Heifer prize reinvigorates Coolup breeder

Heifer prize reinvigorates Coolup breeder

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Michael Colum (left), Jennifer Colum and Liza Howell, with the Kubota RTV that Jennifer won last February.

Michael Colum (left), Jennifer Colum and Liza Howell, with the Kubota RTV that Jennifer won last February.

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One year after winning the Farm Weekly and WA Angus Breeders win 10 Angus heifers competition, exuberant cattle producer Jennifer Colum continues to enjoy the farming life at Coolup.

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ONE year after winning the Farm Weekly and WA Angus Breeders win 10 Angus heifers competition, exuberant cattle producer Jennifer Colum continues to enjoy the farming life at Coolup.

Winning the Farm Weekly prize including 10 purebred Angus heifers and a Kubota Rough Terrain Vehicle (RTV) last February was an uplifting experience for Jennifer and her family, reinvigorating her passion for cattle and farming life.

"Sometimes we think these things are just small but the impact is actually quite great," said daughter Liza Howell.

"Farmers work very hard it's a 24/7 job, so to get this prize, which you weren't expecting to win, it gives you a bit of a boost," Liza said.

Jennifer had been entering the competition for some years so it took a while for her to come to terms with the win.

"It was unbelievable, it took me a couple of weeks for the reality of it to wear in," Jennifer said.

"It wasn't the Kubota I was after I wanted the heifers."

Despite not knowing what a Kubota was Jennifer has come to love the RTV and couldn't do without it.

"When I got the Kubota I was flabbergasted, it wasn't what I was expecting and it took me a while to get used to driving it, but I really do love it now," Jennifer said.

The heifers are so quiet natured that Jennifer can hand feed them hay in the yards.

The heifers are so quiet natured that Jennifer can hand feed them hay in the yards.

"It was just a lovely thing to have won, especially because when you are farming you kind of make do with what you've got, so it was the first new thing we'd had.

"The Kubota is very convenient and is easy for mum to get around in," said son Michael Colum.

Jennifer was particularly excited about winning the heifers as she had never bought in cattle before and was looking to replace some of her existing heifers at the time of the call.

"The heifers that I had were all my weaners that I kept to fatten up so they were my original ones," Jennifer said.

"I didn't really like how some of the heifers were going, they just weren't shaping up so when the call came it was perfect timing."

The whole family enjoyed the experience and felt lucky to have won.

"It was all quite a thrill and we were happy to be part of it," Liza and Michael said.

"The congratulations came from far and wide and there were people that were genuinely happy for all of us," Liza said.

Jennifer and her entire family are extremely grateful to have won the competition and are looking forward to hearing about the next winner.

"I just hope the person who wins it this year has as much excitement as I did because it was just really exciting for all of us," Jennifer said.

Jennifer continues to provide the Bendotti family, Pemberton whom the prize heifers came from with updates on their progress.

"I've recorded the information on the back of the tags so I can tell which heifer was mated to which bull, so I can show them the calves," Jennifer said.

Jennifer now runs 57 head of Angus cattle on her 72 hectare Coolup property.

The Colums bought the property 37 years ago in 1983 and up until three years ago Jennifer also worked their original home property consisting of 202ha at Birchmont, where she ran 150 head of cattle.

Jennifer has since sold that property and is content with her current operation.

The Colums have been running the Angus breed for nearly 50 years and don't look like stopping anytime soon.

"Well my husband always had them, we started buying in all sorts of things and fattening them up and then selling them, but then we got into Angus and whatever he did I just carried on," Jennifer said.

The Colums started with the Angus breed after they bought in some bulls from Esperance and have continued with the breed since then.

"We've just always had them," Jennifer said.

The quiet temperament of the breed is what attracted them to the breed and is the reason they have kept running them for all these years.

The prize heifers were very quiet in temperament and Michael said they were amazed at how calm they were coming off the truck.

"That's the beauty with the Angus breed they're a bit quieter to work around," Michael said.

"The ones we won are extremely quiet and you can move around them easily."

The prize heifers were so placid that Jennifer could hand-feed them hay in the yards.

"I went straight in with them and didn't have any troubles." Jennifer said.

She said her children don't like her being in the yards on her own, but the docile nature of the cattle has meant she has been able to go in there without any issues.

"It would be different if the cattle weren't so quiet, like if they were flighty you wouldn't be doing it," Michael said.

Like most producers, the Colums found the past season to be a difficult one.

"It was a bit tougher, the previous year we cut 70 acres for hay and we ended up with 400 rolls but last year we did 70 acres and we got 350 rolls, so it was down about 15 per cent," Michael said.

"Everybody in the area was the same, the season just finished off very quickly and we thought oh the rains coming but then it didn't," Jennifer and Michael said.

Even with the tough season Jennifer has plenty of hay on hand to feed her cattle.

"I've got enough hay to feed them, but the paddocks are looking so bare now," Jennifer said.

Having downsized her operation Jennifer has now started to sell her cattle as weaners instead of growing them out.

"I don't have the land to carry them on like I used to," she said.

"I usually go to Boyanup saleyards and Landmark agent Chris Waddingham does all my work.

"He bought me eight heifers last week which are the same age as the ones I won so now I have 18 that are the same age, which is great," Jennifer said.

She aims to hit the weaner market, selling her steers at a target weight of 350kg liveweight.

"We had 41 calves last year the steers averaged 340-345kg and the heifers were 286-321kg," Jennifer said.

"They dropped a bit in weight, they would normally be 10-20kg heavier," Michael said.

"It was just the type of season we had so everyone's cattle were a bit lighter," Jennifer said.

When sourcing their bulls the Colums have used a variety of studs over the years.

The two bulls on the property at the moment are from the Black Market stud, but they have also had Cherylton bulls in the past.

Joining occurs at the end of April beginning of May for a January/February calving, with weaning in September/November.

"I have some twins at the moment and I think a couple of the heifers may be due in the coming week," Jennifer said.

The Colums grow all their own feed on-farm, with their cattle being 100pc grassfed.

They get hay in summer and pasture in winter.

Jennifer likes to keep track of all her cattle.

"I have all the numbers recorded so I know the ones I don't want to go back into calf and the ones I do," she said.

"I'll probably get down to about the 50 head mark."

Age is just a number when it comes to their cattle having previously kept some of their breeders for 10-12 years.

"We didn't have any trouble with them and they were all healthy, so why not keep them," Michael said.

"We are only in our third year of calving on this property, so the oldest ones currently are 4-5 years old," Jennifer said.

Jennifer is looking forward to seeing what her next group of calves look like.

"With the ones Chris has just bought me it will be interesting to see how they look," she said.

Jennifer is an early riser, especially during the summer months getting up at 5:30am everyday to go out and work with the cattle before the day gets too hot.

'It's nice and cool at that time of morning, I don't really leave the house in the afternoon it just gets too hot particularly around 3-4pm," she said.

Even after all these years, it is evident Jennifer still loves working with her cattle and is proud that she is still able to do it at age 79.

"I really do enjoy it," she said.

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