Depiazzis see bright Angus beef future

31 Jan, 2015 01:00 AM
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Robert Depiazzi, Dardanup, with some of his family's Angus heifers.
We chase fast growth rates but don't necessarily look for big-framed bulls
Robert Depiazzi, Dardanup, with some of his family's Angus heifers.

THE Depiazzi surname is synonymous with the South West cattle industry.

And for brothers Tom and Robert Depiazzi, and their father Peter, the future of commercial cattle production looks bright thanks to the Angus breed.

Farming over two locations at Dardanup and Dinninup, the Depiazzi family has run its beef-only production system for about eight years.

Prior to that they were heavily involved in the dairy industry where they milked 200 cows a day.

Following a dairy slump, the Depiazzis slowly introduced beef cattle to their operation and bought a handful of heifers from Boyanup to accompany some sheep they had on their property.

Once the decision to exit the dairy was made, the sale of the family's milking cows provided the means to buy into a well-sized beef herd.

The Depiazzis didn't initially buy Angus stock because they had to set about buying as many cows as they could in a relatively short time to get calves on the ground to make a return on their investment.

Despite it being a "mish mash" herd the family slowly started to breed out the Murray Grey genetics by putting Angus bulls back over the cows.

Their 100 per cent Angus operation is now thriving.

Robert said the family's interest in Angus cattle stemmed from recommendations from their local livestock agent and the fact they already had Angus bulls in the dairy which acted as a spring board into beef production.

"Our research told us to forget about first cross Friesian animals," he said.

"The marketing options available to Angus producers were one of the major reasons why we decided to head in this direction."

The Depiazzi's 340 Angus cattle thrive in conditions at both Dinninup and Dardanup.

Robert said there is no way his family would be able to carry the amount of cows they do at Dinninup if they had held onto and bought more first cross animals.

These days the Depiazzis are slowly starting to see a breeding improvement in their 50-odd heifers and it's paying off at market time.

"They're sought after heifers and steers," Tom said.

"For example DBC produce and market pure Angus cuts and there have been quite a few export opportunities for Angus animals.

"Credit needs to be given to the Angus Society of Australia which does a very good job of marketing the cattle - there's no need for us to work extra hard to promote our breed."

Heifers calve on the home farm at Dardanup for safety reasons while the rest of the Depiazzi's 300 or so older cows reside at Dinninup.

Following calving, weaners are transported back to Dardanup to grow out.

After heifers have calved and the feed gets away, they're trucked to the Dinninup farm to join the mature cows.

With 12 bulls at Dinninup and two heifer bulls at Dardanup, the Depiazzis can afford to be picky when it comes to choosing the right genetics.

In a bid to support local cattle breeders and better the Angus breed through the improvement of their own cattle, the Depiazzi's herd has genetics from Carenda, Moneterey, Little Meadows, Callanish, Blackrock and other Angus studs.

"In a bull we look for ideal temperament and structure - especially their feet," Tom said.

"The Dinninup farm is mainly granite and can be very slippery during the winter months.

"We chase fast growth rates but don't necessarily look for big-framed bulls."

Tom said some cattle producers would be critical of the amount of time the family's bulls are left in the herd, with sires put in at the start of July for an April-start calving.

Bulls are removed at weaning before being trucked to Dardanup for some "R&R".

"It's not ideal for us to have bulls in for a lengthy amount of time but in terms of our management and our need to be on the road between properties, it's the best solution," Tom said.

Cattle are sold in the Boyanup saleyards and bought on farm by local agents and processors.

"Our agent alerts us to certain market opportunities when they arise," Tom said.

"The last lot of heifers we sold was in late October 2014 at Boyanup and they did really well.

"The Angus breed gives us the chance to ride the market.

"When sales opportunities arise we are lucky enough to have steady cash flow throughout the year.

"With green grass throughout the summer we can hold onto animals and sell when opportunities arise."

Tom said his family is striving to achieve heavier weaner weights because their marketing strategy is based on dollars per head.

"In years gone by we have been slightly conservative in a bid to make sure we don't run out of grass but in reality we have never gone close," he said.

"In certain seasons, including this one, we've kept cattle to grow out.

"The last lot of heifers went to Harvey Beef thanks to a special intake which allowed for some extra carcase fat.

"The next lot of yearlings are booked in and destined for DBC.

"In total we've marketed about 120 yearlings directly to butchers this season."

Tom said using the Angus breed meant his family didn't have to strive to reach one particular market but instead could be flexible.

Tom said it's about time farmers had the chance to catch-up and put some money back into their properties, infrastructure and pastures.

The Depiazzis plant 80-100 hectares of triticale at Dinninup which is directly sold to South West dairy farmers.

They produce silage at Dardanup which creates about 4000 rolls for their own use and contracted runs.

"The triticale gives us the opportunity to renovate some pasture and make sure we can spray out all the broadleaves," Tom said.

"We want to achieve a sustainable 350-head herd.

"There'll always be producers who'll cross the Angus with Euro breeds because its fits their program.

"A lot of farmers do it to achieve hybrid vigour but at the end of the day it comes back to the market a producer is hoping to fill.

"By doing it you cut out all the pure Angus markets of which most need to be guaranteed that animals carry 75pc Angus genetics."

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