Set the pasture base early, tick all the animal health boxes, and spend time handling stock.
These are the key requirements Davilak Pastoral Company has to make sure its weaners present at the annual Barnawartha sale in the best possible condition.
The 600 steer calves they will offer this year were all yard weaned for seven days on silage before the end of November, and have been grazing pasture – grown from late spring rain – ever since.
By the time they get to the saleyards they would have been drenched with Vetmec, had three doses of 5-in-1 vaccination and treated with a long acting selenium.
And they will be broken in to dogs and horses, with quiet temperaments, according to Davilak’s Rodda Manning.
Mr Manning and his family join 1650 breeders each year, 150 spring calving cows, and the remainder, including 300 pregnant heifers, calving in autumn.
The herd is run on 4500 acres at Mansfield, and are joined for a short six weeks to bulls from Glendaloch at Glenburn.
“Glendaloch has got a really good commercial cow herd…they use some Te Mania, some Lawsons, some Rennylea, and some overseas semen – and produce a good commercial bull,” Mr Manning said.
“We aren’t into going to the sale and paying top dollar for the bulls, looking for cheap good quality commercial bulls that do the job we need to do.”
The steer calves from the joining will be 10 months-old when they are sold in January, and generally top at about 380kg.
This year they will again all be European Union accredited and PCAS accredited.
When it comes to preparing the calves, Mr Manning said getting drenching and vaccination right, and handling them well, was important.
“Getting them quiet and settled puts towards their weight gain – people like coming back to buy the same calves as can go straight into feedlot or paddock and not worry about them,” he said.
Weight gain was also reliant on setting up the pasture base early, and keeping it going.
Mr Manning said they were growing phalaris dominate pastures for sustainability and winter production, with ryegrasses to fill the feed gaps at other times of the years.
“We had one of the driest Septembers on record but fluked enough rain in October and since to get some good feed,” he said.
“We bought quite a lot of damaged crop cereal hay to fill the sheds, because not a good enough season to get all hay requirements off our place – (there was) plenty of frosted crops that got rolled or baled within an hour of here, so we found some good quality stuff, it was expensive compared to usual but you’ve just got to have it.”
Mr Manning said the annual special weaner sale at Barnawartha suited their operation, and attracted buyers from both the local area and further north.
“It seems to get a good crowd, it’s only 1.5 hours from here and Corcoran Parker do a great job at marketing them, they get on the phone and market the calves well for us, so we’ve had a good run at Wodonga for a while now,” he said.
“There would be years that it would be better to sell them out of the paddock earlier on, but in recent years we have benefitted going through the yards, and it is good exposure.”
The Mannings keep 350 to 400 heifers to join, and those that don’t get in calf or are classed out are grown out until the following October or November, when 480-500kg they are sold into the Coles Grassfed Program.
Mr Manning said the Coles pathway was another important marketing avenue and spread out the cashflow of the property
At the 2018 offering, the steers sold from 310-371c/kg, or $1120 to $1235, and Mr Manning said January’s returns would as usual be dependent on the weather.
“If you could get 300c/kg at the moment that would be the mark, and the price will flow up or down from there dependent on the weather, particularly in NSW and bottom on Queensland,” he said.
“That’s sustainable for us and more sustainable for the guys buying them, year before last when steers averaged $1400 it was fantastic for us but not sustainable for those buying - I would like to get $1400 ever year, but it has got to work for everyone, at 300c/kg there is money in that.”
Corcoran Parker will offer the Davilak steers on January 3 at the Northern Victoria Livestock Exchange.