Farm Weekly

Commercially-relevant Knowla sires lift profitability

Knowla bulls are known for their presentation off grass and improved pastures. Picture supplied
Knowla bulls are known for their presentation off grass and improved pastures. Picture supplied

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PRODUCING commercially-relevant bulls is the goal for the Laurie family at Knowla Livestock, and they're putting their genetics to the test in their own commercial operation which is achieving success with improved growth and carcase traits.

The stud's owners, James and Annie Laurie and Ted and Alison Laurie, are the fourth generation of beef producers in the area.

The Laurie family originally bred Devon/Shorthorn cross cattle, with progeny from the Kholwha Devon stud sold at the Gloucester bull sale from 1981.

By the early 1990s the family moved into Angus cattle, and 2024 marks 30 years breeding registered Angus cattle.

"Our Devon and Devon/Shorthorn-cross cattle performed very well in our environment, but we could sense the marketing advantages that Angus cattle brought with them," James Laurie said.

"The Angus breed also provided a huge gene pool that offered a great deal of genetic diversity which we could access easily with artificial breeding options, allowing rapid genetic gain."

Knowla has 84 bulls on offer in the stud's 16th annual sale on Friday, July 26. Picture supplied
Knowla has 84 bulls on offer in the stud's 16th annual sale on Friday, July 26. Picture supplied

The Knowla cattle are run on the family's 2200-hectare property at Moppy, west of Gloucester, at the headwaters of the Barrington River, with a further 600ha of leased country nearby.

The 130ha Kia Ora property, Kanangara, on the outskirts of Gloucester was purchased in 2007 and hosts the stud's annual production sale.

"While it is undulating to steep grazing country, it is ideal for cow calf production," Mr Laurie said.

"We are mindful that our hill country requires a solid, robust cow to reduce maintenance requirements.

"Our bulls are known for their presentation off grass and improved pastures.

"They're conditioned to steep country and trained with horses and dogs."

Foundation bloodlines for the Knowla herd came from Dulverton, Forres and DSK Angus studs, with the initial goal to produce high quality bulls for the commercial operation.

The stud now joins more than 250 registered and performance recorded Angus females each year, with elite cows placed into an embryo transfer program.

Knowla bulls are conditioned to steep country and trained with horses and dogs. Picture supplied.
Knowla bulls are conditioned to steep country and trained with horses and dogs. Picture supplied.

The family still runs a large commercial production that includes more than 400 breeders, producing feeder steers for the European Union-accredited grain-fed market, or the heavy grass-fed Meat Standards Australia domestic and export markets.

"Premiums are obtained in these markets for extra growth and carcase compliance, and we focus our selection decisions accordingly," Mr Laurie said.

The commercial herd helps the family make genetic selections in the stud, and the family has seen big improvements in recent years thanks to a combination of genetic gain and high performance pastures that have increased overall production.

"The total kilograms produced has almost doubled in the past 20 years and we have been able to markedly reduce our turnoff age, while improving marbling.

"Steers that used to be sold into feedlots at 18 to 20 months of age are reaching our target of 450 kilograms at 13 to 15 months, while increasing marbling compliance on shorter feed periods."

An extensive pasture improvement program, combined with better genetic selection, has led to increased Meat Standards Australia compliance. Picture supplied
An extensive pasture improvement program, combined with better genetic selection, has led to increased Meat Standards Australia compliance. Picture supplied

That focus on carcase compliance and growth in the commercial herd has driven genetic selection in the stud herd.

"As a result of this, between two-thirds and three quarters of our annual bull sale team are above the Angus breed average for growth, carcase yield and intramuscular fat," Mr Laurie said.

"We continue to focus on these profit drivers within the stud herd, but also maintain a lid on mature cow size and birthweight.

"Our commercial females are not frequently checked through calving so must calve unassisted, and we expect the same in the stud herd."

Measuring to manage is a big priority for the Knowla team.

All commercial cattle are sire identified and tracked through to slaughter, with their compliance aiding breeding decisions.

"We continually monitor our pasture performance, measuring total kilograms produced per hectare," Mr Laurie said.

"In the stud herd we have measured all the traits that can be recorded, and we get involved in the research EBVs as well.

"We were early adopters of genomic testing, and the entire stud herd is parent verified with genomically enhanced EBVs available at sale time."

Knowla So Right S48 sold for $190,000 to Sprys and Cottage Creek Angus at the 2022 Knowla production sale and his first calves made an impact in saleyards this year. Picture supplied
Knowla So Right S48 sold for $190,000 to Sprys and Cottage Creek Angus at the 2022 Knowla production sale and his first calves made an impact in saleyards this year. Picture supplied

That strong commercial focus has led to a good clientele in the New England, Mid North Coast and Hunter Valley areas, with most Knowla clients running purebred Angus herds producing weaner steers or yearling steers for feedlot entry at 14 to 18 months of age.

Many of the Laurie family's yearling clients achieve exceptional results in annual weaner sales.

"Buri West at Walcha gets outstanding sale results on AuctionsPlus with their weaner steers and heifers and another New England client, George Lyons at Nowendoc sells his calves towards the top of the Ray White feature calf sale annually," Mr Laurie said.

The first calves by 2022 sale topper Knowla So Right S48, who made $190,000, sold at the top of the Inverell and Tamworth special weaner sales for the Butcher and Schmitt families. Picture supplied
The first calves by 2022 sale topper Knowla So Right S48, who made $190,000, sold at the top of the Inverell and Tamworth special weaner sales for the Butcher and Schmitt families. Picture supplied

"In the local Gloucester calf sales, the Stidolph, Gooch, Falla and Ellis families regularly top the market, and another client, Weemelah Heifers, purchases Knowla-blood heifer calves and joins them to a Knowla bull selling at the top of the annual feature Gloucester female sales as PTIC heifers.

"It was pleasing this year to see the first calves sired by our sale topper in 2022, the $190,000 Knowla So Right S48, sell at the top of the Inverell and Tamworth special weaner sales for the Butcher and Schmitt families."

Impact sire Bowmont King K306 has sons in the 2024 Knowla sale. Picture supplied
Impact sire Bowmont King K306 has sons in the 2024 Knowla sale. Picture supplied

Among the sires that have had a big influence on the Knowla herd over the past three decades are Dunoon Highpoint H744 and Bowmont King K306.

King will be represented in the 2024 sale, along with Knowla Monty, Knowla Quantum, $140,000 bull Dunoon Prime Minister and $130,000 bull Lawsons Rocky.

A total of 84 bulls, six PTIC stud females and 100 unjoined commercial heifers will be on offer in the 16th annual sale on Friday, July 26.

Bidding is available in person at Kia Ora, near Gloucester and online via AuctionsPlus.

The Knowla sale qualifies as an immune ready Sale, which is the industry gold standard for vaccination protocol.

This involves the full range of health vaccinations completed for 7-in-1, vibriosis, three-day sickness, pestivirus, and IBR (infectious bovine rhinotracheitis).

They also have been tested free from pestivirus, semen tested, vet checked and independently structurally assessed.

Dunoon Highpoint H744 has been an influential sire at Knowla. Picture supplied
Dunoon Highpoint H744 has been an influential sire at Knowla. Picture supplied

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