Closing in on ideal steer
David Bruce concentrates on structure, temperament and growth in his Angus offspring at Coonabarabran.
David Bruce knows exactly what kind of steer he needs to breed.
The Angus breeder, “Uliman South”, Coonabarabran, knows his yearling steers are destined for one feedlot only, and with this kind of certainty, his entire breeding program concentrates on producing a very specific animal for this market.
Mr Bruce and his wife Cis run 130 pure-bred Angus breeders on his 429-hectare property, and focus on structure, temperament and growth in offspring, stringently selecting both their cows and bulls with these aims in mind.
But this hasn’t always been the case for this now devoted Angus breeder.
Mr Bruce’s grandfather and father raised Poll Herefords after buying the property in 1924, as well as running sheep.
Mr Bruce joined in running the property in the 1970s.
At this time the property was carrying about 300 breeders, as well as growing wheat.
But after a while he began to look towards other breeds because when he had a lot of improved pastures, he was losing to many to bloat.
Mr Bruce first crossed his Herefords with a Santa Gertrudis bull in about 1984, keen to then cross the offspring heifers with another breed.
“The calves were sappy and sleek,” he said.
“There were two reasons we decided to go with Angus.
“One – the black cattle were starting to sell well.
“And the second was you got a smaller calf when you crossed the Hereford/Santa with the Angus.”
And this decision turned out to be a smart one for Mr Bruce.
“The Angus were becoming so popular, we had more marketing options,” he said.
“There was always someone ready to buy them.”
“We also really liked their maturing pattern. They had quick, easy growth.
“We were looking to sell calves as yearlings, and the Angus gave us the chance to finish them in time.”
It took Mr Bruce 12 years to finally get his herd back to purely Angus, and he hasn’t looked back.
Mr Bruce has selected bulls in the past eight years from Karoo stud, Bathurst, DSK stud, Coonabarabran, Kansas stud, Boggabri, as well as buying bulls from Booroomooka stud, Bingara, and Wattletop stud, Guyra.
At this year’s Karoo sale, Mr Bruce bought a son of Sydgen Black Pearl.
Cows are joined from September 20 until December 20, and calve from mid-June.
Cows and calves are put onto mostly forage crops, such as oats.
Cull heifers are generally sold as replacements to other breeders.
“As a breeder, you want to pass your genetics on to other breeders,” he said.
Steers are kept until around 12 months of age and 480 to 500 kilograms in weight, when they are sent to Killara feedlot, Quirindi.
Here the steers are put onto a 150-day EU feeding program to supply Jack’s Creek.
“We get really good feedback from the feedlot,” he said.
Mr Bruce’s steers impressed this year in the feedlot, reaching a top five ranking.
Last year they were also noted for their health in the feedlot.
“It’s very rewarding,” he said.
Mr Bruce has focused on maintaining particular Estimated Breeding Values (EBVs) in his cattle, including producing between +5 to +7 for birth weight, and +6 or more for frame.
“We concentrate on keeping frame in our cows,” he said.
“And we are very mindful of structure.
“I don’t like anything that is cow-hocked.
“A lot of sires don’t have good feet.”
“I also am looking much more at marbling.”
Temperament is also a huge factor for Mr Bruce.
“It is possibly the most important thing of the lot,” he said.
“If you can’t get up close to your cattle, and if they aren’t settled when they die, you don’t get a good product.”
Mr Bruce said he runs his heifers through the yards and crush to check their temperament as part of his selection process.
Good mothering is also essential.
“Angus are very good mothers,” he said.
“In fact, they are sometimes probably too good.
“They can put too much into their calves.”
And what does Angus as a breed need to focus on in the future?
“It needs to focus on maintaining good structure, and also dealing with leg angle and feet problems,” he said.