SUCCESS at terminal crossbreeding Charolais with Angus has helped Port Fairy district beef producers Michael and Jacinta Coffey keep selection pressure on their main pure black herd.
For the past six years they have been using the Charolais over cull Angus cows, providing an incentive to intensify selection.
“I’m pretty tough as far as selection goes with the cows and anything that is not suitable, instead of selling them, I just join them to a Charolais bull," Michael said.
“By retaining those (cull) cows I don’t have to join quite so many heifers – I can be more selective with my Angus heifers and sell more of those unwanted heifers.”
The Coffeys also do this with older cows, allowing younger, new genetics to have a greater impact on the main Angus herd and removing old genetics.
“If I used an Angus bull over everything I would be tempted to keep some of these (cull cows)," he said.
“These do a really good job for us by using those secondary cows and I can improve my Angus a lot quicker.”
Mr Coffey said the Charolais was a good cross to use over the Angus cows, throwing the same coloured calves without calving problems that were earlier maturing and with good temperaments. The Charolais’ potential for quick growth combined well with the Angus’ milk and early maturation.
The Coffeys have also used Simmental and Limousin bulls over their surplus Angus cows.
“But I just think the Charolais seems to suit the Angus females more than anything else we’ve used,” Mr Coffey said.
The Coffeys dispersed their fine wool sheep in the mid-1990s to focus on their Angus herd, making infusions of Weeran, Ballangeich, Lawsons, Te Mania bloodlines, then switching to Pathfinder genetics over the past few years.
The couple currently join about 100 Angus cows to Mt William and Temana Charolais bulls and also use the white bulls to follow-up in the main Angus herd of about 300 breeders.
All their 10 month-old Charolais-Angus calves are sold at the Hamilton weaner sales in January through Kerr & Co Livestock and are generally about 10 kilograms heavier than their pure Angus counterparts.
“I haven’t been tempted to keep the daughters,” Mr Coffey said.
In January this year the Coffeys' 380 kilogram Charolais steer weaners sold for about $840 and their 355kg sisters averaged about $780. The Angus steers sold about $30 a head more than their crossbred counterparts.
Mr Coffey said having the Charolais-Angus crossbreeding herd helped spread income risk by having a different buyer and market day.
“There is also the option of the prime market for these Charolais cross calves if the season is no good," he said.
“They have been very popular (with feedlots) the last few years with the price of grain and the downturn in the Japanese bullock market."
Mr Coffey said ten years ago they were running one cow with calf to every three acres (1.24 hectares).
“Now I am down to one hectare for that cow and calf and the calves are probably 50kg heavier (at weaning)," he said.
“The Angus cows are slightly bigger and probably 40kg heavier, but the stocking rate is increasing and I don’t seem to be using more feed to get in calf and rear the calf.
“I only feed hay when the bulls are out and no cropping and no silage. We are trying to keep things as economical as we can.”