Overseas genetics a winner for Woonallee Simmentals


Tom and Lizzy Baker run about 500 registered stud cows and 300 commercial cows on their 2800 hectare property in Furner, information pills SA. Photo courtesy of Stock and Land

By Joely Mitchell, Stock and Land

IMPORTING genetics from overseas has been of great benefit to Woonallee Simmentals, approved Furner, SA, according to stud principals Tom and Lizzy Baker.

The stud began importing from South Africa in the early 2000s, and has since gone on to buy from studs in the United States, New Zealand, and Canada.

Mr Baker said he has spent a lot of time overseas, trying to find the best genetics.

“We decided to buy overseas to introduce some outcross genetics, and to improve our herd’s efficiency traits,” Mr Baker said.

“We selected the studs we bought from by identifying the larger herds, who offered the sort of cattle we were looking for.

“In South Africa, we’ve bought genetics from Wisp Will, Ru Dev, and Congosim, and from the United States we’ve bought from Buzzard Hollow.”

I think being able to identify the most influential genetics available will fast track genetic gain within anyone’s herd. – Tom Baker, Woonallee Simmentals

He said buying overseas was a good opportunity to find the best of the best, and with artificial insemination (AI) and embryo transfer (ET) technologies, has been quite easy to facilitate.

“I think being able to identify the most influential genetics available will fast track genetic gain within anyone’s herd,” he said.

“We don’t necessarily think the cattle from overseas is better, if we like what we see in Australia, we’ll acquire those genetics as well, it’s just about finding the very best.”

Mr Baker took over the running of the 2800-hectare property in the mid 2000s, after it had been run by his father Dale.

He said Simmental cattle, or at least Simmental infused cattle, have always been run on the property.

As well as running about 500 registered stud cows and 300 commercial cows, he also runs over 1000 hectares of crops, and trades about 7000 lambs a year.

He said the Simmental breed had allowed the stud to produce a moderate, easy fleshing animal, that is industry relevant.

“They’ve got high growth rates, high milking abilities, and are carcass driven,” he said.

He said over time, the herd has continued to improve.

“The difference these days would be the change in the cattle to a moderate frame, they’re a lot more easier doing, but still maintain their weight for age,” he said.

“We’ve been at the forefront of making the Simmental breed more efficient.”

Mr Baker joins cows twice a year, in order to spread the availability of bulls throughout the year.

“We’ve got an autumn and a spring joining, which means we generally calf in March and April, and also in September and October,” he said.

“I think we’ve achieved in the mid-90s for calving percentages, which we’re quite happy with.”

Woonallee Simmentals will be offering these bulls and cows at two upcoming sales in February.

“We’ve got an on property stud female sale on Wednesday, February 8, where we’ll be selling about 40 registered females, and then a bull sale the next day, on Thursday, where we’ll offer about 110 bulls,” he said.

“We also sell about 50 bulls  to private buyers throughout the year.”

He said he’s had a lot of success at these sales in recent years.

“Sale results have been incredibly strong, we sell to every state in Australia, as well as New Zealand,” he said.

At last year’s sale in February, the stud managed a total clearance of 90 Simmental and SimAngus bulls, to an average price of $7409.

The sale topped at $27,500, with Webb Tank K090, who broke the Australian Black Simmental price record.

The stud also sold a half-share in one of their Black Simmental heifers, Woonallee Sassy L366, for $15,000, last year, following a superb showing season.

Having experienced a wet winter, and a positive spring, he said he’s optimistic about what’s to come.

“We’ve been extremely wet in late winter this year,” he said.

“But that led into a really nice spring, and we’ve now got an abundance of feed, to an extent that I haven’t seen in a very long time,” he said.

Woonallee Simmentals have also had success at recent shows, including at last year’s Royal Melbourne Show in October, where they won grand champion female, grand champion bull, supreme exhibit, most successful exhibitor, and supreme interbreed champion.

At the Royal Adelaide Show in early September, they won junior champion female, junior champion bull, grand champion bull, supreme exhibit, interbreed champion bull, and interbreed junior champion pair.

Mr Baker will be participating in Stock & Land Beef Week for the third time this year, and said he’s had tremendous success from doing so in the past.

“It’s all about taking the cattle to the people,” he said.

“We’re at the bottom of South Australia, so if we’re going to grow and expand our business, we need to take the cattle to the people and show them what they can buy.”