WEANER SELLERS: Jen and Don Symonds (centre), Edenhope, Vic, with Pinkerton Palm Hamlyn & Steen’s Josh Manser and Craig Gill, at a Naracoorte weaner sale.

Balanced approach pays off

With a focus on the Naracoorte vealer markets, Edenhope, Vic, beef producers Don and Jen Symonds’ key focus in their Angus breeding program is low birth weights and optimal growth rates. 

At the January 4 weaner sale in Naracoorte, the Symonds sold 65 Hazeldean-blood 8-10-month-old steers to an average of $1176, with many selling to feedlots. 

The following day, they sold 32 Hazeldean-blood weaner heifers to an average of $1030. 

Mr Symonds said while prices were strong they were down by about $150 a head from last year, and it was still a good sale as last year’s sales were at extreme prices which made it hard for buyers. 

“They were a good price for both the seller and the buyer this year,” he said.

The top weaner steers that sold topped the scales at 380 kilograms and averaged about 340kg, with none of the heifers and steers below 300kg.

“We just breed a weaner and sell them in the weaner sale each year and the weights depend on whether we’ve had a good year or not-so-good year,” he said. 

In breeding the ultimate weaners in his program on dry country, Mr Symonds buys one or two bulls a year from Hazeldean, where he has been buying for more than 25 years. 

“I’ve found in this drier, tougher country the Hazeldean bulls have done very well because they’re reared in pretty tough country up there in NSW,” he said. 

My Symonds looks for bulls to run with his 130 breeders with the ultimate balance of low birth weight and high growth rate, paired with good conformation and docility. 

“We‘ve got to get them to grow as quick as we can so we can use the green feed while we’ve got it, which is only from about May until the end of November most years.”

He looks for bulls with below 4.5 for birth weight and ensures figures are about 80 for 400-day growth and more than 100 for 600 days. 

While Mr Symonds retains about 30 to 50 heifers annually he said he was not looking to expand his numbers yet until he knew market prices were more stable. 

“I don’t intend to expand, because I've had a few ups and downs in the cattle industry, so I’ll just wait and see if it does stabilise or whether it’s a boom,” he said.

In the dry Edenhope country the cattle graze sub clover, phalaris and native grass pastures which see an application of 100kg a hectare of super phosphate in February or March to ensure maximum feed to grow out the weaners. 

Mr Symonds’ Angus run on 283 hectares of his 1011ha property, where he also runs 3000 Border Leicester-Merino first-cross breeding ewes and uses White Suffolk sires over them to breed prime lambs. 

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