While this year turned out to be a less than ideal season to calve down an extra 100 cows, Glenn Bird still has plenty of confidence in the cattle industry.
“We are committed to the job for good years or not, that’s our whole operation really – it is just about having adequate fodder, we make all we can in the good years to get us through these tough years,” Mr Bird said.
The Carngham Station, Carngham, manager finished cutting hay in the first week of December, making about half their average cereal crop bales, and no pasture hay at all.
But stockpiles from the previous year, and a continual hay cropping and pasture improvement program has left the property in good stead.
“We grow all of our own hay and use all of our own, only in an extreme situation where we have had to buy some,” he said.
“Once the pastures get degraded, we put in a summer crop of fodder rape, and follow with three general cereal crops then sow it down to a new permanent pasture.
“We need some summer feed for the calves that we keep to run them through the autumn, and we do the cropping for the hay as we can’t rely on pasture hay alone, and hopefully get good weed control in those paddocks to sow them down to a new pasture.
“We normally run about 600 cows, this year kept a few extra on, calved down 700 this year, so that wasn’t the best year to increase numbers, but will have enough carryover hay to get through another season.
“And we operate a small stud which just produces bulls for our own use in amongst that number, either through artificial insemination, and by natural mating…bulls have come from Landfall and Coolana in the past.”
Mr Bird said they aimed to breed bulls with good growth and good fertility, and while it wasn’t cheap to produce their own sires, it did mean they could pick the best ones.
Calving begins in the last week of July and finishes a couple of weeks into September, with spring calving being more feed efficient in their operation.
“We used to have half the herd in autumn calving, but have to feed those autumn calvers an enormous amount of feed through winter, not so much with spring calving,” he said.”
In a more average rainfall year, the best half of the steers produced on the 1060 hectare Carngham Station are sold at Landmark Ballarat’s February weaner sale, with the second half sold in May.
However this year Mr Bird said up to 200 of them would go in February.
“Basically we need the feed, we keep all of the heifers, so it more cost effective to sell steers younger and keep the heifers on, you get more for heifers later on but don’t sell as well as weaners,” he said.
“Keep the best heifers, the rest we’ve got a private buyer that for the past 6-7 years who has already pre-bought some from last year to join, and some go to the live export shipment to China.”
The steers will be yard-weaned three weeks before the sale, and this year will be in the 240-260kg range, and Mr Bird said this would suit buyers looking for younger calves to freight some distance, as they could fit more onto the truck.
The steers will be offered on February 22 at the Landmark Ballarat weaner sale, to be held at the Central Victoria Livestock Exchange, and Mr Bird said he targeted the special weaner sale because of the historical price premium.
“In more years than not, prices peak in that time of the weaner sales, they can taper off if there is no rain in Autumn,” he said.
“Also our reputation means we will often get repeat buyers.”