Prices justify Treeby's move to black

Prices justify Treeby's move to black

Joel Treeby and his eldest son Alec.

Joel Treeby and his eldest son Alec.


THE popularity and saleability of the Angus breed in the Great Southern is what's driving Tunney mixed farmers Joel and Hannah Treeby to go black.


THE popularity and saleability of the Angus breed in the Great Southern is what's driving Tunney mixed farmers Joel and Hannah Treeby to go black.

Farming in partnership with Joel's parents David and Stephanie for about eight years now, Joel and his family bought their 1580 hectare farm in 2008 after a move from another cattle property at Denmark.

Alongside the sheep and cropping program, Joel now runs about 160 breeders of which the 80 per cent majority is Angus.

A small herd of mixed breed cattle including Hereford and Charolais cross cows are a reminder of the Treeby family's past breeding program at Denmark and is slowly but surely being bred out of the enterprise to make way for a 100pc Angus herd.

Over time the remainder of the crossbred cows will be replaced by Angus heifers bred by Joel and Hannah.

With about 400ha of his farm now dedicated to grazing, Joel views his cattle as a way to break up the risk structure of his business.

And in these times of sky high beef prices, the fact that they're conducive to the type of country he farms and are less hands-on to manage than his sheep doesn't hurt either.

Apart from the breed's popularity with graziers, lotfeeders and processing representatives, Joel is also at the point of transforming his herd into an Angus one because of the seasons.

As opposed to Denmark, Tunney's spring season is traditionally shorter and produces less feed for grazing - something which doesn't impact as heavily on an Angus herd as it does a Hereford or Charolais one according to Joel.

Despite the fact he's not able to get his pure Angus calves as heavy as his mixed breeds, the market is still paying more for Joel's Angus offerings on a per kilogram basis.

With that said Joel also reckons the Angus breed's do-ability sees them run better than all other breeds in his paddocks at Tunney.

"We'll miss out on some of the hybrid vigour and weight gain from the cross breeds but I've had Charolais cross cows in the saleyards next to purebred Angus cattle that weigh 30-40 kilograms heavier and the Angus cattle still seem to make 30-40 cents more," he said.

"In terms of dollars per head, at the end of the day, it all works out about the same but we're finding our Angus cattle cost us less to get them there in the first place.

"The seasons up here don't allow us to finish cattle and lighter weighing black cattle always make good money."

Joel holds onto 20-25 of his own better heifers each year and cull cows are determined based on their fertility and physical appearance.

Sound cattle are bred until they're about eight-years-old and before the drought of 2010 there were about 200 of them roaming the paddocks.

Fortunately Joel's uncle runs cattle at Tingledale and the Treeby family was able to agist some of its herd down there to fatten before sale.

To relieve the pressure on the Tunney farm Joel also sold a lot of his mixed breed and coloured cows.

He even utilised his uncle's green paddocks again last year by agisting his April-due replacement heifers at Tingledale during seeding to free up a bit of pasture for his remaining livestock.

In the past Joel has bought his Angus bulls from Ardcairnie stud, Kojonup, but recently picked up some with Lawsons blood from Jerdacuttup.

"I like bulls with Estimated Breeding Values (EBVs) which show a short gestation, lower birthweight, high 200-day weight and a big eye muscle area," he said.

"Because of the management side of things I can just leave calving cattle to do their own thing.

"We generally don't have the ability to produce huge fat calves so we're not focused on producing a shell that's big and lanky.

"We're better off producing a more compact and muscled frame that will attract better dollars per head and put more of them on the ground each season."

Joel's herd calves in April because it fits with the rest of the farm's sheep and cropping programs and if it were any earlier Joel would be forced to hand feed for too long.

"April is generally the break of the season and depending on the year we can feed them for a period and have them calve down onto good green feed," he said.

"We like to try to give the calves the opportunity to hit the ground running."

And the 2016 season did just that with Joel dubbing it as one of the best seasons for cattle that he's had the pleasure of farming in.

"I cut about a quarter of the hay that I usually feed out and I didn't need to feed it out after April," he said.

"The cows have been lucky enough to have been on green feed all the way through to the start of last month."

When it comes to the sale of Joel's Angus cattle the weaners and lighter heifers are turned straight off the cows in the second week of January and put up for auction in the Mt Barker Regional Saleyards.

As for the future of the Angus breed on the Treeby family's farm, it certainly looks bright.

Joel and his family have started to sow some ryegrass and clover mix to help bolster production and are starting to treat their pastures more like a crop in the overall farm rotation to further boost their profits and make the most of their Angus.

"A lot of the time when a paddock comes out of crop and into pasture it becomes a weed phase," Joel said.

"With beef prices the way they are at the moment we'd be mad not to do everything within reach to capitalise on our Angus herd."


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