AS a fifth-generation farmer, there is quite a lot of history on Doug Payne’s Burradale property in the Capel River area.
Originally settling on the river in the 1840s was his great, great grandfather and since then the property has gone on to house thoroughbred racehorses, a considerable dairy herd, a productive orchard and today comprises 70 plus head of black Angus females.
Doug, together with his wife Barbara has been exclusively farming the operation for 14 years and as the cost of production outstripped productivity in the milking industry, they resorted to beef.
In the late 1960s they diversified to crossbred cattle with the Devon breed being their choice of sire.
“We predominantly had Shorthorn females and joined Devon bulls to them,” Doug said.
“However, we soon realised they were breeding calves which laid down too much yellow fat, therefore we shifted over to the South Devon.”
The South Devon bulls worked well for the Payne family although sourcing seedstock sires in WA became rather difficult.
“My father’s close friend was the stud stock manager for Wesfarmers at the time and strongly suggested black Angus for their quality of meat,” Doug said.
“Weeks later we purchased our first purebred cows, with calves at foot, from a herd dispersal at the Knutsford cattle complex, Kojonup.”
Doug said the females were by Mordallup and some New Zealand genetics and soon were joined to a quality Angus bull which was purchased at the Moore family’s inaugural Blackwood Angus bull sale at Boyup Brook.
“Today we source all our sires from the Hughan family, New Generation stud, Dardanup and we keep the odd AI bred bull calf for our own use,” he said.
When it comes to sire selection the Paynes are very strict on temperament, which is their number one criteria.
“We are able to walk amongst our cattle all of the time and we would like to keep it this way,” Doug said.
“Milk, 200-day growth rates, ease of calving and length of body are also important when buying a bull.”
Instead of sourcing cow and calf units like the original days, the Paynes now keep up to 10 replacement heifers annually.
Doug is a records man and when selecting keeper heifers, he chooses the stronger family lines that are performing well and he wants to expand.
“We get Steve Mountford, Landmark Breeding, to AI all our replacement heifers annually,” Doug said.
“I source the semen and only AI mate the young heifers to get an outcross of genetics which is required to build up the female family lines within our herd.
“All bulls go out with the females in June so they can begin calving in March.”
The Paynes only recently changed their calving period from February to early March as they experienced a handful of deaths a few seasons ago when two-week-old calves, with no signs of the scours, were dying.
“I had very little signs of them being sick so we could only put it down to the hot, humid temperature,” Doug said.
In pushing the calving back a month, it has benefited the young calves which they get into the yards in October (at seven months of age) in the lead up to the end of year weaner sales.
Doug said they weaned about a month earlier than most local producers and chose to paddock wean rather than yard, as it reduced the dust and more importantly pink eye in the calves.
The Paynes sold their calves at the November 28 Landmark weaner sale (held yesterday, Wednesday), Landmark’s first stand-alone weaner sale of the season.
Sold via Landmark agent Chris Waddingham, this year 35 steers and 15 heifers at eight months of age were offered.
Mr Waddingham said the Payne’s cattle were sought-after by local lot feeders for their docility and quality.
Last year 38 steers averaged 328kg and topped at 344c/kg, while 10 heifers weighing 291kg returned $809.
Doug expects this year’s weaners to average 330kg to 340kg and is hopeful they will make the same returns as last year or better.
“A couple of years ago when a lot of producers were diversifying into the Angus breed, our heifers reached tops of $1400, while our steers were some of the first to hit the 200c/kg mark in a South West weaner sale,” Doug said.
He said the genetic pool and versatility within the Angus breed outweighed any other.
“The Australian Angus society has done a tremendous job at marketing the brand and is 20 years ahead of the game,” he said.