Roan cross in demand

Hereford/Shorthorn-cross weaners in demand at Omeo


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SELLING in a large yarding is paying off for weaner producers Bert and Brendan Ah Sam, “Round Hill”, Omeo.

SELLING in a large yarding is paying off for weaner producers Bert and Brendan Ah Sam, “Round Hill”, Omeo.

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Brendan and Bert Ah Sam, "Round Hill", Omeo, will sell 270 Hereford and Hereford/Shorthorn-cross calves at Omeo on March 14.

Brendan and Bert Ah Sam, "Round Hill", Omeo, will sell 270 Hereford and Hereford/Shorthorn-cross calves at Omeo on March 14.

The father and son team will sell 270 European Union-accredited, 11-month-old Hereford/Shorthorn-cross weaners in the March 14 sale at Omeo, with about 150 heifers and 120 steers on offer.

Brendan Ah Sam said the sale had a strong field of buyers, with some coming from northern NSW and southern Queensland.

“When you’ve got 10,000 calves being sold in two days of sales it’s pretty attractive to buyers to be able to come and get a few truckloads – we’ve got buyers who buy 1500 head at a time,” Mr Ah Sam said.

The Ah Sams run 120 Mawarra-blood Hereford cows, which are joined to white Shorthorn bulls from Gairnshiel and Royalla studs.

The first-cross heifers are retained as breeders and joined to Hereford bulls from Nunniong, Valley Vista and Karoonda whiteface studs.

“Having the roan cows gives the herd a bit of extra milk and we certainly get the hybrid vigour by putting Hereford back over the cross,” he said.

The weaner steers usually weigh from 340kg to 400kg, and the heifers weigh between 320kg and 340kg.

“A lot of our weaner heifers are sourced as breeders, and some of those restockers will join at 380kg, so if the calves can have the size early, in time for the sale, they can join almost straight away,” he said.

“Buyers like the cross because the Shorthorns are renowned for extra milk, they’re a very calm breed of cattle and they make great mothers, and the Hereford side makes them hardy enough to resist handle to cold and harsher weather.

“In the past we’ve had people buy the roan heifers to use as surrogate mothers in artificial insemination and embryo transfer programs because they’re such good mothers.

“The steers mainly go to backgrounders, with a lot going to south Gippsland.”

All calves were yard weaned and handled for four days in January, which helps with temperament, making them more attractive to buyers.

“Most of the calves in this area are quiet calves anyway because we winter feed everything, so they get used to being around us and they’re already eating hay before they’re weaned,” he said.

“I think that’s why our area’s so attractive to a lot of backgrounders.”

The property is mostly improved pastures, ryegrass and cocksfoot.

He said making a decision to manage the dry season early paid off with this year’s weaners.

“I locked up about 400 acres (160 hectares) in November because I thought it was going to get dry, which gave me an opportunity with the calves,” he said.

“We don’t usually wean until February, but the calves were dragging the cows down too quickly, so we weaned a month earlier, and it was lucky that I had those paddocks available.”

Mr Ah Sam expected the market to remain strong, even if it doesn’t hit the record prices of 2017.

Last year his top steers weighed from 380 kilograms to 400kg, and reached a top of $1410/head, and the top heifers made an impressive $1440/head, and went into a breeding operation.

“The prices were fantastic – we doubled what we were making a few years before that,” he said.

“It’s a big change from about five years ago when the top steers made $670 and they would have been similar weights to last year.

“We’ve gone from about 200 cents per kilogram to 350c/kg.

“We’ve had sales here quoted as 50c/kg higher on the month before, and the Mountain Sales quite often pay a premium, because of the big lots and the doability of the cattle.”

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