It's a numbers game for Lillie's beef enterprise

It's a numbers game for Lillie's beef enterprise

Sales
PASSION: Bostocks Creek cattle producer Nick Lillie was selling Hereford and Black Baldy steers and heifers at Mortlake recently.

PASSION: Bostocks Creek cattle producer Nick Lillie was selling Hereford and Black Baldy steers and heifers at Mortlake recently.

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How stud and commercial cattle complement each other.

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Nick Lillie may have closed the family's Wolbull Poll Hereford stud, but the commercial side of the herd continues to play a critical role in his expanding cattle enterprise.

Mr Lillie, and wife Joanne, farm 627 hectares in two blocks at Bostocks Creek near Camperdown.

They also lease a further 1214 hectares from Mr Lillie's sister-in-law Georgia that started after the death of his brother James two years ago.

The lease arrangement allowed the property to stay in family hands in case his nephews wanted to take on farming in the future.

He runs the enterprise as a single operation with building cow numbers a key focus in the past 18 months.

He has lifted female numbers to 700 Herefords, 100 Angus and 250 Black Baldies.

He spent 15 years after returning to the family farm breeding and selling bulls from the stud started by his father about 50 years ago.

"But the stud side wasn't really my passion," he said.

His brother did a lot of cropping and that meant there was a lot of improvements and work needed to fencing and pastures.

Originally they just "sneaked through" with the aid of a couple of good seasons.

"We have lucked into a good time," he said.

"I have simplified things; we had a pretty steep learning curve in terms of building herd numbers.

"We were lucky prices matched that and we were able to keep every heifer we could get our hands on, and bought a few as well."

He has increased herd numbers from 400 or 500 head to around 1000 in 18 months with a view to building numbers to 1200 to 1300.

"It's about cleaning them up because we joined everything," he said.

He is aiming to move the calving patterns from the current split of 800 in spring and 200 in autumn, to around 600 and 400 respectively.

He said they had moved into Angus cattle with the purchase four or five years ago of eight Banquet-blood cows all with bull calves at foot and have been breeding from them since then.

He has purchased Angus bulls from Banquet, Murdeduke and Glatz.

For the Hereford genetics he has brought bulls at the national sale at Wodonga as well as bulls from Strathvalley at Rochester and Jaclinton and Tee Jay studs.

"I've still got a stud bent when I am looking at cattle," he said.

"I look for bulls that look like they should look, that their structure is right and have meat on a good frame.

"We're also pretty hot on temperament.

"There's nothing better than having your cattle at the market standing quietly."

Still striving to get to a perfect level

Mr Lillie keeps the pure breeds pure and breeds both Angus and Poll Hereford bulls for use in the herd.

The Black Baldy herd was joined to both Angus and Hereford bulls.

"I'm not aiming to breed them into an Angus," he said.

"We do very well with the Black Baldy steer portion.

"In the past couple of years when you combine the extra weight and a similar cents a kilogram price, [the Black Baldies] probably came out just ahead of the Angus."

Mr Lillie said marketing was spread across the region, with the Mortlake saleyards the focus for younger cattle.

"I think you do get a following when you keep going to the same place and see the same people," he said.

"We also put some on the boat but I prefer the market because it's a bit of a morning out and enjoyable experience."

He also breeds about 40 Hereford bulls for themselves and "any locals who want them".

Mr Lillie said they were trying to moderate the size of the Angus cows in their herd.

He said consolidation would be done once herd numbers had reached the desired level.

In the future there was fencing needed while pasture renovations were constant.

Mr Lillie said they normally make 4000 to 5000 round bales of hay each year to meet their requirements.

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