PINJARRA cattle producers Todd and Tracey Nancarrow run a herd of 160 Friesian cross breeders on their 324-hectare family farm bought 70 years ago in 1949.
It was Todd's grandfather who acquired the Pinjarra property after his great-grandfather began farming on a property at Browns Lane in Coolup, making Todd the fourth generation to farm.
"We run first-cross Friesian cows, which I cross with Simmentals to produce milk-fed vealers," Todd said.
The breed has served the Nancarrows well over the years.
"They're nice and quiet and easy to handle, we haven't had any trouble with the breed."
Before returning to the farm Todd went out into the workforce doing various jobs and continues to do some work off the farm.
"Because we're a small operation it wasn't big enough for me to come back on the farm straight away," Todd said.
The dry start to the season has certainly had an impact on the Nancarrow's production system.
"It was a hard start, we found our conception rates were down and they're already a bit lower because of the breed, but I always run a few back-up bulls just in case."
The Nancarrows like to be self-sufficient, sowing their own pasture and hay crops to feed the cattle.
"Why get someone else, who you have to pay to do it when I can do it," Todd said.
The majority of their cattle are grassfed with only a small group that is lotfed.
"I just seed the paddocks each year for meadow hay, I do about 100 acres of a Bell pasture mix and its pretty good clover-ryegrass country," Todd said.
"We probably cut 500-600 hay rolls a year.
"I feedlot a few of my cattle starting around now, then I just sell through my agent Allen Bentham from Primaries and he's a straight forward operator, which is what we like as farmers."
The dry season hasn't been all bad for the Nancarrows with their hay crops performing better in the dry conditions.
"Drier years are probably better in this area for hay, as we are probably producing a bit more and you don't have to drain it as much, in a normal year it can get very wet up here," Todd said.
"I also do a few feedlot cattle, but only a small amount, just weaners and I buy a few loads in 50 we probably do 150."
When working with the cattle, daughter Darci has encouraged the use of horses.
"We have five horses and Darci brings in cattle which makes the cattle quieter and it allows her to practice her campdrafting skills," Todd said.
"Darci won an award at the Royal Show in 2017 for campdrafting, so she just goes out and brings them in.
"It's good, it's much quieter than using the bikes and the cattle are pretty used to it now."
Joining begins in April for calving to occur in early February and no cow goes without a calf.
"We don't lose many, but none of the cows go without a calf, we put foster calves on them," Todd said.
"If we get a set of twins we'll pull one off and put it on another cow so every cow has a calf."
To meet particular markets sometimes calving is brought forward.
"I tend to bring them forward a bit earlier it just depends on the market and I like to get my cattle away a good three weeks before everyone else, to reduce competition," Todd said.
"We're finding with milk-fed calves, there's not as big a demand for them, so it's getting harder to find markets."
The Nancarrows like to sell their cattle as finished products into the local markets.
"I try to stay in the local market and I like to turn off finished products, so I might turn off milk-fed calves and then turn off the grainfed ones and anything that doesn't make it I like to finish off myself instead of someone doing it," Todd said.
"When we sell them they probably dress out at 200-230kg on average.
"Sometimes it gets difficult to get them into the market particularly during the spring flush, so it depends on where you can get them in, some might go to Goodchild Meats or Woolworths.
"My larger cattle like my cows and steers go to Harvey Beef."
The Nancarrows took out a contract with Woolworths earlier this year.
"It's our first year selling to Woolworths and so far we've found their grading specifications to be quite reasonable, we've only had one penalty out of 80 head and that one was just too fat," Todd said.
"They pay a premium for quality which is what I like because I like to produce good quality products, especially because we can only produce a limited volume."
With local markets struggling to survive the Nancarrows believe the government needs to show more support for farmers.
"There's a lack of government support for local abattoirs and there should be more of a focus on getting more of our product killed here, the government needs to start looking after farmers," Todd said.
When it comes to culling the Nancarrows decide based on age, temperament, udder condition and conception.
"I pregnancy test every year, I think it's silly if you don't because every animal needs to produce to be a viable operation, so anything not in calf will go along with any older cows," Todd said.
"We have had a bit of udder trouble in the past with the first crosses, they can get big udders over the years and some have had mastitis so we cull for that as well."
Consistency is essential for the Nancarrows, ensuring they buy from the same lines each year.
All their breeders come from Tim Clune, who has a dairy just down the road.
"We buy off him every year, I like to keep all the same lines with the same earmarks, I don't like to mix my cattle," Todd said.
"If you go to the saleyards there are too many different lines and earmarks mixed together, so I like to get them all from the one producer."
In terms of their Simmental bulls they source them from the Cowcher family's Willandra stud at Williams.
Todd's father started buying from the Cowchers in 1989 and they've bought from them every year since and as a result the Cowcher family and the Nancarrows have formed a good relationship over the years.
"They've been looking after us for years and any problems we have they are very good at sorting out," Todd said.
"They call us every year to check in on how their bulls are doing, which is good."
When it comes to selecting their bulls the Nancarrows have specific traits they look for.
"I try to buy good deep heavy baby beef bulls and try and get the low birthweights and I'm leaning more towards the polls now, just to keep the horns out of it."
As for heifers the Nancarrows don't keep too many but find first crosses can be expensive to buy so they keep a small herd of second crosses.
"I don't keep many heifers to breed with I might keep half a dozen of the second cross ones, first crosses can be expensive."
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