Gingin family likes a drop of red

28 Jan, 2012 02:00 AM
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Stephen Dewar (centre), with his daughter Kate and son Benn on their property at Gingin.
Stephen Dewar (centre), with his daughter Kate and son Benn on their property at Gingin.

FOR five generations the Dewar family has been seeing red.

Gingin farmer Stephen Dewar said his family had always bred red cattle on the property.

"My great uncle introduced cattle here years ago," he said.

"Back then we were into Herefords and when my father took over he moved to a Hereford and Red Poll cross."

Stephen now runs a Red Angus and Red Poll cross herd and since he moved into the Red Angus he said he could clearly see the quality attributes of the breed.

"I wanted to introduce a new breed without moving away from the colour," he said.

"With the original Hereford-Red Poll cross we were having issues with eye cancer from the Hereford genetics.

"Not only that but the Red Polls were lacking a little in size and they weren't making the weights we wanted.

"So we bought some Red Angus bulls, which gave us a bit more size through the herd."

Stephen runs 140 Red Angus-Red Poll cross cows and heifers over his three properties in Gingin and also breeds 10 pure red Red Angus cows that are used to produce bulls for the commercial herd.

"We started the purebred herd with five cows from the Balaka Park stud and have just continued to breed from them," he said.

"Around 12 years ago it was really hard to find a good Red Angus bull that you didn't have to pay big dollars for so we decided to get into breeding our own."

Every two or three years Stephen buys in one top quality Red Angus bull which he sources from the Willandra stud, Williams, and Tronar stud, Gingin, to run in addition to his own bulls.

Stephen uses all the measurement tools at his disposal when selecting bulls preferring them to have low birthweight Estimated Breeding Values (EBVs) and good conformation.

He said temperament was one of the vital aspects to consider.

"My wife Heather and the kids Kate and Benn help out in the yards quite a bit so we just can't afford to have any wild animals on the property," he said.

"Lots of the information for the EBVs can be a bit tentative so I just look at birthweight as the main one and then select on the conformation and length and stretch of the bull."

The breeding herd is maintained by 15-20 replacement heifers every year with these mated to the only Red Poll bull kept on the property.

Stephen said the smaller frame and the lighter Red Poll bulls allowed the heifers to have less trouble calving and also increased the milk production of the females.

The heifers were mated as two-year-olds so they calved at three which not only gave them a few extra month's growth but also a better framed cow and allowed them to get back in calf easier the following year.

"I only had to pull two calves last year," he said.

"Mating that bit later and joining them with the Red Poll bull works well for me."

The cows and heifers are joined with the bulls in April to aim for a calving over May, June and July.

"We calve a bit later than other people in the area but it comes from the days when we used to export our cattle before the weight restrictions came in," Stephen said.

"In the future I will start to look at bringing the calving back by a few months."

The calves are weaned at 9-10 months into smaller holding paddocks and are drenched and vaccinated at the same time.

The steers are sold at 16-18 months either direct to butchers or to lotfeeders.

"Where they go depends on their weight," Stephen said.

"If they are a little bit on the lighter side then they normally go to the feedlots.

"I usually sell them in November and December but again that depends on the season. They are kept until they get to weight so if the season breaks early I sell them earlier."

The heifers are sold as two year olds, either through the Muchea saleyards or direct to the processors.

Stephen received $600 for his heifers at the end of June and $796 for steers that averaged 376kg that were also sold through the Muchea saleyards in December last year.

"I am very happy with that, the prices for the last half of 2011 were quite good and most people are happy with the current cattle market," he said.

Stephen said introducing the Red Angus genetics into his herd had continued to pay off and he was glad he made the move.

"We have been breeding red cattle for several generations now and the Red Angus has worked well for our operation," he said.

"I will be sticking with them."

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