Six decades with Angus for the Walls family at Gowangardie
The Walls family at Gowangardie, Victoria, have been producing Angus cattle for more than 60 years.
PRODUCING top-quality Angus weaners is the focus for Jeff Walls and his son Simon on the 2000-hectare property "Lynfield", Gowangardie, Victoria.
The 260-breeder pure Angus herd is run alongside 810ha of cropping and 1200 Merino ewes and their replacements.
The family’s involvement with the Angus breed began in 1955, when Jeff's grandfather bought the first 16 Angus heifers and a bull for 70 guineas. The Walls have been buying bulls from the Collins family at Tennyson, Victoria, for the past 40 years, beginning with Phil and Gwen Collins, who had Merrigrange Angus, and now dealing with Peter and Maria Collins of Merridale Angus.
“The first was called Teal, and he was about $1700, which was the top price at that sale,” Jeff Walls said.
“The Merridale bulls are to our area, which has undulating ironstone country to creek flats.”
Structure and meat is the focus when selecting bulls, Mr Walls said. “We want as much meat on an animal as we can get, and a good frame that can walk and stand up to the weight in feedlots,” he said.
“They need to have the structure to put on weight quickly in a feedlot.”
The Walls keep about 75 per cent of their heifers, culling on type for the young stock and production for older cows.
“We pregnancy-test everything, and anything that’s not in calf is gone,” Mr Walls said.
“Over the past couple of years we’ve had a good market for females and sent a few to the Chinese export job that were registered as category ones, so there was a good premium. We’ve been mothering up and recording parentage for the past 15 years so we've got the records required for that market.”
The cattle are on a mix of native and improved pastures, and are fed silage in dry seasons.
“We try to keep the feed up to them at joining, and we feed silage and hay depending on the year, but we haven't opened up the silage pit for the past year,” Simon Walls said.
A tough season at joining had little impact on fertility, with 22 sets of twins from 215 older breeders last year.
THE oldest weaners from the Walls family are usually in the first run of heavier cattle at the first Euroa, Vic, sale for the weaner selling season, held in December.
“The top end of the weaners can weigh about 450 kilograms and sometimes they’re not yet nine months,” Simon Walls said.
All steers are sold in the December sale, with 100 head sold at the end of last year. The 2015 steers ranged from $1130 to $1250, jumping up to $1250 to $1480 in 2016. In the December 2017 sale, they sold from $1120 to $1280.
“It’s finally a market that's rewarding producers,” he said. “A few years ago we'd never get $1000 for our top price, but over the past few years the bottom price was equal to or greater than any price we've had before.”
The steers, usually bought by backgrounders, are yard-weaned at nine to 10 months of age.
“Some of the top buyers want yard-weaned – they won't bid unless they're yard-weaned. We have repeat buyers so we try to work with them.”