Commercial operators using DNA to pinpoint SimAngus bulls success

Morse QCL July 2018

CROSSBREEDING SUCCESS: James and Sal Morse after their first win in the 2015 Beef Spectacular Feedback Trial. The couple uses Wombramurra SimAngus bulls in their commercial operation. Photo from QCL

By Ruth Schwager, QCL

USING SimAngus bulls is allowing James and Sal Morse, Wongalee, Molong, to meet a range of markets with their progeny.

The 1400-hectare property is currently running about 250 pregnant females and 250 weaners, but it would usually handle between 500 and 600 breeders.

“Since the start of December we’ve offloaded nearly 1400 head of cattle,” Mr Morse said.

“The breeders never got back to full capacity since the last drought but we’ve also been trading cattle.”

The base herd was Shorthorns, but Angus bulls started the shift to crossbreeding about 15 years ago. SimAngus bulls have been used for the past five years, with genetics sourced from Wombramurra stud at Nundle.

SimAngus cattle are allowing Mr Morse’s cattle to reach a range of markets.

“With the Shorthorns, we ran into trouble if we had to sell them as weaners, but with SimAngus, we’re getting a black premium,” he said.

The Morses chose Wombramurra bulls as the stud has similar breeding principles.

Mr Morse looks for similar bloodlines, placing emphasis on the females, and said he likes having the option to buy yearling bulls.

“We’re very strict on fertility. If they don’t raise a calf they’re sacked, and if they’re not in calf at 14 months to calve as a two-year-old, they’re out. We also have pretty tight joinings – heifers for 22 days at three per cent and cows, in a good season, at 30 to 35 days, but we’ve gone to 45 days now with the dry conditions. We also join the heifers a bit earlier to give them a bit more time to be ready for their second calf.”

Steers are usually grown out to feeder weights, going to JBS Caroona or Riverina, with heifers going to a local feedlot for the supermarket trade.

Most of the country is improved pastures, with about 20pc cropping, including oats, brassicas and vetch in a multi-species mix, then sorghum, millet and cowpeas over summer.

Trade cattle and weaners are grazed on crops, while the females are on improved pastures including fescues, phalaris, cocksfoot and clovers, as well as native red grass country. The cows are also used to clean up crop stubble.

“If we’ve got to sell them as weaners, we can, but we can also feed here, so this year we’ve had most of the cattle locked up for the past two months, and they’re going well,” Mr Morse said.

“We want to have them gone by 16 months, once they’re at 400 kilograms to 450kg, and gaining 1.5kg a day.”

That strong weight gain has led to success in the Beef Spectacular Feedback Trial.

The Morses made a business decision to participate in the feedlot performance and carcase competition a few years ago, as a way to benchmark their cattle.

In their first year, 2015, they were outright winners of the competition, and in 2017, their second time in the feedback trial, the Morses won the carcase section and came fourth overall.

The 2018 team of steers – all sired by Wombramurra J161 – took out the feedlot performance section and the overall competition. The Morses are the first producers to win the overall competition twice in the trial’s 10-year history.

“That was the most exciting thing for us, because we sire identified them with a DNA test, so we’ve got some practical data out of that. The odds of having the whole team sired by the sale bull are slim, but it’s pretty exciting, because we can use that data to make decisions. If we had to destock all females, I’d know which two bulls I needed to keep.”