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Weering - Chirnside Agriculture, Inverleigh VIC (Western)

BACKGROUNDING steers for a feedlot 1500 kilometres away might sound like madness to many, but for  Victorian breeder Scott Chirnside it is the perfect fit for his enterprise.

The target market for Mr Chirnside’s breeding and backgrounding enterprise is Rangers Valley feedlot at Glen Innes in NSW. Mr Chirnside, who runs the enterprise with his wife Deb and his sister Anne, selected Rangers Valley as they believe the feedlot values quality Angus genetics with high performance figures and marbling quality.

The Chirnsides run 430 Angus cows, and at any stage have about 800 head of cattle on their property  “Weering” at Inverleigh, west of Geelong, Vic.  They aim to send their Te Mania-blood steers to the Rangers Valley feedlot when they are 14 months old and weigh from 450 kilograms to 500kg.

“We are among a lot of Te Mania clients, which breed high performance cattle, who will send their cattle that far north because there are very few feedlots in Victoria,” Mr Chirnside said.

“Rangers Valley seek out the better performing, better quality Angus cattle sporting better figures such as high marbling and good eye muscle area as they know they will perform,” he said.

“This whole equation is about knowing how cattle will perform from good genetics and what goes down their throat.” Mr Chirnside said the main aim of his operation was to provide the feedlot with “the right article, at the right time of year, and in the ideal situation, earlier than everyone else”. He said given the massive surge of cattle entering the market in late spring, his aim was to send the first draft of steers to the feedlot in late July and the second draft in August to beat the peak.

To meet this timeframe cows are joined in late September over an eightweek period, and heifers are joined over a 10-week period. the bull to female ratio is 1:50. As the Chirnsides also run a large scale cropping operation bull selection is important. “We don’t have time to mess around with the cattle and calving ease is paramount,” Mr Chirnside said. Depending on the season, dry cows are given another chance with the bulls again in autumn or they are sold.

The cows begin calving from July. The calves are weaned at 11 months by contractor Jack Briscoe, Geelong.  Mr Briscoe trains the calves straight off their mothers in the yards to adjust them to their new feeding situation.

“The young stock need to be trained by a livestock contractor as they need to quieten down and get used to dogs and people before they go to the feedlot,” Mr Chirnside said.

“They need this training early on because young cattle once they are weaned will just run around the paddock for a month if they aren’t trained to feed,” he said.

Mr Chirnside said the timing of weaning also suited their cropping operation for feed availability. The week after they are weaned the calves are trained to use trough feeders and are then put onto available pastures. The heavier end of the steers remain on the feeders for three to four weeks while the smaller steers remain on it for eight to nine weeks.

Mr Chirnside said the steers are fed a three kilogram ration of milled grain and oaten hay each day in the trough.

“We really want them to eat as much as they can because we want them to have a daily weight gain of 1.5 kilograms a head,” he said.

“They have to have that ration intake to meet that target.”

The grain used is a byproduct from their own property as is the oaten hay. Every three years they sow 20 to 30 hectares of oats for hay production. The hay and milled grain is mixed in a Keenan mixer wagon and to ensure the steers are getting the correct fibre intake the chop length is 100 millimetres for the oaten hay. This is about the width of a steer’s mouth.

“In western Victoria in winter it can get very wet and the grass can carry a high amount of moisture so it is really important we get the fibre down their throats in the feed ration,” Mr Chirnside said.

The price target for the steers is at least $1000 a head. Mr Chirnside said some people may think it is an expensive process preparing and feeding steers daily, but he believes it is a system that is predictable.

“In a tough climate full of variables your business needs to be predictable,” he said.

Story courtesy of The Land, by Cara Jeffrey, July 2012 

  • Calving: Autumn and Spring
  • Joined Team Te Mania: 2012