The Brains trust got the marbling message loud and clear
BOONA produces some of the beef industry’s most sought-after genetics – in the feedlot and in cowherds across the eastern states.
Based on a quarter of a century of determination to get the genetic profile as perfect as possible to pursue the lucrative high marbling market with operations such as Rangers Valley at Glenn Innes in NSW.
Which started when principals Steve and Sue Brain travelled to Tokyo in the early 1990s to visit the AMLC (now MLA) and went to a Kobe beef steakhouse, and came home with one very clear message hammered into them, over and over – marbling.
And once back on their Mumbannar property, in the far southwest reaches of Victoria and just east of Mount Gambier, they began their rise to prominence in the Angus breed.
“After what we had seen in Tokyo with MLA we realised there was a serious opportunity to go after a very specific and in-demand target market,” Steve said.
“The next step was to find a gene pool that would offer us the traits we needed – and could prove it,” he said.
“That’s what led us to being foundation members of Team Te Mania back in 2006. It started there and it hasn’t stopped.”
The herd the Brains have built at Boona now has 1100 pure Te Mania Angus blood cows in it – and an annual contract with Rangers Valley for its steer turnoff.
Plus bonuses when its carcases chart off the scale – such as the one that was a marble score nine a few years ago, winning the Brains a trip to Brisbane with Rangers Valley (and fellow Team Te Mania breeders Jon and Karen Jackson (who had marble score eights) to follow their beef through to the plate in high end restaurants.
Producing between 1000 and 1100 calves a year, Boona is achieving a better than 90 per cent conception rate with all natural mating.
Steve said this year they will supplement the leased bulls which gives him top 10% industry genetics, turning to AI again for specific high marbling genetics to sharpen their herd going forward.
“Our whole steer turnoff basically goes to Rangers Valley and when they are on the truck they range between 480kg and 500kg at 13-15 months,” Steve added.
“They start going in October and we are finished before Christmas,” he said.
“Then we have to sell big lines of cows because with that many calves every year there simply isn’t enough room for them all.”
He said their feature female sale is the annual Team Te Mania commercial female sale, this year Boona had more than 200 catalogued for the March sale through AuctionsPlus.
“Our focus is on quality, at every step and at every level and we have a lot of regular clients keeping a sharp eye out for the Team female sale,” Steve said.
“I believe our preferred supplier status at Rangers is a testament to the steers we produce, their performance through the feedlot and abattoir and demand for them in the five-star market,” he said.
Boona also runs a disciplined ‘time control’ grazing system which sees them run large mobs, as many as 500, on grass, moving them every couple of days around a network of mostly 20ha paddocks.
Its weaners are yard weaners around Christmas-New Year at about 140-150kg and receive high quality cereal and lucerne hay.
They are vaccinated and drenched and also receive a mineral injection. (Later with boluses with all trace minerals).
The weaners are then moved onto irrigated pastures, where they are rotationally grazed and moved every two days. Following the autumn break the weaners switch to dryland pasture until feed quality declines around November/December.
“These large mob sizes might seem a nightmare to some but we have found they work well on Boona,” Steve said.
“The cattle are better socialised and better prepared for the feedlot and we have also found stock handling has become a lot more pleasurable,” he said.
“The weaners run as a big mob until the heifers are drafted out just before joining and the lighter end of them – around 260kg – are sold.
“About 80pc of the heifers are retained. They follow the steers in a rotation during joining in mid October and after joining follow the cows, calving down as two-year-olds.”
The Brains use predominantly deep-rooted species such as phalaris, cocksfoot, chicory and sub clovers and less of perennial ryegrass in order to utilise moisture more effectively.
Their astute attention to the long term development of the marbling side of the herd, while achieving strong growth and good structure is clearly reaping rewards not only for the Brains but for their repeat customers.
RawAg Podcast with Steve Brain – Episode 16
Boona reaps profit from feeder steers, The Land, January 2016 by Katrina Weatherly, The Land, January 22, 2016. This cattle enterprise is a Team Te Mania, self-replacing, spring calving, EU-accredited operation, supplying steers to feedlots on contract each year. For productivity, the feeder steer business is where the maximum efficiency lies”, Mr Brain said
Selective Breeding Builds Opportunity – by Jon Condon, The Land, September 16, 2010. In this article, Jon writes “Selection pressure for intra-muscular fat driven through both Breedplan recording and progeny carcase testing has been one of the contributors to Rangers Valley’s premium brand extension.”
More of a Spur than a Threat 17 Dec 2008 – by Simone Dalton, Weekly Times, December 17, 2008. “Stephen Brain’s bottom line is more about producing excellent pasture and quality cattle to harvest rather than BSE outbeaks on the other side of the world”.
2008 Brain power – turning pasture into beef p1 by Sally White, Stock & Land, November 20, 2008. Glossy Angus steers mingle contentedly around the gate, unperturbed by the entry of a stranger into their paddock”. 2008 Brain power – turning pasture into beef p2
- Member of Team Te Mania since 2001
- Johne’s Status – Beef Only
- Calving period – Spring
- EU Accreditation