Western breeders look to rebuild cattle numbers

REBUILDING: Claire and Scott York, of Billa Park Simmentals, Dulacca, with volume buyer Ben Simpson, of Thistlebank Grazing Co, Aramac, at the Roma Simental and Simbrah Sale last Friday.
REBUILDING: Claire and Scott York, of Billa Park Simmentals, Dulacca, with volume buyer Ben Simpson, of Thistlebank Grazing Co, Aramac, at the Roma Simental and Simbrah Sale last Friday. Andrea Schulz

AFTER a welcomed wet winter in many areas of western Queensland, producers are attending this year's bull sales with a spring in their step.

With the thought of green pastures, rebuilding herd numbers and a potentially wet summer in the back of their minds, buyers like Ben Simpson aren't holding back with their bids.

Mr Simpson attended the Roma Simmental and Simbrah Sale last week where he secured five bulls for his family's operation, Thistlebank Grazing Company. Located 100km north of Aramac, Mr Simpson is trying to increase the core breeding herd after numbers declined due to drought.

"We were down to about 550 cows, however we usually run 1000 or more. We were getting ready to sell some maiden heifers this year, and then we were very fortunate to receive some early rain. The gamble of feeding cattle at the end of last year has certainly paid off,” Mr Simpson said.

"We were lucky that we did get some rain at the start of the year, but the majority has come in winter. So far we have received 22 inches for the year, which is more than double what we've had in the past two years.

"The country is responding quite well. We tried to be semi-conservative and feed pretty hard in hope that it would rain, and now that is has the country is bouncing back a lot quicker.”

Mr Simpson's sale purchases included the $8000 Billa Park Kennedy K99, a son of the current Australian top-priced Simmental bull Woonalee Goldrush, and Billa Park K31 for $7000.

Mr Simpson, whose draft of five bull's averaged $6800, said buying quality bulls was a way forward for his family's business.

"We certainly want quality bulls that are quiet. Having the right temperament is important to us - it makes mustering easier, the fertility improves and cattle put on more weight. Quality definitely pays in the long run,” Mr Simpson said.

"This is the first time we've used Simmental's, and we decided to try the breed because we're looking for more weight in our cattle and a bit more bone. We target the feeder market, so we're always looking to get more weight in an animal earlier.”

There were several other active volume and repeat buyers in attendance at the sale, including Burnett Enterprises from Bendmeer at Clermont who took home six bulls to average $8250.

The Hartley family from Coopermurra, Mitchell, put a draft of six bulls together for a $6500 average, while Nathan and Olivia Evans from Carnarvon Pastoral, Rolleston, secured three sires for an average of $9400. More bulls were booked down to the Rolleston country when Ingleara Grazing signed off on three bulls to average $10,666.

Owen Perrett and Co, Kabunga West, Wandoan, purchased a Billa Park sire several years ago and after seeing the extra weight in his calves, manager Wayne Becker returned to buy another one. He paid $13,000 for the polled Billa Park King Tide, who at 23 months of age weighed 1060kg and recorded an EMA of 132 square cm.

Principal of the Billa Park Simmental stud Scott York said he was elated with the results from the sale and is especially buoyed by the fact that many of the buyers were repeat and volume buyers.

"We couldn't be happier with our results today and year-after-year we're very thankful that our sale's success can largely be attributed to our return and repeat buyers,” Mr York said.

"Quite a number of our buyers have been purchasing Simmental and Simbrah bulls at our sales for 10 or more years now, and usually put together a healthy-sized line of them, so they really are the backbone of the sale.”

Mr York also added that it was pleasing to see new buyers venturing into the breed and was appreciative of all buyers, new or repeat, who 'made the sale what it was'.

"At the end of the day we strive to produce that top-end article for the real cattleman, and we are catering for so many different markets but our goal remains the same. The breeding program which results in over 100 bulls a year strives for an end product that will provide market-relevant, performance-focused, consistent progeny that most importantly have that ability to finish,” he said.

"Our recent sales have been a reflection of the fact that this breeding philosophy is headed in the right direction and our buyers are seeing results at the end of the line through using our bulls. We'd like to extend a very heartfelt thanks to all of our buyers and continued supporters and are really looking forward to more exciting times for all involved in the industry.”

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