Strathdownie beef producers, the Sullivan family, have been selling at Casterton for more than 40 years and are busy preparing their quality draft of Poll Hereford weaners for next month's annual sales.
Despite a tough start and a long, wet winter, Dale and Sue Sullivan and their son Alex are pleased with how this year's drop of calves are looking.
"They did do it tough early on as the winter was very long, cold and wet, and the calves just didn't grow," Mr Sullivan said.
"But they are really jumping along now and we should still have some green pick up until Christmas, or a little bit after, which they'll benefit from."
The Sullivans run 260 Poll Hereford breeders across a spread of three properties, totalling 1295 hectares.
They also run a self-replacing flock of 4000 composite ewes and as an additional on-farm venture, own a limestone quarry which operates during summer and autumn.
Trading as Shallum, the family will offer about 100 steers and 30 to 40 heifers, predominantly February/March-drop, in the weaner sales in the New Year.
Final heifer numbers will depend on how many are retained as replacements.
Mr Sullivan anticipates the top line of steers in this year's draft should be about 400-420 kilograms, while the middle run of calves will hit the 350kg mark and the heifers will be about 250-280kg.
The Sullivans have always run Hereford cattle and continue to be pleased with the breed's temperament, doing-ability and growth rates.
"The Herefords have been very good to us over the years, we've got quality bloodlines, they suit our country and their temperament is excellent," Mr Sullivan said.
"We aim to produce good quality, easy-doing calves that anyone can come and buy and know they are going to go on and perform."
Founded on Ardno and Injemira bloodlines, they have moved from a horned Hereford breeding base to poll genetics for ease of management and animal and staff health and welfare.
"My father started buying bulls from Ardno and then it was a natural progression to Injemira," Mr Sullivan said.
"It works well as Marc Greening from Injemira generally buys most of our weaners at the sales and they then go to the Willinga Park feedlot in NSW to be grown out."
Bulls are still sourced from Injemira and in more recent years, the Sullivans have started purchasing sires from local breeders including Melville Park, Vasey, and the Lambert family's Taronga stud, Paschendale.
Mr Sullivan uses a combination of visual appraisal and estimated breeding values to select his bulls with a focus on structural soundness, including feet, hooded eyes, and temperament.
Growth rates, particularly 400-day weight, are also important.
"During the past five years we have changed the type of bull we were purchasing as the cattle were getting too leggy and slow maturing," Mr Sullivan said.
"We've shifted to more moderate-sized bulls with good early growth to enable us to really hit our target weaner market."
The Sullivans pride themselves on presenting their cattle at the annual Casterton sales in the best possible condition.
The calves will be yard-weaned on silage and handled extensively for about two weeks in mid-December, before being moved into larger paddocks with good quality pasture feed.
The herd has been European Union-accredited for many years, and are also certified through the Pasturefed Cattle Assurance System, as well as Meat Standards Australia.
The Shallum Poll Hereford steers will be offered through Elders at Casterton on Wednesday, January 12, and the heifers the following day on January 13.
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