MURRAY Grey breeders from around the world could not quite believe their ears when they were told by commercial Murray Grey producer Mark Forrester that he farms 1.1 million hectares.
Mark, along with his wife Karen, run Kanandah station, 350km east of Kalgoorlie on the Nullarbor Plain.
Monterey Murray Grey stud principals Gary and Julie Buller invited the Forresters to speak at the Monterey open day held last Tuesday, the third day of the Murray Grey World Congress.
Kanandah, which is comprised of three leases, covers 11,500km2 and was taken over by the Forresters in the late 1990s.
Mark is a third-generation pastoralist his family initially ran sheep stations at Meekatharra.
"When we first moved to Kanandah it was a sheep property, but I could see the potential for running cattle out there because if you get a good season, the Nullarbor can be very productive," Mark said.
"We have the potential to run 4000 breeders on the station, but due to a series of dry years we are only running 2000 head at the moment.
"If we could water the whole lot then our stocking rate would definitely increase."
Mark initially set up a Brahman breeding herd and has been using Murray Grey bulls over the cows.
"I suppose I came across the Murray Grey breed by accident; the McGregor family developed Kanandah and they own the Willalooka Murray Grey stud in South Australia," he said.
"I am pretty happy with the decision to go with the Greys.
"They have exceptional growth rates, fertility and muscling and out on the station these are key attributes, especially fertility, which is our number one profit driver.
"The Murray Grey over Brahman cows also gives plenty of hybrid vigour."
Mark said another big advantage the Grey cross gave the operation was market flexibility.
"We can go to the domestic market or to the export market, depending where the returns are better," he said.
When looking for a sire, Mark said he was specific about what he bought.
"We don't want short framed bulls, they have to have frame size, be well balanced and easy care," he said.
"We want bulls with good muscling but low birthweights as it is very important to us to have calves on the ground."
Mark said there was potential for Murray Greys in the pastoral areas.
"There is a significant number of pure bos Indicus cattle in the north of the state that could do with some Murray Grey genetics over them," he said.
Mark said because Kanandah was initially set up for sheep, it did not have ideal fencing for running cattle.
"This means the bulls are running with the cows all year-round and we can't do controlled mating," he said.
"We are planning to change this though by putting in trapping systems that will allow us to control the cattle better.
"We muster twice a year with the main muster done from March through to May, then we do a second one in October to November to take the larger calves off their mothers prior to summer.
"To muster we use bikes and horses and one aircraft and cover 500-600km2 per day."
Mark said he liked to spend a lot of time working with his weaners to ensure he bred a quiet herd.
"We follow the Low Stress Stock Handling principals and I believe temperament is very important," he said.
"Stores are turned off at up to 300kg and the export cattle go on to the boats at 450-470kg, cull cows go to the saleyards, while the fat cull cows go straight to the abattoir."
Mark said he had found an optimum breeding mix; the next step was to improve production systems and develop a sustainable pastoral industry.
"We breed cattle in a pristine environment: they are run naturally with no chemicals used and I believe this could lead to organic marketing," he said.
"At the moment we are looking into organic certification, which should be easily achieved for pastoral operations and hopefully some niche markets could open up from that for our beef."