Richard Harris with two-year-old Angus-cross cows and calves at “Benwerrin”, Tumut, NSW. Photos by Rachael Webb

Focus on frame, growth at Tumut

Angus bulls are being used over Angus/Shorthorn-cross females at "Benwerrin", Tumut.

ANGUS bulls over Shorthorn and Angus/Shorthorn females are producing a good cross for weaner producers Richard and Mandy Harris, Tumut, NSW.

The couple runs 220 spring calvers and 70 autumn calvers on 930-hectare property “Benwerrin”, and have had cattle for the past eight years, after getting out of the wool industry due to wild dog attacks on their sheep.

“At the time, when we were looking to move to cattle, we couldn’t afford Angus – they were too expensive,” Mr Harris said.

“We’d had a few Herefords, and we'd had Shorthorn cattle in the family before, so we bought some Shorthorn cows, then used Angus bulls and got a really nice cross.

“We’ll probably get a Shorthorn bull to put over the more Angus females to keep the nice big frame, keep the milk up, and keep that hybrid vigour in the herd.”

The Angus breed’s marketing opportunities and premiums in most markets was a big driver behind Mr Harris’s decision to use Angus bulls.

“If you go on AuctionsPlus, a pen of black steers is bringing a lot more than Hereford steers,” he said.

“We had Herefords here for a long time and I like the breed, but the marketing of the Angus cattle has done a good job and the increased consumer interest has flowed through to good prices for us.”

The family has used genetics from Reiland, Crawford and Irelands Angus studs.

Angus bulls are used over Shorthorn and Angus/Shorthorn females.

“With the Reiland bulls their figures are really good for birth-weight, and we’re calving out 100 heifers each year,” Mr Harris said.

“We had calves from 62 of 63 heifers last year so that was really pleasing.

“(The late) Bruce Graham (Crawford Angus) sort of flew under the radar, but he was a very smart man and used some New Zealand blood many years ago, which gave the cattle good volume and frame – they’re really meaty cattle.

“I was pretty lucky with an Ireland bull that was sold for good money at the sale, and the couple thought he was a bit fizzy, so I bought him for $2000, and he was one of my best bulls.”

Mr Harris retains about 60, or half of the heifers, and sells the rest, along with all the steers, as weaners via AuctionsPlus.

For that reason, he’s looking for good growth rates when selecting bulls.

“I want quick, early growth rates but I always look at the 600-day as well, because most end up in feedlots, so you’ve got to look after the blokes who are growing them out. I choose bulls that will give me an easy, low-maintenance mob of cattle, and buyers seem to love the cross.”

Last year’s steers topped at $1170 a head and averaged $1020 for seven- to eight-month-old calves, and heifers reached $960.

The "Benwerrin" calves are sold via AuctionsPlus.

“This year we had some seven-month-old calves on AuctionsPlus then had two showers of rain, and we thought that’d bring us $750, but we got $960, so we were happy with that.”

A big attraction to the Harris calves is their temperament.

“We yard wean for seven to 10 days, and walk around them every day to quieten them down, because buyers are looking for quiet cattle,” Mr Harris said.

“There’s an incredible difference in prices, and if they're not fizzy the weight gain is going to be much better.”

The cattle are mostly on native grasses, but Mr Harris has been improving pastures and well as planning a superphosphate program.

“When the cattle go from here, they do well, because they have to forage for food. It’s fairly hilly – we border the Mt Kosciuszko National Park –  but the cattle can handle it.

“We’ve got some good native clovers up here, like microlaena, and I think having the hills teaches the cattle how to forage for when it does get tough.”

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