THE Angus infusion in David and Sophie McClure's traditional whiteface production is improving calving ease and growth, and increasing marketing options for his black baldy calves.
The McClures run 3500-hectare property Mooree, at Chetwynd, south of Harrow in western Victoria, with Mr McClure's parents Neville and Alison, and their three young children - Milla, 5, Wal, 3, and four-month-old Harry.
The herd of 1400 breeders and 500 replacement heifers are run alongside a flock of 3000 Merinos joined to White Suffolk rams.
While it's a predominantly Hereford herd, and the McClures continue to purchase Hereford bulls to breed the cow base, they've purchased Adameluca Angus bulls for about four years.
Angus sires are improving growth in the black baldy progeny and calving ease in the younger breeders.
"We have about seven per cent more growth with calves out of the black baldies, and we've halved calving intervention with the heifers," Mr McClure said.
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Calves are predominantly sold as weaners, but the family is looking to increase returns by backgrounding their cattle in good seasons.
"We're doing more backgrounding ourselves with heifers and we're starting to do a bit with steers," Mr McClure said.
European Union-accredited grass finishers buy the cattle, with Mr McClure selling direct to a network of buyers for the past five years.
He's sold cattle to NSW and Victoria, along with Tasmania, Russia and China, and has had good feedback on his cattle, which he's been able to use to improve genetic selection in the herd.
Among the main priorities is carcase attributes, including intramuscular fat and eye muscle area, while not sacrificing on phenotype and growth.
"The bulls are well-grown but not overdone which I think has translated into their longevity," Mr McClure said.
"Our weaners steers, at eight to 10 months, are averaging 380 kilograms over the drop of 800 steers last year.
"We were expecting weights to be down about 20kg this year with the tougher start but it's been a great finish to the season."
The cattle are run on phalaris, clover and regrass pastures, and the family also grows oat and clover crops for fodder.
"We have a high stocking rate so we supplementary feed oaten hay and silage, which means we get a bit of extra performance out of cattle, especially being an autumn calving herd," Mr McClure said. The Hereford steers are also sold as weaners and Mr McClure retains about two thirds of the heifers to go into the breeding herd, with the cull heifers finished to feeder or kill weights, depending on the season.
Mr McClure likes the heifers to reach 75pc of their mature body weight (about 700kg) by calving.
Heifers are joined for seven weeks, and the older breeders nine weeks, and the bulls are fertility checked every year to make they're performing.
"We pregnancy test six weeks after the bulls are removed and there's no second chance because we've checked the bulls.
"Conception rates were down a bit last year, down to 75 per cent with the heifers, and it's usually 90pc to 95pc.
"We had a big body of feed carrying over from last summer, then a tough autumn and slow growth through winter."
All calves are yard weaned for five to eight days, and it's a practice that's paying off when it comes to buyers.
"There's an expense in it and someone's got to wear it, but when you're selling to repeat buyers you've got to do it," Mr McClure said.
"When it's done right, on good supplementary feed and clean water, we've got steers putting on 800 grams a day throughout weaning."