PLANS are afoot to expand the Searle family’s red Brahman offerings after their recent purchase of Jerona Station, on the North Queensland coast.
The family leased Jerona for 16 years before acquiring the 6,270 hectare station located about 50km south of Townsville in the Burdekin region in 2016.
Malcolm Searle, wife Idoya, sons Adrian, 31 and twins Graham and Jeffrey, 28, run about 1800 head of cattle and breed predominantly for the meatworks market.
They have four properties, with about 500 breeders kept on Jerona, while using The Pocket, a 1214 hectare holding at Airdmillion, to fatten steers and heifers. Their other two properties, also in the Airdmillion area, are under about 135 hectares of sugar cane.
For Malcolm, farming is in the blood. He is a third generation farmer and has followed on from his father, who first started breeding red Brahmans about 50 years ago.
"I've been here all my life, I'm third generation and second on the cattle, Dad started with them probably 50 years ago,” Malcolm said.
“We run 500 odd breeders on Jerona and we supplement our cattle with grain. We've been doing that for a good 15 years, we grow our own corn, fatten our cattle.”
Malcolm said they had 28 hectares of irrigated pasture at The Pocket, while they have another 50 hectares of cultivated land where they grow corn and soybean to supplement the feed.
“We’ve gone to growing corn ourselves and then we supplement our bullocks with corn and molasses, and the cull heifers, and we push them through.”
Malcolm said they were planting about eight hectares of corn in mid-July and then would add another 13 hectares of soy beans in the coming weeks.
“That’s to get a bit more protein to the steers.
“We've been doing it 15 years or more with this grain, it's taken us 15-20 years to get all our gear, like silos, we've just finishing building a new planter, a six row, so we can do a bit more country and we're going to go into mungbeans.
“We hope to keep maybe 12 tonne of soy bean for the bullocks because it does well with more protein, and we drought feed with corn as well.”
Malcolm said they provided their number six steers, which were around two years old, predominantly to Borthwicks meatworks in Mackay.
They aim to send about 440-450 head each year, with their shipments scattered throughout the season.
“We always aim to have six decks just before Christmas when they are closing, and when they open in February or March we aim for three.
“We don't sell everything in one big hit, we had them on 90 days feed to push them along.
“So we’ve got a mob going at the end of July, another at the end of August then we will bring in enough to do six decks at the end of the year.
“We’ve got the steers here on grain, they are mostly all fed with corn and molasses at 4 per cent urea.
“These steers and heifers here have a yearly average of about 1.2kg a day .”
Malcolm said he had sold to live export previously.
“We have sold to live export, our steers, the big fellas sometimes go on export to Vietnam, we have put cattle on to that but mostly we fatten all our own and turn them all off.
“They're too good for the boats, most of these fellas have two or four teeth, so we’re aiming for that premium market.
“We’ve always had red Brahman and we should have pretty good herd now, they're doing well anyway.”
Malcolm said they did purchase baby cows and calves to supplement their mob, to ensure they maintain their target of 450 a year.
“We get them straight off mum, we find it better to look after them ourselves straight off mum and keep them on molasses for four weeks, then they’re back to Jerona.”
The weaners remain on a mix of molasses and corn at Jerona until the season breaks, plus corn is used for breeders in molasses at 7 per cent in dry times.
“This year calving wasn't as good as it had been, we reckon because of the drought, the year before was a real good calving year.
“We average between 75-80 per cent with preg testing, we preg test everything and what's not pregnant gets culled.”
With the recent purchase of Jerona Station, the family is looking to increase their numbers as they make improvements to the land.
“We hope to increase with Jerona, we will start on Jerona next year with irrigated pasture now that we own the joint.
"We are trying to establish pasture, it is all cleared country."
“We will move into setting up pasture like we’ve got here (The Pocket) and there’s potential out there for 300 acres (121 ha).
“It might take us 10 years to get to that, but that’s what we’ll head toward next year.”