A NEED for easy calving led Burrumbuttock producer, Ray Hall, Coolangatta, to try Limousins nearly 20 years ago.
Mr Hall, who was pointed toward the breed by his livestock agents after enduring trouble with big calves from another beef bull, soon discovered the benefits did not stop at easier calving.
"The Limousin-cross calves have a really good carcase and butchers seem to be very fond of them," he said.
Mr Hall traditionally has put a Limousin bull over his herd of Angus-Santa Gertrudis cows.
When his herd is at full strength – 80 to 100 breeders – he prefers to run two bulls, however, the drought has forced him to cut numbers.
He now runs about 50 breeders after two years of reductions and only needs a single bull to maintain a decent calving rate.
The first crop of calves from his present sire, Le Meilleur Bertram, have been on the ground for about two weeks, and Mr Hall says they are looking good.
His preference was to sell his stock as vealers through the Wodonga yards on the Tuesday prime sales, and less often directly to local butchers.
However, the drought had also interfered with this practice and recently he had been forced to hold onto the calves until 12 to 13 months in order to add sufficient condition to them.
"We've been hand-feeding them grain to give them a bit of finish," he said.
All the grain and hay for handfeeding came from Coolangatta's own pastures.
Mr Hall said he sowed about 20 hectares of oats along with 20ha to 30ha of triticale, retaining enough reserves of grain and hay to feed his cattle.
The rest was sold.
"The grain we market pays for the production costs for our reserves sowing, fertilising, harvesting and baling," he said.
"That way, we get our grain at pretty much no expense."
The grain finishing had become increasingly necessary because of the property's slender pastures.
Coolangatta had been sown down with cocksfoot, clovers and ryegrass, with some redgrass on the uncultivated areas, which was enough to sustain the cattle in a better rainfall year.
However, if the skies remained clear, eventually the grain stores would be depleted.
"I estimate we've got enough now to keep us going until mid-spring," Mr Hall said.
"If the weather is still dry by then, the cattle will have to go, but let's hope that doesn't happen."
He said the season the past 12 months had been especially poor, with only small spring growth and little summer rain.
*Extract from full story to appear in Stock & Land, April 23.
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