A chance purchase of a line of pure Limousin heifers put South Australian beef producers, Jock and Sue Agnew on the path of exclusively using Limousin bulls in their vealer operation.
“We traded those heifers.” Jock recalls. “When they went back through the market they topped the sale for both steers and heifers.”
The Agnew’s now run 90 cows on the 445 hectare (1,100 acre) “The Donga”, west of Penola in South Australia. A sheep operation focused on trading lambs is also run on the property as well as hay which is produced under two 32 hectare (80 acre) pivots.
The cows are generally Angus – Simmental cross and are joined to Limousin bulls with the progeny targeted at the local vealer market.
“We prefer to finish them off as vealers, however depending on the season we do take some calves through to heavier weights.” Jock said. “Whilst they can be a bit hard to get the fat on them for the heavier market, they usually hang up pretty well.”
Prior to running the British-European cross cows, Jock ran F1 cows as the base of his vealer operation but found the cows did it a bit tough when the seasons went against them.
Jock also previously used Charolais bulls as his choice for producing vealer calves.
“The Charolais produced a terrific calf, but we were having too many calving problems and the shape of the calves just wasn’t quite right for the vealer market.’ Jock said. “We thought that Limousins would be able to help us in both of those areas, which they have.”
Testament to Jock’s decision to use Limousin bulls to produce his vealers, he has recently received feedback from a processor that the Limousin cross calves supplied were some of the best they have ever butchered.
Whilst Jock knows you can’t be guaranteed of producing the best calves every year, he believes he’s on the right track with his current program.
“We aim to turn our calves off at 400 – 430kg at 10 – 12 months straight off their mothers”. Jock said. Sometimes the season doesn’t let us do that, but by using Limousins we know we are giving ourselves the best chance of achieving our goals.”
“Generally we sell vealers over the hook to local processors, but we sometimes sell them through the market, especially if we have some exceptionally good calves. Limousin cross calves always attract a premium in the saleyards.”
When asked about the temperament of Limousin cattle, Jock says he’s never seen a mad one.
“I’ve seen plenty of other cattle that have a worse temperament than the Limousin bulls I buy.” Jock said. “It’s all about good handling and management. If you buy bulls that are bred for good temperament and handle your cattle well, you’ll never have a problem.”
Jock tries to a buy a bull every year and generally spends $4,000 – $6,000 to secure the bull of the quality he is looking for.
“I select bulls mainly on carcase shape.” Jock said. “I’m trying to produce vealers with the ideal shape and muscle pattern, so I look for bulls with similar traits to the calves I’m trying to breed.”
“I look at the figures (estimated breeding values) and use them as tool to help in my selection, but above everything else I go on visual inspection.”
Jock’s always got an extra bull at home to what he needs as a backup in case one breaks down.
Having sold a lot of Limousin cross calves over the years, Jock would be keen to keep a few heifers as replacements, instead of having to buy in as many cows as he currently does.
“If I was younger I’d keep a few to see how they go. Jock said. “But at my age, it’s about keeping things simple and doing the best job we can. Limousins certainly help us do that.”