Sound management and the benefits provided by their pure Santa Gertrudis breeding herd have gotten Greg and Karen Slater through the dry years without major issues.
The Slaters’ herd comprises 1000 breeders and 3000 head in total which are run, with the help of their son Matt, across Glenellen and Sujeewong (13,500ha combined), 130km north of Chinchilla on the Auburn River.
Sujeewong, a ballot block drawn by Greg’s father Don in 1949, and Glenellen which the family bought in 1988, are 15km apart, and feature mainly undulating open forest country, 500ha of brigalow belah scrub, Bluegrass and Speargrass native pastures and improved buffel.
Greg said they’ve been using Santas for close to 30 years, with the appeal of the breed lying in their “middle of the road Bos Indicus content, and suitability to their country”.
“Santas are also easy to market, we never have an issue selling them on,” he said.
In the operation, all the Slaters’ breeders and weaners are situated at Sujeewong, with steers and cull heifers brought over to Glenellen to be grown out for market.
“We sell the bulk of our steers at 450kg, and cull heifers at 350kg, direct to the feedlots.
“While values have been down a bit recently, we’re pretty confident they’ll bounce back.”
He said their current goal is to lower the turnoff age of their cattle.
“This is a longer term proposition but with a combination of improving pastures, strategic supplementation and taking advantage of better genetics we’re confident we can make a significant improvement.
“Unfortunately, we haven’t had much of an opportunity to really get stuck into it over the last few years due to the weather.”
The family has a feedlot on Glenellen which is licenced for 499 SCU, though at present they only have pens for half that number.
“In the feedlot, we fatten some steers and bullocks for the EU market on an opportunity basis.”
He said the feedlot proved to be an invaluable tool for them through the dry years.
“We fed a lot of empty cows in there through 2016 and 2017 as grain was cheap and cattle prices were good, it was profitable for us, and it freed up much needed pasture in the paddocks.”
He said they grow forage sorghum for the cattle including hay for the feedlot, and have also been putting out a dry lick based on dried brewers grain purchased from the Dalby Biorefinery.
“We buy it in bulk, store it in a grain silo then blend it in the feedlot mixer with urea, feedlot minerals and some salt to control intake.
“We’re very impressed with the results, the cattle are doing well on it, and we’re lucky enough to have plenty of dry feed so the lick is an economical way to provide some protein.
“It stores very well in a silo, the product we’re using at the moment is twelve months old and is as good as the day we bought it.”
Greg said they’re “pretty spoiled for choice” in the bull selling season, as drafts flush with first-rate bloodlines are offered nearby by the likes of the Dunlop family, Dunlop Santas, Proston, the Greenup family, Eidsvold Station, Eidsvold, and the Hatton families, Santahat, Monto, and Diamond H, Wandoan.
“The bulls we purchase from these studs always perform well for us, they’re prepped on oats and bred locally so they crossover into our operation seamlessly.”
“Like everyone else, we’d like to buy the perfect bull each time, but the reality is that we have a budget, so the main things we look for are weight for age, good tidy sheaths, mobility, which is important for the country we have, and temperament is also a big one.
“We’ve also only been buying polled bulls for the past fifteen years and we’re now getting between 60 to 70 per cent polled calves at branding.”