PASSIONATE Red Angus breeder Erle Dakin says the foundation of good commercial operations comes down to red cattle.
The principal of Warrnambool-based Yonda Grange Red Angus said the breed had a large global gene pool to rival any of the top breeds, with some of the State's most successful Angus breeders turning to Reds for genetic improvements.
The past few years have seen the Red Angus Society of Australia-registered females expand to more than 4500, reflecting 33 per cent growth since 2006 and reinforcing the growing interest in the breed.
"It means more people are breeding seedstock because the demand is out there," Mr Dakin said.
"The gene pool in the Red Angus is good as the Americas, Canada and South Africa where it is a major breed for those countries.
"Some of the most successful black Angus bulls carry red genes for genetics diversification and trait improvements so if know how to work it, you can capitalise on that red gene by introducing it into your herd."
Yonda Grange Red Angus calves 80 head each autumn and another 15 in spring to accommodate client demand throughout the year.
Mr Dakin sells about 25 bulls annually at 15-22 months of age.
He has been breeding Red Angus for 15 years and said in that time fertility, growth, mothering ability, temperament and calving ease had continually improved.
"I'm 73 years old and I can't move as quickly as I used to so having quite cattle with good temperament that perform well is the key to my future longevity," he said.
"When feedlots buy them and put them in restrained situations they do well because they're quiet and aren't prone to stress."
Last year's poor market prices filtered through to stud level, with many commercial producers hanging on to their bulls for another year to save money.
"Last autumn was very dry and people weren't being paid good prices for their cattle - and still aren't," he said.
"Cattle prices now are as bad as they have been for five to six years, with heifers selling at about 135-148 cents a kilogram, while 12-18 months ago they were at 180-190c/kg.
"Even good steers are selling at 190-200c/kg so if the commercial bloke you sell most bulls isn't going to get a return on his investment he'll make a bull go an extra year."
Despite the poor market prices, Yonda Grange's season is already reaping the benefits of improved seasonal conditions in the south-west, which has done a backflip from the drought conditions earlier in the year to one of the best springs on recent record.
Although Mr Dakin experienced a disappointing winter sale and sold only two of the 17 registered bulls offered among three vendors, Yonda Grange has since sold another 10 privately.
"It looks like the season has simply turned around," he said.
"We are still trying to figure out why the bulls didn't sell at the sale but subsequent to that I've sold plenty.
"I'm expecting to have a pretty good result at Beef Week (selling bulls) because the demand for the breed is gradually increasing as people discover the benefits and advantages of Red Angus' calving ability."
The attraction to the breed is its maternal instincts and shortened gestation period, which is reported be three to 10 days shorter than that of its black sister breed, resulting in smaller calves on the ground without problems.
"The other selling point is when they're sold in the saleyards their carcase dressing percentage is about 55-56pc compared to normal cattle that sit around 51-52pc, not including the Euro breeds," Mr Dakin said.
However, the future of the breed is dependent on greater education and marketing, according to Mr Dakin, who said limited Red Angus Society resources meant the breed had struggled to penetrate the big-breed markets.
"The biggest challenge for the breed is educating people about the virtues of Red Angus and the fact they're not well-known in Australia compared to black Angus," he said.
"Queensland and the Northern Territory are starting to use the Red Angus breed infused with the Euro and African breeds to get better shaped animals."
After being a part of the nation's largest on-farm open day event for the past 13 years, Mr Dakin said he saw Beef Week as an opportunity to "spruik the breed" to visitors who wanted to know more about the benefits.
"Seeing is believing, so Beef Week makes people aware of the fact there are opportunities there too look at different breeds," he said.
"In the early days people would ask 'How do you get them red?' not realising they're a red breed naturally due to the recessive gene."
Yonda Grange will be participating in Stock and Land's Beef Week. For updates follow the links below.