Running 1,400 breeders across 20,000 hectares (50,000 acres), Geoff Pedersen is a cattle producer that understands the economies of scale and what it takes to survive on what are typically slim margins.
Geoff, together with his parents Robert and Maureen, operate “Wyseby” at Rolleston, together with “Ranchlands” at nearby Injune in Central Queensland.
“We turn off approximately 1,200 EU cattle per year at a target carcase weight of between 370-400kg,” Geoff said.
This is typically achieved between 2 and 2.5 years of age with all cattle being finished on the 800 hectares (2,000 acres) of oats the family grows each year.
“We try and finish everything in the paddock and only feed grain when it is absolutely necessary,” Geoff said.
The Pedersens run a predominantly Santa Gertrudis herd and over recent years have been sourcing Limousin bulls to use over some of their cows.
“We’d used Limousin previously back in the 1980’s to square up the carcase and we knew that they could also help us improve other characteristics we were looking at changing in the herd.”
“The key trait we were looking to improve was to reduce the level of fat in our cattle at the carcase weights we are turning them off at. The straight Santa Gertrudis cattle often fall outside the grid with too much fat, whereas the Limousin cross cattle hit the grid every time,” Geoff said.
The Pedersens also have seen a big difference in carcase yield between the Limousin cross cattle and the straight Santa Gertrudis.
“The Limousin cross bullocks always yield 3-4% better than the straight Santa Gertrudis bred bullocks. At an average live weight of 750kg going onto the truck, that can mean an additional 30kg of yield for the Limousin cross cattle.”
“Even at average prices, that’s at least $120 per head additional income from the Limousin cross cattle with no extra feed or management costs, with the added benefit of being very unlikely to be discounted for excess fat,” Geoff said.
In order to ensure they are buying the right Limousin genetics for their operation, Geoff focuses on fat and eye muscle depth measurements as part of his balanced selection process. Whilst Geoff considers the Estimated Breeding Values (EBVs) for these traits, he mainly ensures that the measurements provided on the bulls fit his requirements.
“When we purchase bulls, regardless of breed, first and foremost is to buy the best quality bulls we can afford.”
“The bulls set the quality standard for the entire herd. Buying inferior quality bulls simply leads to a reduction in production over time,” Geoff said. Alongside an increase in carcase yield, the Pedersens are also aiming to lift the fertility of their females.
“By introducing Limousin genetics into at least some of the cows we expect to see calving rates increase,” Geoff said.
And whilst not all Limousin cross heifers are kept as replacements, the best of them are.
“Most of the crossbred heifers end up going with the steers as they yield well and are a profitable article over the hook.”
“However we do keep the top quality Limousin cross heifers as replacements and we expect their fertility will be better than the Santa Gertrudis females.”
“We do need to be careful though that we don’t end up with too much European content in the cattle we are turning off. 50% is just about perfect,” Geoff said.
The third trait that the Pedersens are trying to improve by introducing Limousin genetics is calving ease.
“We were having some problems calving out our heifers. We believe that by using Limousin bulls, that are known to produce calves of smaller birth weight, calving problems will be reduced.”
“Most of our heifers are now joined to Limousin bulls,” Geoff said.
When asked about the temperament of his Limousin cattle, Geoff thinks his Limousin bulls are the quietest he has.
“Across the board the Limousin cattle, either the bulls or their crossbred progeny, are extremely quiet.”
“Limousin cattle tend to stand up and look at you. That’s just their way of taking you in. Some people think that is a temperament issue, but it’s definitely not,” Geoff said.
“Some people also tend to rush cattle, which exposes poor temperament. Everything we do here is about keeping the cattle calm. Which in the end is better for the cattle, the producer, the processor and ultimately the consumer.”