Keep it simple: Hewson

30 Jun, 2004 10:00 PM
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WA CATTLEMAN John Hewson runs a beef operation on two properties at Jingalup and Mobrup, south west of Kojonup.

It is a no frills operation which suits him.

Most his cattle are sold to lot feeders and store buyers in January and February while heifers were also sold for breeding.

Steers are also sold for live export.

Mr Hewson was invited to outline his operation at the Beef Improvement Association of Australia (BIAA) workshop in Albany last week, which included low input and high input perspectives.

This year he would calve 1923 breeders including 378 heifers out of 400 mated. He aimed to run one breeder and calf to two hectares with no hand feeding apart from the heifers.

Mr Hewson said stocking rates were not figures on paper but something to assess from grazing results on a particular paddock, with some running more and some running less.

"I look at the cattle and the paddock to know what the paddock will run," he said.

"I am not too bothered about dry sheep equivalents (DSE) or food on offer (FOO), I want cattle in good condition, doing well, getting in calf and producing a good calf."

Mr Hewson did not weigh calves at birth, or estimate their weight, as it was the end result he was interested in.

"If a cow has a poor calf, she is a cull," he said.

He said marking started when mature age cows had been calving for a month and cows still in calf were separated into mobs and stocking rates adjusted, with an aim to keep the same number of adult cows in paddocks as before marking.

He said this made calves more uniform in size while un-calved cows could also be given more attention.

Mr Hewson said he was known as a one-eyed breeder of commercial Angus cattle.

Heifers are mated to calve on April 1 with a three-month mating period.

Heifers drop their first calf at just two years.

The calving date for mature age cows had been moved to May 1, closer to the break.

After cattle were sold pregnancy testing was the next big job which was usually carried out over a month in five sessions.

"Over the years as we have acquired land we re-fenced to make everything suitable for cattle," he said.

"We have a fair amount of electric fencing for bull control."

Mustering was mainly carried out with a ute and two dogs and because each paddock was connected to a laneway it was a relatively easy task.

"Once the cattle are in the laneway we put the dogs on the ute," he said.

Mr Hewson employed minimum labour for stock work, freeze branding, pregnancy testing and trucking with the majority of fencing and fencing maintenance carried out by contractors which also carted and spread fertilizers.

The Hewsons owned minimal machinery including a C670 front end loader on each property with fork, blade and bucket.

There was also a truck with a heavy duty stock crate to move the odd cow and bull between properties.

Each property also had a fire truck.

Mr Hewson said more farmers appeared to be driven to increase production, to aim for higher targets, run more cows, grow more grass and have high performance figures for everything.

"I am not one of those farmers," he said.

"But I do know I want my herd of cattle looking good and producing well.

"If I can manage my cattle accordingly it will translate into profit.

"Perhaps in the future our children may choose to farm much more intensely but that is a decision for them.

"I realise we may be able to produce more with higher inputs and costs but we are doing it the way we want to."

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