Cumnock farmer, Mal McCalman.AS MANY graziers and farmers try to edge their toe back into sheep and lambs to take advantage of the recent price booms, Cumnock operators, Mal McCalman, and son, Andrew, are sticking to beef.
The partnership, which operates as Burrawong Graziers, runs the 1012-hectare “Mayfield” and 1417ha “Burrawong” at Cumnock.
The pair have been working together since about 1995, when Andrew returned from ag college and playing rugby union for Eastern Suburbs in Sydney.
“We used to run crossbred ewes and Merinos and always had a few cattle,” Mal McCalman said.
“We found we had too many enterprises, so when Andrew came home we decided to focus on the cattle.”
The partnership runs more than 500 breeding cows, of which 90 per cent are Shorthorn and the balance are Red Angus/Shorthorn.
The partnership also takes part in some opportunity lamb trading, but “not much”, according to Mr McCalman.
“Nearly 40pc of the operation is farming, and most of the rest of it is cattle.”
And it’s easy to see why they rely on the bovine business.
Steers are finished to sell at 18 to 20 months of age – they sell more than 200 a year – and are usually sold direct to Cargill.
The steers are professionally assessed by Dibbs Livestock before sale.
The prices they achieve are consistent.
A draft of 48 head which sold to Cargill in the first week of January averaged $3.40 a kilogram.
The average hot dressed carcase weight (HDCW) of the group was 315kg, and they averaged $1070 a head.
This was on the back of a larger draft of steers which averaged $3.44/kg in October, and 29 cull heifers sold to Primo at Scone which averaged $3.19/kg and topped at $3.30/kg in November.
If the season was a bit tough, Mr McCalman said they would occasionally sell steers to a feedlot or backgrounder.
He said he found the cull cows also returned a tidy sum when they were sent to Throsby’s at Singleton. In October, they sold from $2.85/kg to $2.95/kg.
“We try not to sell anything through the saleyards,” he said.
“They stress less when they go straight from here to the abattoir.
“If you go through the saleyards, they’re yarded here, trucked to the saleyards, stand in the yards for a day or so, then onto another truck, before they’re finally killed.”
The “Burrawong” Shorthorn herd was initially based on Claremont bloodlines from Lee and Company at Larras Lee, but these days mainly consists of local Moombi genetics, also at Cumnock. The McCalmans have two joinings and calves drop in autumn and spring.
“We find we can get more work out of the bulls that way,” he said.
The bulls are joined at a ratio of one bull to 40 cows, and there are never more than two bulls in a mob.
An average conception and calving rate of 85 per cent is achieved.
Currently, the McCalmans have seven Shorthorn bulls from the Moombi stud, and two Red Angus sires from Tullatoola stud, Molong.
Heifers calve at about 30 months and are joined three weeks before the cows.
“That gives them time to catch up for the next joining,” he said.
About 120 heifers are kept back each year, and these are classed by Lester Job from Moombi Shorthorns, who also assists in selecting suitable bulls.
Red Angus bulls were introduced to use over the heifers about five years ago after a spate of calving
“We’ve had improved calving with our heifers and we’re a bit more vigilant now,” he said.
“Anything that has trouble or is assisted goes, and if she has a heifer calf, that will go too.”
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