Drought bet goes to Pakenham

Drought bet goes to Pakenham store sale

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CHAROLAIS AND CHILDREN: Daniel Bates with children, Lucy, 9, Dylan, 5, Hunter, 7 and baby Harley, 6 months, and his line of pure-bred Charolais destined for Pakenham store sale.

CHAROLAIS AND CHILDREN: Daniel Bates with children, Lucy, 9, Dylan, 5, Hunter, 7 and baby Harley, 6 months, and his line of pure-bred Charolais destined for Pakenham store sale.

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Charolais cattle are on their way back to Pakenham store cattle sale and their journey tells an interesting story about farmer Daniel Bates of Neerim East.

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Soft skinned, square-framed and curious, the mob of Charolais gathered around Daniel Bates and family are about to leave their life of luxury at Neerim East for a trip back to Pakenham next week.

The drought was still in full swing last December when Mr Bates took a chance on Frank Sofra's offering of Charolais weaners.

"They were a really nice line of quiet cattle and looked to be well bred," Mr Bates said.

"At the time, the drought hadn't broken but it surely couldn't go on any longer, I thought, so it was a good time to purchase some steers and heifers to grow out."

Tucked up in a high-rainfall valley north of Warragul, it wasn't as big a risk as it would have been further east.

Mr Bates has been rapidly improving his property and had plenty of feed.

"We had 70 or 80 acres of a summer crop in that was ready to graze and obviously I didn't want the hard work of putting that in going to waste," he said.

"The cattle were the ideal solution to that and they do very well through the summer months."

Indeed, the 70 now 16 to 18-month-old Charolais steers and heifers, a mix of pure-bred and Angus crosses, with Palgrove and Paringa sires, have achieved their growth targets.

Mr Bates says, conservatively, they're now 450 to 500 kilograms but "could be over 500", thanks to having their big frames well filled out on a diet of lush pasture, hay and silage.

He's also planning to yard 10 unjoined 16-month-old Simmental heifers, 16 Belgian Blue steers of the same age and 10 Te Mania-bred 14-month-old steers.

That decision, too, is not entirely without risk, given the uncertainty created by the coronavirus, Mr Bates said.

"At the moment, my marketing strategy is keeping an eye on the market, reading the reports, having a good stock agent in Carlo Taranto, working together to try and achieve the best results," he said.

It's a miracle Mr Bates has time to consider his options.

He has a construction and concreting business in Melbourne that gets him out of bed at 3.30 each morning and he and wife Amber have four young children.

But, with 200 hectares running around 150 head of stock all year round, farming is no hobby.

Every day finishes with feeding out hay or silage, the heavily-fertilised paddocks are routinely renovated and cattle are drenched every 30 to 60 days.

It takes Mr Bates back to his roots - parents Geoffrey and Elizabeth farm Angus in Munro.

"It started off as a hobby but we've gradually bought and improved land, so it's a good operation now," he said.

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