Angus hardiness pleasing for Alps

Angus hardiness pleasing for Alps


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Brad and Jess Alp, Gingin, with their daughter Katie among a mob of their glossy Angus breeders having a lazy mid-morning snack.

Brad and Jess Alp, Gingin, with their daughter Katie among a mob of their glossy Angus breeders having a lazy mid-morning snack.

Aa

THERE isn't much fault to find in the Angus breed according to the Alp family, Wakedale Farm.

Aa

THERE isn't much fault to find in the Angus breed according to the Alp family, Wakedale Farm.

The family has been farming at Gingin since the 1940s and cattle have always played a role in the operation, with the breeding herd starting off with a mixture of Shorthorns and Herefords.

Today, the cattle on the Gingin property are all black.

Father and son duo Ron and Brad Alp agree on one simple and all important factor: "the Angus cattle just always seem to do that bit better than the rest".

Ron remembered other producers in the area going black years ago because of the hardiness of the breed.

"At the break of the season, the Angus cattle would be feeding in the swamps happily, but the Herefords would be at the fence waiting for a bale of hay," Ron said.

"And we want good doing, easy maintenance cattle so the Angus were the obvious choice."

In terms of breeding a quality herd, Ron and Brad agreed there is plenty of choice if you can make the winning bid at the sales.

"The trouble is, we usually pick the bulls everyone else has got their eye on," Ron said.

Brad was the losing bidder on the top price Kapari bull at the Gingin sale last year.

"But we've had no problems acclimatising bulls to our environment when we've bought from south of us," Brad said.

"We really like Koojan Hills and Mordallup as well as a lot of the studs north of us, so we always have a toss up on our hands when we're buying in bulls."

The Alps run 270 Angus breeders on their Gingin property and in addition to breeding their own replacement bulls, they buy in one top notch bull every year.

The replacement bulls are always the progeny of the new bulls for genetic diversity.

The option of artificial insemination is in the back of Brad's mind for the 2017 season.

"We've done AI before but we got a bit time poor so it wasn't a priority," Brad said.

"But I like the idea of AI because it means we can watch how the progeny from internationally sourced semen does at studs locally before we commit to buy.

"That is the beauty of being a commercial breeder - we don't have to be ahead of the curve.

"I don't mind being three or four years behind stud breeders so I can know what the calves will be like on the ground.

"Another perk of AI is it cuts out the huge expense of buying bulls at the current prices."

Ron agreed and added they are spoilt for choice across Australia and the world with Angus genetics.

"There are so many people out there doing amazing things with their Angus herds," Ron said.

When looking for a bull, the family agreed it was about length, width and depth.

"If you've got those, you can't go wrong," Ron said.

Brad said the current focus of the breeding program is 200-day growth rate.

"We've changed the way we sell our cattle so more weight earlier has become important," Brad said.

"We were growing our calves out to 18mo before selling, but now we're selling them as grassfed weaners to fatteners down south so they're obviously more appealing to buyers if they've got early weight.

"But we're trying not to neglect the other important figures."

Brad's wife Jess said the change meant for a bit of a juggling act in the selection process.

"The aim is to focus on that 200-day weight but not compromise on calving ease and docility," she said.

But the decisions made so far have obviously been good ones.

"A few years ago we went for four years without having to pull a calf out of a heifer," Brad said.

"And our herd is very docile - we want to be able to have our daughter in the yards and not be worrying about testy cattle."

The Alps breed their own replacement heifers, keeping about 50 of 120 heifers each year and culling heavily.

April-born steer weaners are sold at nearly eight months old and go direct for grass fattening south of Perth.

The cull heifers are fed on a grain mix for a while before they are sold direct into the international market or at auction at the Muchea Livestock Centre.

"We try to move them on pretty quickly at around that 8mo mark because it just gets too dry up here in the summer," Brad said.

"They lose that spring shine if we keep them here too long, so we find it's best to keep them moving while they look really good."

The weaners might move on from Wakedale Farm quickly, but it sounds like that reliable Angus breed won't be.

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