PASTORAL cattle have performed strongly on the domestic front recently highlighting the advantages of running cattle that are readily accepted into both the live export and domestic markets.
Mt Augustus station achieved excellent results at consecutive sales at the Muchea Livestock Centre earlier this month with two large drafts of pastoral bred and finished Shorthorn steers.
The first draft of 94 two to three-year-old steers, weighing an average 545kg, sold to a top price of $942 for a line of 22 and averaged 158.8c/kg and $866 across the draft.
The following week saw the balance of 45 steers offered that averaged 513kg and sold to a $930 top price for a pen of four head and averaged 155.4c/kg and $789 across the draft.
Don and Dot Hammarquist run Mt Augustus and Dooley Downs stations with their sons Matthew and his wife Paula and David and partner Beth Gandy while a grass finishing and grain property at Walkway is run by Don's brother Graeme and his wife Carole.
Spanning 402,975ha, Mt Augustus station is situated north west of Meekatharra in the Upper Gascoyne shire and is home to the iconic Mt Augustus, the world's largest monocline of single solid mass of rock.
The Hammarquist family also established the Mt Augustus Tourist Park located at the base of Mt Augustus and according to Don, it has been described as the 'best address in Australia.'
Mt Augustus is currently running 2000 Shorthorn breeders while the adjoining Dooley Downs station, encompassing 121,500ha, is carrying 500 Droughtmaster-Shorthorn breeders.
Following the muster next month, Mr Hammarquist said they envisage having their breeder numbers up to about 2500 head after backing off stock numbers during two consecutive dry seasons.
Mr Hammarquist said it was pleasing to draft up and offer two decent lines of cattle at Muchea that managed to sell well.
"Good quality, well finished cattle will always stand out regardless of where they are from," he said.
"We were fortunate enough to get early summer rains in December and managed to hit the market at the right time when it was a bit light on for numbers.
"We have the ability to grass-finish at Walkaway but we haven't needed to in recent times.
Mt Augustus is one of the few traditional pastoral properties that remained running pure Shorthorns when the industry swing was towards Bos indicus to target specific live export markets.
Mr Hammarquist said he believed everything has its troughs and peaks and had to convince his sons of this when they were opting to inject Bos indicus bloodlines into the Shorthorn herd.
He said the Shorthorn's fertility, growth and marketability were the breed's strongest attributes and during his pastoral career he had travelled the State and country sourcing Shorthorn genetics.
More recently Mr Hammarquist has purchased Shorthorn bulls from the Crathes Park stud, Vasse and the Narralda stud, Albany.
"The maternal attributes of Shorthorns are strong and being fertile leads to higher calving percentages," Mr Hammarquist said.
"Based on the seasonal activity, their ability to fatten is in the top tier of pastoral beef.
"It's a positive outlook as I'm producing more beef over the scales.
"Their fertility is second to none, we always get calves and they always weigh out."
But despite the solid results at Muchea recently, Mr Hammarquist remains open minded when it comes to marketing his cattle.
"They don't all go to the one destination," he said.
"In a good season, medium range steers may turnoff at 20-27 months of age and be sold to the Middle East or Malaysian live export markets.
"But then some buyers come along and want well grown, fairly forward type cattle that I may have to fill lotfeeding contracts.
"And that's one of the advantages of the Shorthorn breed, they suit a variety of outcomes."
Mt Augustus had also previously supplied Shorthorn cattle to a feeder targeting the 250-day longfed Japanese market.
Mr Hammarquist said he hosted a producer meeting at Mt Augustus station in the early 1990s discussing the live export trade during its inception to WA and took up the opportunity to contract cattle for 145c/kg on the first live export vessel from his area.
Mr Hammarquist said ideally they preferred to hold steers back ahead of bulls but anything too big to castrate is put aside for the young bull market.
The main muster commences in June and that is when the calves are weaned, bulls castrated and future breeding heifers selected for general conformation, temperament and overall quality.
Undesirable heifers and older cows are spayed using the Willis Technique.
He said recently they had to hold onto the young spayed heifers at the properties to grow out due to the limited markets available in the last few years.
Mr Hammarquist said staff availability varies dramatically in the pastoral areas and with 100 watering points and endless miles of fencing to be maintained, the rotational matings were stretching its resources and the bulls are now run with the cows all year round.
"It was a practical management decision but we still rest a lot of country in a rotational fashion," he said.
Despite this, Mr Hammarquist said the cows generally follow a summer cycle with about 80 per cent of the breeding herd calving between February to March while the balance calve slightly later.
"Rarely do we get a lot of little calves when we muster," he said.