In one of the driest years they’ve ever seen, brothers Tony and Bevan Hauff are still recording calving percentages above 90 per cent on their country at Blackall.
It’s a trait of the Hereford breed that’s been true to them for three generations and one of the characteristics they say keeps them in the breed.
Of 340 heifers preg tested in August, 320 were in calf.
That’s despite Bevan not even reaching 100mm of rain for the year to date at Colart, south of Blackall, and Tony having a 140mm storm on part of his country at The Springs, east of the town, in February and nothing since.
“Our maiden heifers might be down to 80-85pc, but even at a 90pc average, that gives us options,” Tony said.
Adaptability is another of the traits they like about the breed, perhaps because they’re so able to mix and match to circumstances themselves.
With 30,350ha between them, in two different rainfall belts, they’ve been able to roll with the punches.
In 2015 Colart was totally destocked for the first time in its history and The Springs absorbed 1000 breeders for a six month period.
This year it’s the opposite – The Springs is struggling and Bevan has dry feed so 300 steers have been moved south, with 100 cows set to follow if there’s no rain before November.
Luckily for them, their cattle seem to adapt to either the red softwood scrub country in the north or the black soil downs with gidyea and buffel in the south of the district.
Running one of the biggest pure Hereford herds in Queensland, with 1100 breeders between them, Tony and Bevan credit four studs – Steve and Debbie Reid at Talbalba, Millmerran, Pat and Kerry Bredhauer at Lambert, Charleville, and the Nixon families at Devon Court and Wallan Creek, Drillham – for helping them reach their aim of a low birthweight animal with moderate growth.
“You end up with a lot of problems if you have big cows that don’t handle your country, but eat more feed,” Tony explained.
And the Hauffs know all about feeding cattle.
They’ve just taken delivery of 23 cubic metres of Quicklink, a liquid bioproduct of ethanol production, all the way from Sarina, something they’ve been using since 2006.
Their last load was two years ago, just before their last lot of rain.
It hasn’t gone to waste – they’ve fed it out to steers they’ve carried through to heavy feeders, and to cows and calves – and used it when feed is frosted in winter months.
Who knows – maybe history will repeat itself and rain will see the latest tanker load kept in reserve for years down the track.
Muscling and marbling
The message from the feedlot market, which takes most of the Hauff’s steers, has been that muscling and marbling are important, and they are confident their studs have their fingers on the pulse in this regard.
“They’re looking two or three years ahead all the time, and if you’ve got a good stud operator that’s doing that for you, he’s sourcing what we want for our markets,” Tony said. “We extensively follow data figures. If they don’t meet the criteria we’re chasing, we don’t buy them.”
They’ve been tempted to go into cross-breeding at times but find the pure Hereford herd suits their operation.
“I wish we had more,” Tony said. “We could sell more.”
Their breeding skill was recognised in the commercial ring at the Blackall show this year, when their heifer class pen of five won them the grand champion ribbon.
“We picked out two pens out of 120 weaners we had, selecting them by eye,” said Tony. “There’s beautiful cattle of every breed in the district so it was great to be up there.”
Deck lines and weight ranges the selling point
When Tony and Bevan Hauff get their 400-500kg feeder steers ready for sale, they try and put together three to four deck lines in even weight ranges.
“We pride ourselves on not selling anything that you wouldn’t buy yourself,” said Tony. “The buyer at the other end will be a satisfied customer then.”
It’s a philosophy born out of years of going to saleyards, week after week, to put together a reasonable line.
They sell through AuctionsPlus and being Herefords, their article has much appeal to feedlots on the Darling Downs, but recently a load of heifers went 1800km south to the Melbourne area, for a price of $2.97/kg, to someone who knew their cattle.
Previous to that, they’d gone as far as Bathurst, to another repeat buyer.
Tony said their all-round doability meant they could fit markets.
“They have no trouble fattening them. And their temperament, we get a lot of comments about that, that they’re really good to handle.”
While they join all year round, they find the majority of their calves are hitting the ground in summer, hopefully onto a good season.