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Gwalia - Susan Chisholm, Adelong NSW

Herd genetics: Keeping the future bright for farmers

SUSIE  Chisholm has a 20-year plan for her Angus herd.

This is ambitious thinking for anyone, but especially so for a farmer whose peers are looking at retirement.

“My sister is still running her property in Queensland at 85, and I want to keep going,” Susie said.

“I couldn’t bear to be playing golf it would give me no incentive to get out of bed. Now I lay in bed and there is a list of jobs that keep running through my head.”

Susie has been a participant and advocate of the Team Te Mania program — which sees members lease bulls from Te Mania Angus stud for three years and access semen from leading sires at reduced rates.

“I thought it was such an ­exciting and innovative idea of getting a group of people ­together and recording cattle — we had been recording cattle anyway — to spread the genetic recording and therefore get a much higher accuracy,” she said.

Starting with Hazeldean genetics, and their performance recording group, Susie has been in Team Te Mania for the past 22 years.

“I have a progeny test herd, which is a group that is willing to do a massive amount of homework and recording, and the rest of the team benefit from that,” she said.

“And then we benefit from the rest of the team because they spread the genetics.”

TOUGH WORKOUT

SUSIE moved to her property, Gwalia, at Adelong in southern NSW in 1984 and, having lost her husband soon after, she has been running the operation for about 30 years.

She bred her herd up from poor quality stock inherited with the property, and now has 560 Angus breeding females, which are European Union-­accredited and registered with the Angus Australia commercial database. The herd calves in mid-July until the end of August, with a six-week calving the ultimate aim.

Te Mania supplies Susie with semen straw and new live sires each year, selecting those they both seek additional data on, and will benefit her herd.

Susie said joining time at Gwalia was far from a simple process, but manipulating the figures to choose sire lines was part of the job she enjoyed most.

“Te Mania choose the bulls to use on the place, and I get the elite of the young bulls, so figures can be drawn back to their sires,” she said.

“I also go through each age and select those pregnancy tested in the first cycle and put them with the best bulls.”

Steer calves are weaned at Adelong before being sent to a second block on the Murrumbidgee River to grow out.

CALM APPROACH

A LOW-stress handling course made a big difference to management, according to Susie and now calves are educated in the yards at weaning.

“We put them through the whole set up for about four days — four times first day, twice second day, and just once on third and fourth,” she said.

Heifer calves are kept on as replacements, with anything that did not reach the right weight for joining culled.

“I push them, making sure they have the best of the feed, and give them silage if it gets too wet and cold,” Susie said.

“I’ve come back from other feeds to just silage — there was too much work in it and I don’t think it did as much good as the plain silage.”

She refers to her first calving heifers as the “driving force” of her genetics.

“There is not much profit in an empty cow — fertility is king,” she said.

Heifers are mated naturally the first year, with second calvers and some mature animals artificially inseminated. This equates to about 200 heifers and 200 cows being AI’d a year.

“We tag them out in the paddock on their mothers, so we don’t have to bring them in to mark them and that has been a great innovation,” Susie said.

“And out of 220 heifers I would probably pull about 3 per cent, if that.”

BROKEN RECORD
RECORDING on-farm data started in exercise books well before Team Te Mania came along, and when referring to it now, Susie recalls it was fairly “primitive”.

But it was a clear indication that Susie was well aware you could not improve if you did not know where you were starting.

“When you look back through my breedplan reports, I have been making slow good progress in every estimated breeding value,” she said.

“I am now -5 for days to calving, -4.5 (days) for gestation length — that in a lot of people’s opinion is what drives fertility, and I have no problem with the fertility of this herd.

“And my marbling for the whole herd is +3 (sq cm), which is pretty good when the breed average is +1.5.”

The Gwalia herd also has figures above breed average for rib and rump fat and eye muscle area.

“I am also above average for heavy grain index, which is where our cattle have been bred for, so they last on grain for 360 days and they are the elite of the export market,” Susie said.

Proving that is indeed the case, Susie has been sending her steers to Rangers Valley feedlot in northern NSW since starting with Team Te Mania.

She sells them direct from August to January, when they reach more than 500kg, and last year all but three of her 220 steers made the cut.

 “It suits me absolutely ­because they buy them off the farm gate, with no agent or trucking fees,” she said.

FEED FOR THOUGHT

THE block of land on the Murrumbidgee River plays an ­important part in allowing Susie to prepare her steers for the feedlot while still running her large cow herd.

“It is a good investment backgrounding your own steers, and on paying off a property, and the next step is to do exactly the same again,” she said.

“And that is what Te Mania has done for me, enabled me to build up this really top cattle herd and pay off a block on the Murrumbidgee, and now I am looking for another one.

“I want to expand to 1000 breeders, currently running 500, so need another 80ha.”

Susie’s children and grandchildren all enjoy coming back to the farm to help out, and are essential in busy periods such as weaning and joining.

And she hopes to spend the next 20 years making sure they are all established with their own farming blocks.

“You want to think about not just the next generation, but the next generation and the next generation,” Susie said.

“It is getting tougher and tougher for people around the world to find jobs, especially young people, and to get a job they really enjoy.”

  • Team Te Mania member since 1995
  • Breedplan recorded, Angus Commercial Register
  • Johne’s status MAP MN2
  • EU accredited
  • CattleCare accredited
  • Calving period – Aug-Sep 

Chisholm Quad Bike Safety, Tumut & Adelong Times, July 8, 2016
A surprising real beef superpowerAustralia, reports Business.Nikkeipp, Japan – May 2014
Breed loyalty pays off at “Gwalia, by Jacinta Cummins, The Land – Summer Angus 2013
Tufft Kilmat for Notkottsproducktion by Ulrika Eriksson, Notkoff Magasine, Sweden 2013
Celebrating 2012 Australian Year of the Farmer: Cattle Crusader Susie Chisholm, Rural Women’s Network, December 2012
Susie steaks a claim, by Kim Woods, The Weekly Times – February 23, 2011


Susie Chisholm riding on: Susie musters cattle on her farm near Adelong in NSW. Photo by Jamie-Lee Oldfield, Weekly Times

2015 Chisholm 1 2015 Chisholm420 x 420 2015 Chisholm 1 2015 Chisholm 4 800pxl 2015 Gwalia (5)