What a difference a year makes: the cattle market is at an all-time high; the future looks bright for the beef industry and for agriculture in general. The season is in much better shape and continuing to improve, so good times ahead. I attended Beef Week in Rockhampton in May: 85,000 beef enthusiasts from Australia and around the world attended the event over 6 days. It was certainly an uplifting experience. If the market and opportunities are half as good as what they say, it will be excellent.
I brought back a high degree of confidence in the Ironbark program after meeting with feedlotters and processors throughout the week. They certainly like the consistency of the Ironbark blood cattle. They continually tell me “don’t change what you’re doing because consistent performance in the feedlot and processing sectors is where the profitability lies.” Recently I went to the launch of JBS Great Southern grass fed brand at their newly acquired Scone facility. It’s a brand that will suit Hereford cattle. They source 3,000 cattle a week and kill at their Brooklyn facility in Melbourne VIC and their Scone facility in NSW, for this particular grass fed brand which is exported into the US. They have a sensible animal welfare farm accreditation where calves are to be dehorned under 5 months of age.
Significant numbers of Ironbark bred feeder steers end up at the Whyalla feedlot at Texas in QLD. Ironbark has a strong relationship with this particular feedlot. I strongly encourage producers, if they’re not already EU accredited, to look into it as the premiums are mostly 20c above the normal feeder rate.
We sell feedlot cattle on a weekly basis and so do many of the Ironbark clients so we have continued dialogue with the big players in the processing sector and they process all breeds of cattle throughout the country-dehorned or polled. The Wagyu breed has really grown in Australia and remember every Wagyu bull that’s born has horns on its head. Every dairy animal that’s born on the planet has horns on its head so taking horns off a calf has been going on in the cattle industry throughout the world forever. Some stud breeders breeding poll cattle run around with the scare tactics that processors don’t want dehorned cattle. Be very careful not to fall into that trap as it’s only a promotion for themselves. Processors and feedlotters continue to tell me they want performance cattle. Feedlotting cattle that don’t perform in the feedlot and on the hook is an unprofitable situation. You don’t want to be in the boat where you’ve got a polled animal that can’t perform and the feedlotter delivers you the news he no longer wants to buy your cattle. It doesn’t matter what it is, horned or polled, you need the best cattle that have the depth of genetics behind them to enable consistent performance and you don’t get that just by selecting a polled head. In my lifetime, it has never been any different, you have to breed good cattle that will perform and the Ironbark bloodline is the most consistent, high performing white face bloodline in Australia, bred under commercial conditions. Look at the Holden/Cooper success story in the United States: tremendous sales (together grossing $3.5m in bull sales this year), both horned Hereford programs that have stuck to the commercial basis of a successful breeding herd. They are uniform and are the most successful white face programs in the world. Using bulls out of large well-bred cow herds gives you far greater uniformity and consistency in the progeny.
In the United States the white face breed is going through an enormous growth period. They are being crossed into the black cows and that is growing. It is starting to come in Australia where the white face is gaining ground. Beef breeding has always followed the trends in the United States so stick with your Hereford cattle - good times are ahead! When you see how the Hereford cow lives and performs in tough conditions throughout the country you can see why people are starting to turn towards them. MSA grading has been a massive success for the Australia beef industry and Hereford cattle consistently grade in the high 90% so this has to be a major factor in you choosing to breed Hereford cattle.
Last October, I visited Kazakhstan and had a look at the Ironbark cattle that have been going up there over the last few years. It certainly impressed me how they have performed and the constitution to be able to travel that distance and settle into a new environment and perform. It certainly gives me enormous confidence in what we are doing in the Ironbark program.
This year I would encourage you to trade your old bulls in, they are worth between $2,000 and $3,000 in the fat market, and invest in a younger bull with fresh genetics. 30 sires are represented in the catalogue so a very large gene pool of genetics is on offer. Be very careful not to outcross for the sake of outcross, that is the quickest way you can lose uniformity and consistency in your program. Look at the consistency Holden and Cooper have bred into their world renowned herds by continually stacking the pedigrees with genetics that they are familiar with.
New sires: HH Advance 0002X, HH Advance 1098Y and HH Advance 0132X have some outstanding bulls in the sale. They’re uniform and consistent and backed up by one of the top Hereford cow herds in the world. They are real world cattle with great EBVs and Phenotype. 0002X sons sold up to $80,000 at Holden’s record breaking 2014 sale. They deliver calving ease, growth, carcass and eye appeal. HH Advance 9169W and HH Advance 7101T are having a major impact on our female herd. You’ll see a number of outstanding bulls in the sale out of cows by these bulls. New Australian sires this year are Mawarra Yesteryear, purchased at Hereford National for $30,000, and Wallan Creek Victory Blend who was purchased for $11,000. Both bulls have done an outstanding job.
Ironbark uses the bloodlines of Montana-based studs Cooper and Holden, both worldwide industry leaders. Being older programs, they’ve got a lot of depth to their breeding. Both the Holden and Cooper programs have tremendous uniformity – their cattle all breed the same. Both studs concentrated on birth weight and maternal traits. They’ve been measuring birth weight for every animal on each side of the pedigree for 40 years. If you buy out of a uniform program with a very strong cow base you’ll win and improve your cattle. If it’s a shallow cow base, that’s how a bull is going to produce, even if he looks unreal. You’ve got to have the cow in mind as much as the progeny. If you get your females right, the rest will follow.
We feed a significant number of our own steers and Ironbark-blood steers for the domestic and export trade and we have a lot of information on carcase assessment of these bloodlines. The results are outstanding, giving us full confidence to push ahead with the program.
Consistency is key to our breeding decisions. Throughout the draft there are many quality low birth weight heifer bulls. We urge producers to use good bulls on their heifers as they represent the best genetics. It will enable far greater selection for genetic strength when yearly selecting your heifer replacements. The Sale bulls are a tremendous draft of high quality genetics, the best we have presented. They have been running on oats since the middle of April. They are well grown and in ideal working condition. The bulls are semen tested and ready for the cows. I believe we have as much depth in the 2015 offering as any that I have been involved with. The bull sale catalogues will be posted towards the end of July.