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Tonga Station, Mark and Louise Calvert-Jones, Mansfield VIC (Central)

A commercial Angus herd uses the best genetics available, writes GEMMA GADD, The Weekly Times Stud Beef 2012

IN his own words, the pastures on Tonga Station, near Mansfield , where Tony Scott manages a herd of 900 Angus females, are “steaming away” after a long, cold winter.

In fact, “steaming away” is an apt description for the pace with which much of the work on the property is carried out, and the progress the herd has made since becoming a Team Te Mania member in 2005.

Owned by Mark and Louise Calvert-Jones, the commercial herd has grown from 550 females to join more than 900 spring-calving cows and heifers this year, all to Te Mania Angus sires.

Tonga Station was already using Te Mania Angus bulls but, since joining Team Te Mania, Mr Scott has witnessed improvement in several key areas.  “Calving is easier and our frame is getting better and better every year,” Mr Scott said.
“Generally, we are seeking a bigger frame, but that’s not all we are chasing, we’re also after the right structure; decent-sized hips, straight across the back, good feet, the whole package.”

Incorporating top estimated breeding values “goes without saying” when using Te Mania sires, and the proof is in the cattle, he said.
But what many may not realise is the level of scrutiny Team Te Mania members face before joining.

“Te Mania assesses all our cattle – all of them – and looks at feet, teats, back, markings and especially temperament,” Mr Scott said.
All heifers are graded from one to five; ones and twos enter the breeding program, while fours and fives are usually sold.

This was also how Team Te Mania and its members determined which bulls were joined to which females for the best genetic improvement, Mr Scott said.  “Basically, we are after as good an animal, with the figures, as you can get; but, up here, she must have fertility, calving ease and calves with growth.”

All the cattle are synchronised for joining which involves yarding cattle three times in nine days.  Although this increases labour, improved conception rates made up for it, Mr Scott said.  They achieve a strike rate of 65 per cent using one-time artificial insemination on the heifers, which lifts to 80-90 per cent after the back-up bull goes in.  “With the cows, our highest rate yet (to one-time AI) has been 73 per cent and, after the mop-up bull went in, we ended up with 97 per cent in one mob of 200,” Mr Scott said.

Tonga Station aims to turn off spring-drop steers the following Christmas at 450-550kg for either the domestic trade or feedlot entry.
“We have to acknowledge that we are price takers – so we are focused on getting the best price we can and the most kilos we can as fast as possible,” Mr Scott said.

“And, if you can produce a good line of cattle other people might be interested in, you keep your options open.”
While this spring has been a vast improvement on past years, a colder-than-normal winter has left some spring calves lagging – until now, that is.

“We’ve got the sunshine, we’ve got plenty of grass to do silage and hay, things are looking good,” Mr Scott said.

  • Calving Period – Aug-Sep
  • No of Breeders – 900