FIFTH-generation cattle producer Mick Mullane, Ballan, is reaping the rewards of a new market to China for his best purebred Angus heifers.
During the past two years, Mr Mullane has sold more than 200 weaner heifers through Landmark International’s live export order to be used in Chinese breeding programs.
“We sold a line of 70 heifers in October last year at $1200 a head which was at least $300 above market prices at the time and we have a further 46 heifers heading off shortly,” Mr Mullane said.
“Previously all our heifers would have gone into a special sale in February but this niche market has given us another option, it has been a great outlet for our heifers and very lucrative.”
The heifers need to weigh a minimum of 250 kilograms and meet the live export order’s stringent health requirements.
Mr Mullane and his wife Anne live on the 400-hectare home property, which has been in his family for more than 180 years, and own a further 1200ha in the district, as well as farms at Mt Wallace and Bungal. They also lease land locally.
In partnership with his brother Colin, the Mullane family runs a purebred herd of 330 Angus cows, while Mrs Mullane has a small mob of 30 roan Shorthorns.
They also run 2500 first-cross ewes joined to Poll Dorset rams. Additional off-farm ventures include a fencing contract business, Premier Fencing, and hay baling.
The Mullane family made a switch to Angus cattle more than 20 years ago to increase their marketing opportunities and they’re long-term bull clients of the Langi Kal Kal stud, Trawalla.
Mr Mullane generally buys two to three bulls annually, selecting them on temperament, soundness and frame size.
“I am not a figures man, I like to select my bulls visually, my uncle used to run a Hereford stud years ago and he showed me what to look for in bulls,” he said.
“Although I do try to choose a bull with low birthweight to join to heifers and for older cows I’ll select bulls on length and frame, I generally choose younger bulls as I believe they have got potential for lots of growth.”
Temperament is also vital for Mr Mullane as he is often working alone with the cattle in the yards and paddocks.
“Having quiet cattle is a must and the Langi Kal Kal bulls are very docile.,” he said.
“I’m really comfortable handling them in the yards
“Their bulls are also paddock-reared so they hold their condition well.”
The main breeding herd calves in March and April, while a mob of 50 spring calvers are run on a separate leased property.
Supplementary hay is fed through the winter to ensure the herd is on a rising plane of nutrition prior to joining.
Mr Mullane will identify the in-calf cows visually, with the remainder pregnancy tested.
Young cows which are dry will be re-joined immediately to calve in the spring while any older dry cows are “out the gate”.
The calves are yard-weaned at nine months of age, running in several small paddocks for a week to quieten them down before being split into two mobs of heifers and steers.
The weaners are fed silage and hay throughout the summer prior to Landmark’s special sale in Ballarat in late February.
The Mullane family has been selling weaners in the Ballarat sale since it started more than 40 years ago and this year will offer their steers and remaining heifers. Mr Mullane aims to sell the steers at 360kg to 410kg.
“Last year, we sold more than 300 weaners and averaged more than $1200 which was a great result, it won’t be the same this year but it is still good prices,” he said.
Mr Mullane prefers to buy in his replacement heifers either pregnancy-tested-in-calf (PTIC) or as first or second calvers.
“I think it takes too long if you keep your own heifers to breed from, I look for a large-framed heifer with plenty of milking ability and structure is also important.”
Farm skills focus at Langi Kal Kal
ESTABLISHED 35 years ago, Langi Kal Kal Angus stud, Trawalla, provides a valuable opportunity for prisoners to gain a range of agricultural skills, better equipping them for integration back into the community.
The 1090-hectare property and minimum security prison is home to an Angus stud which runs 260 Angus performance registered spring calving cows, selling 40 sale bulls annually, along with PTIC heifers, replacement heifers and steers.
According to farm supervisor Kahn Jantzen, the stud plays a major part in the employment of prisoners using agriculture to help them gain important skills. Prisoners learn general farming practices including low stress stock handling, animal husbandry, pasture management, machinery use, record keeping and team work.
“These learnings have helped improve the prisoners confidence, accountability and responsibility in the workplace,” Mr Jantzen said.
Originally based on Lawson and Innesdale bloodlines, Langi Kal Kal Angus has more recently used artificial insemination (AI) to introduce elite genetics from around the world into the herd.
“AI sires are chosen on the basis of low birth weight, a balance of growth and performance data, docility and structural soundness,” Mr Jantzen said.
“The AI program and focus on increasing the heifer retention rate has been a really positive step forward for the stud helping reduce the age of the herd and strengthen the genetic performance of our females.”
This focus on female quality has paid off with a line of 18 PTIC Langi Kal Kal Angus heifers reaching a season high of $3475 at a recent female sale in Ballarat. A second line of 11 PTIC heifers sold for $3275.