FROM a prominent sheep station to a thriving cattle station, Minderoo station continues to drive diversity.
The Forrest family has a long association within Onslow and played a large role in influencing the development of the area and the history of Minderoo station.
Current owner Andrew Forrest said the transition into cattle didn’t come easy.
“Minderoo hasn’t always been in cattle,” he said.
“My father (Don) had to fight very hard to get my grandfather to accept cattle onto the place, as he was a completely sheep man.
“As soon as my granddad stepped away into retirement my dad immediately brought cattle onto the property.
“We have never looked back since and now Minderoo is a very proud property.”
Minderoo was in the Forrest family for 120 years.
But in 1998 the station was sold in disillusionment after years of drought.
In 2009 the 226,585 hectare station with 10,000 head of cattle was back in the fold, after being purchased by Mr Forrest.
Since then the station has undergone a major transformation, including the growth of the Minderoo Group, owned by the Forrests which has expanded from Minderoo station to include Nanutarra, Uaroo, Minilya and Brickhouse stations.
Minderoo general manager Ben Wratten told Farm Weekly he had seen a lot of change in the three years he had been managing the station, including growing their own hay.
The west Pilbara station, Minderoo. has one pivot covering 35ha, with another two installed and ready for its inaugural seeding program.
The original centre pivot was restored to working order and produces 120 tonnes of Rhodes grass hay every six weeks on average.
“It saves us paying the commercial rate for hay and the freight,” Mr Wratten said.
“We feed a lot of hay, because we are very particular on how we feed our cattle in the yards.”
Mr Wratten said the two new pivots were prepared and would be planted in coming weeks to provide Lucerne, Sorghum and Rhodes grass hay throughout the mustering season.
“Having three on the go, will give us 120t every two weeks, with a good rotation,” he said.
The Minderoo herd has also changed over the years, introducing Droughtmaster, Red Angus and Ultrablack bulls to build a composite herd for the domestic and international market.
Mr Wratten said the Ultrablacks were durable and fertile cattle with a positive MSA performance.
He said the Ultrablack cattle were a new addition to the WA cattle industry and were driving fertility and feeding efficiency, which was flowing through the supply chain.
Minderoo introduced 170 Ultrablack bulls to join with its Minderoo red composite cows.
“We are expecting 5000-6000 Ultrablack calves this year,” he said.
“We also have 18 Wagyu bulls joined to our black heifers.”
Mr Wratten has a long history within the pastoral industry and experience with the commercial Wagyu breeding herd.
Previously working for the Australian Agricultural Company he managed the nation’s biggest Wagyu project, in the Northern Territory, which joined 15,000 cows to Wagyu bulls.
Mr Wratten said he has seen an increased interest in the breed, even at Minderoo.
“We have gone into Wagyu as well,” he said.
“We did an AI program here last year and then we bought some bulls from Irongate as mop-up bulls to cover the unsuccessful heifers.
“We will join about 900 to 1000 black heifers this year to the Wagyu.”
Mr Wratten said being able to measure and plan ahead was the way forward.
He said having a breeding program and a forward plan and factoring in seasonal changes would help with the long-term benefits of growing the herd and producing quality genetics.
“We have moved forward in terms of genetics already,” he said.
“We have a mob of 160 Minderoo red composite stud cows, which are our base nucleus herd.
“They are from a Droughtmaster base that have been artificially inseminated with a Red Angus X Senepol bull.
“The idea is to keep the bulls for the commercial red composite herd.
“They best fit the environment and we will use the progeny of them to cross with the Ultrablacks.”
Minderoo then plans to cross the black progeny with the Wagyu bulls.
Mr Wratten said making those decisions today would produce benefits in four years’ time.
“We have to perform,” he said.
“These cattle have to be naturally polled, red, with good conformation, feminine, good weight gain and high performance.
“If a female does not perform, she is out.
“She has to give us a weaner every year.”
Mr Wratten said this herd, under the management of Nicola and Andrew Forrest, had provided Minderoo with a durable and fertile animal with strong maternal instincts and a heavy yielding carcase that fits a broad range of markets.
He said having performance-based parameters and tractability would improve the herd in the long-term to improve its genetics and continue to implement new technology to grow the business.
“The business has had rapid growth in numbers and in the investment in property development in the last three years,” he said.
“It is an exciting time for WA and the State is just learning the full potential of what it can be as a beef producing State, in the pastoral region.”