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SOURCING leading genetics from across the world is Caitlin Williams' profession and has been the foundation for success for her family's young and progressive Shrublands Estate Angus and British Whites studs.

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SOURCING leading genetics from across the world is Caitlin Williams' profession and has been the foundation for success for her family's young and progressive Shrublands Estate Angus and British Whites studs.

Ms Williams' degree in genetics and passion to learn from leading studs across the world is fast-tracking the genetic evolution of the five year-old studs.

Shrublands Estate studs and commercial herds run across 121 hectares of river flats at Thornton, in the State's North East.

The Angus arm was established in 2009 with 30 commercial Angus cows and calves and in 2012 grew to 100 stud and 50 commercial breeding cows following the purchase of Burnbend Angus Stud.

Shrublands currently produces 50 stud Angus bulls during a spring calving and smaller autumn calving, with their current crop of 18 month and two year-old bulls being the first produced under the new Shrublands Estate registration.

In 2013, Ms Williams travelled to the US where she visited some of the large Angus studs to learn about their way of breeding.

"My aim through using AI (artificial insemination) and ET (embryo transfer) programs is to increase the strength and soundness of the maternal side of our herd," she said.

"This has already started to show with our heifers moving into the breeding program this year and the growth and looks of our current drop."

The research trip followed another US visit in 2012 to Texas, where Ms Williams went to well-known breeder Jimmie West, of J West Cattle Company -- sparking an interest in the British Whites breed.

"(Jimmie) taught me a lot about the breed, emphasising their strong carcase traits, feed efficiency, fertility, calving, temperament and ability to adapt to different conditions," she said.

On the property in Texas the weather can be extreme from ice storms to 40 degree Celsius heat, which is why she initially considered the breed.

"We worked together to have close to 60 pure US British White embryos and semen sent to Australia where we have calved out around 30 of the embryos with more still to come."

Ms Williams plans to return to the southeast Texas ranch this year to source new British Whites genetics which she said was to ensure the stud progressed and continued to improve.

Ms Williams said while the British Whites was a family "pet project", the results among their herd had been impressive.

"The breed is quite remarkable, they definitely have their place in a terminal breeding program because of their meat quality," she said.

"I have found the cows to be extremely docile and good strong mothers that milk extremely well.

"We are growing this side of the herd and aim to have 100 British White breeders. However, this will take a while as we currently have 10 British White cows."

The breed is naturally polled and is derived from White Park cattle in the UK and parts of Europe.

They were first imported into Australia in 1958 as three heifers in-calf and from there the breed has grown to now have breeders registered in NSW, Victoria and Queensland.

"They were originally used as a dual purpose breed, both beef and milk. However, now the breed does lean more towards their meat value," Ms Williams said.

"In Australia this breed is currently leaning towards the hobby farmer, however I do want to prove to cattle breeders their strengths as they have a place as a commercial breed and most definitely as a cross-breed over other beef cattle.

"Their meat quality is well-marbled and has a strong yield."

While the ambitious genetics advisor has high hopes for the family's studs, she said staying on track with the two breeds has been difficult.

"I have extensive data on both breeds. We scan, weight and test the British Whites exactly the same way as we do the Angus to watch and monitor their growth and start to build actual data to back the breed," she said.

"We are beginning to use our British White bulls over our Angus cows to see how the first cross performs and initial data is proving promising."

She said selecting genetics was difficult with no one bull that fits all solutions.

"I always try to have a wide range of bulls with strengths in calving ease, growth and carcase data, but also that maintain their temperament," Ms Williams said.

"As we are a small property we do handle the bulls on daily basis and we were proud to have comments made regarding how docile and gentle our bulls were earlier this year at our sale and Beef Week."

Shrublands Estate Angus and British Whites studs will open their gates Saturday, January 31 on Beef Week day five.

On display will be Angus sale bulls and heifers, stud cows and calves as well as the first US British White embryo heifers and bulls.

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