RED RULES: A Santa Gertrudis Brahman cross can be a profitable option for many commercial producers across Australia.

RED RULES: A Santa Gertrudis Brahman cross can be a profitable option for many commercial producers across Australia.

Santa Gertrudis breed a profit powerhouse

Popular reds are all-round performers

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Santa Gertrudis leader says the breed is a great option to help drought-proof properties.

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The pace that cattle can gain weight and the quality of meat they produce are key drivers in the profit equation for all beef businesses - influencing per hectare production and gross margin returns.

Recent prolonged drought conditions across much of the east coast - and fluctuating market prices - have highlighted the importance of running stock that best suit the local environment and can achieve optimum feed conversion efficiency.

This alleviates pressure to de-stock, while maximising saleable kilograms of meat per millimetre of rainfall and generating higher business profits.

This is often an easier pathway to increasing overall returns than trying to influence prices or cut costs of production.

Whether managing a purebred or commercial crossbred cattle enterprise anywhere in Australia, the Santa Gertrudis breed is proving to have the main credentials that underpin the key beef profit-drivers.

Introduced to this country from the USA in the early 1950's, there are now hundreds of breeders and commercial cattlemen using Santa Gertrudis genetics in pure and crossbreeding operations in all states and territories.

But Santa Gertrudis Breeders (Australia) Association general manager, Chris Todd, said there was scope for many more beef producers to take a closer look at the benefits of introducing the breed to their herds - especially in recently drought-ravaged areas of northern New South Wales and Victoria's Mallee region.

"Santa cattle are hardy survivors, having a genetic background of Shorthorn and Bos Indicus, and can lift beef production in harsh environments and when there are challenging seasonal conditions," he said.

"Australian producers of Santas find they excel in crossbreeding operations when it comes to weight-for-age, feed conversion efficiency and daily weight gain performance."

Mr Todd said Santa Gertrudis cattle were most popular in Queensland and NSW, where they thrive in harsh conditions.

"But producers in southern and western states are increasingly seeking them out for crossing, especially with Shorthorns, Herefords and Angus, in an effort to improve productivity and reduce the risks associated with drought," he said.

"There are now many successful pure and crossbreeding operations in NSW, Victoria, WA, SA and even Tasmania using Santa Gertrudis bulls.

"They are finding the calves are very fast growing and can be turned-off faster than those from many other crossbreed combinations."

Mr Todd said some of the other key reasons to integrate Santa Gertudis genetics to a pure or crossbred herd included:

  • Robustness - mature bulls can weigh 900 kilograms or more and cows 630-725kg
  • Adaptability - suitable for many climatic and environmental conditions
  • Hardiness - good foragers, robust calves and longevity
  • Low production intensity - easy calving, high weaning rates and bloat resistant
  • Good mothering - above average milk production and nurturing cows
  • Marketability on grain or grass - excellent carcase weight gains of 1-1.5kg/day (or more) and quick feedlot gains
  • High carcase cuts - high meat yields; and
  • Poll genes - easy maintenance.

Having an extensive industry background in the meat processing, feedlotting and livestock agency sectors, Mr Todd said - on the other side of the farm gate - the breed also produced excellent yields of high eating quality meat.

"If you are selling into the grid system, they will hit the targets every time because they are in the sweet spot of having high weights at an early age, high meat yields and good intramuscular fat due to the Bos Taurus and Shorthorn influence in their genetic make-up," he said.

"Whatever the target market is, Santas will be powerhouse performers and receive top returns."

Bulls at work

BULLISH: Santa Gertrudis sires can introduce genetics for early growth, saleable meat yield and heat tolerance to any herd.

BULLISH: Santa Gertrudis sires can introduce genetics for early growth, saleable meat yield and heat tolerance to any herd.

Across a wide range of environments, Santa Gertrudis bulls are known to be highly efficient beef producers that can make an immediate difference to a herd in the first calf crop.

Calves have lower birth weights than many of the recently imported breeds, but are renowned for having rapid growth rates.

Santa Gertrudis sires can introduce heat tolerance, tick resistance and - when crossed with British breeds - a fast reduction in the number of losses due to eye cancer and pink eye.

Mr Todd said Santa cattle could thrive on lush pasture without suffering bloat, which could also lead to stock losses in some of Australia's southern States.

He said mature Santa Gertrudis bulls weighed more than 900kg and average scrotal circumference was often more than 40 centimetres.

"Weight gain is one of the most highly heritable performance traits in beef cattle and daily weight gains of progeny from Santa Gertrudis bulls is regularly monitored at more than 1.5kg per day," he said.

"Santa bulls also have outstanding foraging ability, thriving under the harshest conditions and being easily able to cope with walking long distances to food or water."

Female factors

Santa Gertrudis females have become a highly-sought-after commodity in the Australian beef industry.

Regular heifer and cow sales are now transacted between central and northern Queensland cattlemen to their counterparts in southern regions of NSW and Victoria.

IN GOOD SHAPE: These weaners highlight the value of having Santa Gertrudis cows that are renowned as being high milk producers and nurturing.

IN GOOD SHAPE: These weaners highlight the value of having Santa Gertrudis cows that are renowned as being high milk producers and nurturing.

"Few beef cattle breeds can boast regular sales of females into these areas - and the reasons are clear," Mr Todd said.

"The Santa Gertrudis cow is one of the most efficient producers in the industry.

"She can weigh up to 750kg; has excellent milking ability and milk with high butterfat content; few calving problems; and in competitive tests has produced consistently larger calf crops than many other breeds."

Mr Todd said another big advantage of Santa Gertrudis females was longevity.

He said some producers had 14-15-year-old cows still producing a calf each year without fail.

"Producers are not forced to continually use replacement heifers and this translates to better gross margins and more money in your pocket," he said.

Sourcing stocks

The Santa Gertrudis Breeding (Australia) Association has 650 members across the nation and 18 in New Zealand, providing a wide range of genetic resources.

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The story Santa Gertrudis breed a profit powerhouse first appeared on Queensland Country Life.

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