Breed performance delivers Societies newest recruits - September 2015
Breed performance delivers Societies newest recruits
The decision to diversify into the Charbray breed was a natural progression for the Christensen family of Theodore.
With an established Charolais stud and cross breeding Charolais bulls over Brahman heifers in their commercial herd for the past thirteen years, Lindsay and Bron Christensen recognised the benefits of the initial cross and decided to investigate the potential of the Charbray breed further.
"When the time came to purchase replacement bulls, we had been researching the benefits of generational cross breeding and could see future potential in the market," Lindsay said.
"We were still considering continuing with our straight Charolais bull program when we visited Huntington at Taroom to view their sale bulls and were impressed with their Charbray offerings."
The identification of the right bull for the new venture was a family affair with the couple's three children accompanying them on the herd tour.
"Of course we had the usual selection of the 'cute' bulls, 'fluffy' bulls and even a few 'manly' bulls from our two daughters and one son but in the end all the family agreed with the pre-sale selection."
With Lindsay's commitments elsewhere on sale day, the onus was on Bron to ensure the purchase of the optimum bull for their needs.
"I love auctions!" Bron commented. "An antique chair here, a box of bits and bobs there is always good fun.
"However ensuring you make the right bid, for the right money, for the bull that will determine the direction of part of your herd for the foreseeable future was slightly stressful."
She persevered however and came away with the family's prime choice in Lot 2 – Huntington Hitch'Um, a red factor polled bull with exceptional EBVs.
The family have joined Hitch'Um to around forty of their stud Charolais heifers and are confident that his progeny will pay dividends in the long term.
"September this year will see his first offspring hit the ground and our plan is to mate those heifers at two years with Charbray again for our first full Charbray generational cross," Lindsay said.
Whilst the family will continue with their full Charolais line to meet existing commitments, they expect to expand the Charbray factor over the coming years, impressed with the characteristics of the breed.
"We will be introducing the Charbray/Charbray cross in our commercial herd as well. After all the entire purpose of stud animals is to improve your commercial herd and we are confident the characteristics of the Charbray line can improve our bottom line."
The Christensens run a commercial breeding program and raise the progeny through to sale for the EU market. Late last year with no rain on the horizon, they took the unprecedented step to sell a portion of their yearlings onto feedlots. The feedlot buyers first response was to commit to purchasing all of the Charbray animals with the remainder of the buy being made up of alternative breeds.
"When you receive that type of quality, front line feedback you really need to act on it.
"If Charbrays are the first choice for feedlot buyers then our move into the breed has to be the choice for us."
Parasite resistance and temperament was another factor in the move.
Theodore is located outside the tick line so ticks are an ongoing issue and the Christensens appreciate the increased parasite resistance that the cross will give to their herd.
"This resistance, the increased hardiness and the ability to rapidly improve condition immediately there is a seasonal upturn will give our softer, European herd the potential to expand our market into the drier and more unforgiving areas."
Temperament was also an important consideration for the family.
"We do the majority of our mustering on horseback with our children and they are usually in the yards with us helping out on the crush or during branding, so it is important that our cattle have good temperaments to assist with safety – nobody wants to be continually looking over their shoulder when in the yards with cattle."
As the Charbray Society's newest recruits, the Christensens are also enjoying the benefits which come from membership of a breed society.
"The assistance provided in setting up a new membership and in the initial registrations was very valuable. And to have somebody on the end of the phone that can answer questions immediately so you can get on with the business of running a property is also a great help."
No Turning Back for Breed Newcomer - September 2015
No Turning Back for Breed Newcomer
Calliope-based cattleman Viv Hunt has experimented with a number of popular breeds but his decision to incorporate Charbrays into his commercial cattle operation has proven rewarding beyond his expectations. A relative newcomer to the breed, Viv purchased three Charbray bulls from the Welsh family's Huntington Stud at Taroom in 2012 for use over his existing Grey Brahman and Droughtmaster cows. From therein, Viv's enthusiasm has grown alongside the success of his burgeoning breeding herd which he runs on his grazing block Dellyvon, between Dululu and Wowan.
Viv's second lot of Huntington calves, are now on the ground, some out of his Grey Brahman and Droughtmaster cows and some out of his Charbray females, also bought in recent years. As with the first drop, the calves present as lighter birthweights than his previous crosses but outperform at weaning (eight to ten months old) with significantly higher weights.
"My Charbray and Charbray cross weaners have consistently weighed in at weaning well in excess of the previous breeds I have used. In fact some of them are 50-60 kg heavier which is just amazing. I have had a least one 10 month-old Charbray weaner steer weigh in at 370kg," Viv remarked.
"My purebred Charbrays are also outstanding performers. I have had calves as young as five months old top the scales at 257 kg."
At the peak of the market, Viv was scoring up to $600 per head for his weaners. When prices fell dramatically, he looked to other markets and he now mostly retains his stock and grows them out on improved pastures.
"Whenever I have the feed, I keep them. Their temperament is fantastic. You can walk through them in the yards without having to watch your back the whole time. Their calving rate is brilliant. Because the calves are only half the size of some of the other breeds, I have pretty much eliminated any calving difficulties."
So impressed is Viv by the performance of his Charbrays, he has made the decision to use Charbray bulls exclusively in his operation from now on.
"Progressively, as I cull I will eventually get rid of any other breeds I carry and replace them all with Charbrays," he said.
Viv attributes the sound quality of his property as another feature in his favour in producing good quality cattle. Having grown up at Chinchilla on the Western Darling Downs, he was more accustomed to farming and British breed cattle when he bought Dellyvon six years ago. He knew however he had secured himself a blue-ribbon deal.
"I had always been involved in the land, one way or another and I had worked as a jackaroo for a while but I had always had a passion for owning my own cattle property. This place was fully developed into improved pastures when I bought it and I was doubly blessed to buy it going into a good season."
Having endured an extremely cold, dry winter in 2014, Viv has just emerged from a wet summer, receiving a welcome 240mm of rain (7 inches) on the fringe of Cyclone Marcia.
"I now have belly-high buffel grass but even during the extreme dry my Charbrays were holding condition ten times more than my Brahmans and barely a tick on them."
Viv's involvement with the Charbray Society was instigated by his friend and well-known Society member Kerod Lindley, whose generous nature is replicated in Viv. It is on Viv's Leichhardt Highway property that a large billboard promoting the Charbray Society stands, thanks to a conversation between the men several years ago.
"Kerod came to me and asked 'how much would you want to have a Charbray sign erected in your front paddock?'. I told him I wanted absolutely nothing so there stands the 6 metre x 3 metre sign with the words Go Charbray and the Society contact details highly visible to motorists on the highway. I supplied the tractor and Paul Connor and Les Marshall also came along to help dig the post holes and erect it."
Although Viv is not currently a member of the Charbray Society, he has nothing but praise for its members and coordinators.
"It's a good, friendly society. You can phone them anytime with any questions and nothing is too much trouble for them. It doesn't matter if you're a small operator of a large one, they value everyone equally."
Charbrays deliver dividends in the marketplace - October 2014
Charbrays deliver dividends in the marketplace
by Louise Golden
North Burnett graziers Terry and Lorraine Haupt are passionate Charbray advocates whose long-term approach to breed selection and management returns them well-earned dividends in the marketplace as well as great personal satisfaction.
Terry and Lorraine introduced Charbrays to their 8,500 acre Eidsvold district breeding property Debingal about 10 years ago, crossing Charbray bulls over a proportion of their Red Brahman females in lieu of Brahman bulls. This break from tradition was prompted by a desire to breed an item which could survive on the property's granite country which had not then been fully improved. With ongoing development, this transition proved successful and within several years Charbray bulls were used over the entire herd. This pattern has further evolved to include crossing Charbray bulls over second generation females, again with pleasing results.
Weaners from the Haupts' EU Accredited operation are turned off at 8-12 months old, mostly through the Eidsvold Saleyards where they are strongly contested by repeat buyers, re-stockers and lot-feeders alike. Prevailing dry conditions on Debingal has seen breeder number reduced by 75%. Downsizing, however, was geared more towards long-term land preservation than the demands of ailing stock.
"Ironically, although things got dry and we cut our numbers right back, the stock were actually still doing well, all things considering. They were definitely not going backwards and in fact some were still thriving. This is no doubt a reflection of this particular cross's ability to hold on despite the tough going," Terry said.
"We don't buy supplements or molasses but when possible, we give the breeders a barley sprout supplement which we grow on-property. This is really not for fattening but to stop them from losing ground. It also helps generate the milk supply in the mothers and the calves really benefit as a result."
Terry believes that the secret to successful generational breeding lies in investing in bulls from a wide genetic pool and replacing bulls on a regular basis to eliminate in-line breeding. Additionally, the Haupts maintain a close watch on culling with temperament, bone structure and honeycomb colour to maintain an even line forming the basis of their heifer replacement process.
"You can convince yourself as much as you like that you have made the right decisions with your breeding and selection process but the proof of the pudding is in the sale results," Terry said.
"We also get a lot of good comments from other cattlemen at the saleyards and strong, positive feedback from buyers, many of whom are repeat buyers. I had a bloke say to me once that if you breed Charbrays you will wear diamonds. Well, I don't know if I'd go that far but the combination of switching to Charbrays and becoming EU accredited has certainly given our operation an edge that we would not have had otherwise."
Terry and Lorraine, both life-long North Burnett residents, agree that the introduction of Charbrays on Debingal has also been a wise choice from a management perspective.
"The even temperament of the breed makes them a pleasure to work with and so easy to handle. Lorraine and I are usually capable of running the property ourselves, although our two sons Tony and Steven, both who have other careers, have been particularly helpful since I had a bad shoulder injury several months ago.''
Consistency equates to returns for Davidson family - May 2014
Consistency equates to returns for Davidson family
by Louise Golden
A firm commitment to generational breeding is central to the Davidson family's Charbray breeder operation and a driving force behind their viability as commercial cattle producers. In bypassing a fattening option on their Northern Central Highlands grazing property Roper Downs, near Middlemount, the Davidsons instead, turn off via paddock sales, up to 700 mix-sexed weaners annually, supplying to some of the region's larger-scale commercial cattlemen.
The Davidsons, comprising octogenarian Neville Davidson, his daughter-in-law Toni and her three children Will, Tammy and Jessica, are relative newcomers to the Central Highlands, having moved to the region about eight years ago from Beaudesert. Sadly, Toni's late husband Graham Davidson died shortly after the move to Roper Downs; Graham's devotion to the cattle industry however is perpetuated by his family whose connection with the Charbray breed goes back to their time at Beaudesert. From here, they took a number of Charolais and cross-bred cows which they incorporated with some big purebred Brahman cows which were included in the Roper Downs purchase.
Central to their philosophy is the selection of high-grade sires and retention of only the highest quality females. Early in their Charbray program, however, the Davidsons concede they took a fairly simplistic, first-cross approach to breeding, putting Charolais bulls over Brahman cows.
"But once we realized the benefits of generational breeding and upholding the Charbray as a breed unto itself, we started paying a lot more attention to detail, particularly in our sire selection," Will said.
"And by that I don't mean we have had to outlay an exorbitant amount of money for bulls, but we have certainly become more discerning in our selection criteria. It goes beyond just buying from a certain stud or a certain stud sale; it's more about looking for the right bull that will be honorable to the breed and to our needs. When I try to emphasize this to others I often use the scenario of a Santa breeder, for instance, buying a Shorthorn bull to put over his Brahman cows. So why would a Charbray advocate rely on breeding just from Charolais or Brahman stock? That scenario wouldn't play out in other pure breeds so why should we compromise in the Charbray breed?"
Features such as conformation, bone structure, good meat and fat coverage, pizzle correctness and good doing-ability are what attract the Davidsons to the Charbray breed.
"Temperament of course is also a key feature in all our cattle; if they are the slightest bit touchy they go. Also, you don't want them to be too tight-skinned."
Roper Downs has been spared the burden of extreme drought conditions compared to other Queensland areas in recent seasons, with relatively good supplies of water and feed on hand on the 14,000 acre predominately Brigalow/Buffel property. Should the drought intensify, the Davidsons are confident their decision of run Charbray stock will stand them in good stead.
"We find our Charbray breeders to be good milkers who have the capacity to milk during tough times, as well as being very fertile. In our business, turning off good weaners is our priority and having Charbrays with great weight- for- age gives us confidence, even if we were forced to turn them off younger to look after our breeders. Most years our steers average 260-280kgs and as our better heifers are kept as replacements the heifers average 230 -250kg.
"We believe Charbrays are one of the most marketable breeds around as most producers have come to recognize their weight- for- age traits and doing ability. Charbrays are certainly one of, if not the most desirable breeds within our region, although I believe breeding stock need to be watched as fat cover can be an issue in the breed."
With three generations of cattlemen guiding the Roper Downs operation, youth and experience combine to ensure the very best of the Charbray breed is incorporated into their breeding program.
"There is equal input from all of us – from purchasing bulls or keeping replacements we all take part and have a keen eye for quality. It's good to be able to stand back and see the rewards ; you might have to put in that little bit of extra effort and pay a bit more for your bulls but it's worth it," Will said.