Callistemon

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Since attending the Grazing Best Management Practice (Grazing BMP) workshops the Roberts family have changed their breeder management to save money and improve heifer fertility. Instead of dispersing heifers into the main breeder herd during their first pregnancy, heifers are now managed separately until their second calving.

Bruce and Trudy Roberts operate three grazing properties in partnership with their son and his wife. The home property ‘Callistemon’ is used as a breeding block and the other two are used as fattening blocks. The Roberts target the EU and PCAS markets. Steers are turned off at two and half years old into these markets, as well as cull heifers.

 

The herd has a Santa Gertrudis base, with Angus and Droughtmaster bulls. Approximately 4000 cattle are grazed across the three properties and 1600 of these are breeders. The breeders are joined at three bulls per 100 females. The Angus bulls were introduced to help meet MSA grading standards. They are selected on sheath structure, testicle size and structural soundness.

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A proportion of the females are joined to Santa bulls to breed replacement heifers and some herd bulls for their own use. The majority of the Santa cross Angus heifers are spayed, and sold to slaughter. The breeding heifers are joined at 15 months of age. Bulls enter the breeding paddocks in November and are removed at the end of March. Three hundred and fifty heifers are joined each year and empty heifers at pregnancy diagnosis are spayed. Females are culled for fertility, structural faults, body size and temperament. Bulls stay allocated to the same paddocks for their entire breeding career.

 

Since completing Grazing BMP, the Roberts family have adopted several best management practices from the ‘Animal production’ module. During the 2014 dry season, they decided to separate their heifers from the main breeding herd until their second calf. Historically, the heifers were dispersed throughout the breeding paddocks once they were pregnant. After completing the ‘Animal production’ module, the Roberts family saw the benefits in keeping the heifers separate until their second calving. 

Segregating the heifers until their second calf lets the Roberts closely monitor their performance. Mrs Roberts says, “Since we have kept them separate, we have been able to look after them more. We have been able to feed them lick without feeding all the other breeders and wean the calves earlier to maintain the mother’s body condition. Although we haven’t completed a pregnancy diagnosis yet, we are hoping that there is an increased conception rate in the heifers as a result of these changes in management”.

The Roberts’ have also started using EBVs to select bulls. In addition to selecting bulls for sheath structure, testicle size and structural soundness, they are using EBVs as a tool to increase the genetic progress in their herd. Angus bulls are used to improve the fat cover on slaughter animals and they select sires with superior EBVs for rib fat, rump fat, retail beef yield, and intramuscular fat (marbling).

This has saved the family money by only feeding those animals needing supplementary feeding. In the past when the heifers started to slip in the breeder mobs, all the breeders received lick. Because the heifers are now segregated, if they start losing condition, feeding lick can be targeted to the heifers to ensure they maintain body condition.

The Roberts’ have also started using EBVs to select bulls. In addition to selecting bulls for sheath structure, testicle size and structural soundness, they are using EBVs as a tool to increase the genetic progress in their herd. Angus bulls are used to improve the fat cover on slaughter animals and they select sires with superior EBVs for rib fat, rump fat, retail beef yield, and intramuscular fat (marbling).

Mr and Mrs Roberts believe that participating in Grazing BMP and completing the workshop modules benefited their business. Mrs Roberts said that the program provides a lot of useful information that brings attention to grazing practices. She also believes that the program promotes information that is available to producers, enabling them to access and use the information. Mr Roberts believes that the program has merit with banks and lending institutions, as it demonstrates that producers are trying to improve their profitability and sustainability. Mr Roberts also said that, “Grazing BMP is a great opportunity for graziers to strategically assess their business”.

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