Farm Update: July 2019
The weather pattern in our area has been near normal and our cows have not had to endure the extremes of weather (radical temperatures and excessive moisture) that cows in the Midwest and the East have had to deal with this spring. Calving couldn’t have gone better with absolutely no problems. We have several exceptional calves this spring but the two that really standout are heifers out of Kinnaber Leader 9th and Kenmar Leader 13B. Almost all the cows are already bred back and some of the calves we are expecting next year are sired by Mandalong Super Flag, Mollie’s Defender Adair, Lone Pine Grand Society (bred to a Mandalong Super Flag daughter), and Columbus.
Quarterly Topic: Australian Shorthorn Travels & Dubbo 2019
I have been fortunate to travel to Australia many times (my favorite country to visit) but on this occasion I targeted the National Shorthorn Bull Show and Sale as my top priority.
Readers of my articles know I am both a friend and admirer of Rick Pisaturo, owner of the Mandalong Stud, so he was our first stop since he only lives an hour’s drive from the Sydney Airport. For those readers not familiar with Rick I will reference an earlier Shorthorn Bulletin that I wrote (Volume 2 Issue 2A), which describes his many accomplishments. He is always extremely gracious and has given me unprecedented access to his Shorthorn records which has allowed me to really understand how he formulated his Shorthorn herd and developed his unique approach to breeding cattle. At 97 he is still doing great even driving us to lunch. He maintains an interest in Shorthorns and he wanted me to give him feedback on a particular Shorthorn bull at the Dubbo sale.
He continues to travel, with China being his favorite country to visit. I have had many interesting discussions with him regarding the breeding of Shorthorns and the direction the Shorthorn breed has taken. Suffice it to say that Rick does not like little cattle and believes that any trend toward smaller Shorthorns will take us back to the “Belt Buckle” days of the 50’s and 60’s. It is interesting to note that Rick was recently quoted on Steer Planet regarding frame size. He has always believed that to maintain cow size breeders need to use bulls at least 1-1 1/2 frame scores higher than their cows. I am in total agreement with him on those points. If readers do not have copies of his two books I strongly recommend their purchase. “Stud Beef Cattle Breeding & Common Sense” is a guide to how to succeed in the production of purebred cattle. “Australia, My Love” describes Rick’s journey from growing up in Italy, to a POW in WW II, to being a successful businessman, to dominating the Shorthorn breed in Australia, to receiving Australia’s highest civilian award-“Order of Australia”. They can be purchased directly at www.rickpisaturo.com.au. Currently Rick continues to pursue his interest in race horses while managing his company—Mandalong Investments.
From Rick’s we traveled toward Dubbo but I would be amiss without mentioning our stop to visit with Andrea Falls, who is the daughter of Peter Falls (Malton Shorthorns) and her partner Dan Toynton to see their sheep operation in the Larras Lee area of New South Wales. Their property is located about an hour from Dubbo and they are partners with Dan’s parents, Ian & Merryl along with Dan’s brother Mark, in a large sheep operation that produces both suckler lambs and finished market lambs. Andrea was kind enough to invite us to stay at her and Dan’s place where Dan filled us in on both the intricacies and difficulties of producing and marketing sheep in Australia. Currently the lamb market there is very good for lambs even with the fallout from the continuing drought. Having raised Suffolk sheep for 40 years myself (we sold our flock last year), the production model used by Australian sheep breeders is quite different but has to be admired for its productivity and efficiency.
This year there were 131 Shorthorn bulls entered in the Dubbo National Bull Show and Sale. There was a lot of apprehension in the sale barn before the show and sale because of the drought that has been gripping Australia for almost 3 years. This has caused a tremendous reduction in cow numbers and depressed market prices because an inordinate number of cattle are being sold off. Simply put, there are not as many jobs for bulls as there were three years ago. At Dubbo all bulls were weighed with most falling in a range of 1600-2300# at not quite 2 years of age. Pre-sale examinations included mouthing (2 or 4 tooth) and scrotal measurements, along with scanning for rump, rib, and EMA (eye muscle area). EBVs (Estimated Breed Values) that correlate with the Shorthorn Group Breed Plan were available in the sale catalog. Australian EBVs are quite similar to EPDs in the USA with a slightly different emphasis. On average the Australian Shorthorn bulls were larger than what would be seen at an American Shorthorn bull sale. Certain Australian Shorthorn breeders are definitely propagandizing the “smaller is better model” but significant push back, by many breeders in Australia, has emerged. Even in the USA the mantra of “smaller is better” model is being questioned as more research delineates the problems that can be associated with taking this downsizing approach to breeding Shorthorns.
This year’s Judge was Peter Falls (Malton Shorthorns) who I mentioned earlier. He judged the Canadian Western Agribition Shorthorn Show a couple of years ago and will be the Judge for the Royal Melbourne Shorthorn Show in September that will be a part of the World Shorthorn Congress this year. Placing that many bulls in a National Show and Sale is challenging and fraught with difficulties—certainly a job I would not want. Peter was up to the job though, and moved through bull evaluations combining careful analysis with efficiency. I will not discuss placings as ultimately it is the buyer that is the judge. There were definitely some quality bulls in the sale but as any cattle breeder knows “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”. Unfortunately sale results mirrored the downbeat cattle market as most Shorthorn breeders had anticipated. The clearance rate (percentage sold) was 47% with an average sale price of US$4600.00. It should be mentioned that the sale had a floor of US$2800.00.
Calrossy Anglican School-Kamilaroi Shorthorns
I want to highlight the Kamilaroi Shorthorn program because it sets a standard of excellence for the Shorthorn breed while incorporating a true educational experience. Located in Tamworth New South Wales, Calrossy Anglican School’s Kamilaroi Shorthorn Stud is a model for how to cultivate interest in Shorthorns while developing life skills in students. Professionally run by Geoff Nielson, the Kamilaroi Shorthorn herd has been a tremendous success. On a previous trip to Australia I had visited the Calrossy Anglican School’s Tangara Farm because I was interested in seeing the dam of Kamilaroi Meat Packer who is now seventeen and will calve again in September. During that visit I had the opportunity to discuss the Calrossy breeding program with Geoff so it was with great anticipation that I went to the Dubbo Show and Sale to view the Calrossy bull consignment. I was not disappointed. They had an exceptional set of six bulls that placed high throughout the show with one being reserve champion. Buyers obviously saw the same thing as I did as all six bulls sold for a considerable amount of money. The displaying and presentation of the bulls was second to none and was a tribute to the students of the Calrossy Cattle Team under the direction of Geoff with the support of his wife Bron. In today’s world it is refreshing to see such a positive light shone on the Shorthorn breed and the cattle industry as a whole. The Kamilaroi herd will be part of the 2019 World Shorthorn Congress tour.
When I was last in Australia everything was coming up green in the pastures and in the cattle business. This time it was different because of the drought. Leaving Dubbo we headed to the Finley operation of Malton Shorthorns owned by Peter Falls and his family. Previously we had visited their South Burrabogie facility but drought has had such an impact on the Malton herd there are no cattle currently there. They have been moved to Tasmania, South Australia, or to the Finley operation, or sold. This was necessitated by the lack of feed and sky rocketing hay costs (if hay can be located). Presently the Malton Shorthorns at Finley are being fed a mixed ration in more of a feedlot setting rather than being in a typical grazing setting. While there I had the chance to see the Bayview Unique bull again and compare how he had changed since I saw him at Spencer Family Shorthorns two and half years ago.
During the three days we stayed with Peter Falls he took us to a major Merino sheep show in Hay NSW which also houses the Shear Outback Museum which is well worth a visit. We did stop at Peter’s South Burrabogie property to view the stock yards he is building and I can report there was some semblance of green and hope. There has recently been a bit of rain in this area of Australia and Peter is optimistic that he may be able to return some young stock there in the next month or two. This contrasts with the videos his daughter Andrea sent me in February that could have been filmed during the 1930’s dustbowl in Texas and Oklahoma.
We had the opportunity to visit the towns of Moama and Echuca near the Murray River. At Echuca, which is essentially a Murray River tourist town, Peter took us to lunch with Warrick and Andrea Ham who are partners in the Ham Family Shorthorn operation. Later we went to Warrick’s farm to view his Shorthorns and a particular young Shorthorn bull he is high on. Warrick also took us to see a historic shearing shed on his property that was impressive both in its size and scope. The Ham Family have 2000 ewes so a small section of the shed is still used for shearing. It is worth noting that both Ham Family Shorthorns and the shearing shed will be part of the World Shorthorn Congress tour in September/October, 2019.
Visiting Australia again, attending the Dubbo Shorthorn Show and Sale, and visiting Shorthorn friends only reminds me of how lucky I am to be involved with the Shorthorn breed. The opportunities to meet with Shorthorn breeders throughout the world the last several years has given me new insight into where the breed is today relative to the whole cattle business. Tremendous opportunities exist for Shorthorn breeders but only if they find the correct niche to fill. Without proper selection and promotion, Shorthorns will have a difficult time competing in the tsunami coming in the form of animal rights, artificial meat, gene editing, branded beef, “cookie cutter” composite cattle, and government regulation. Hopefully the resilience of the Shorthorn breed will win out.
Shorthorn Bulletin Topic for Volume 4 Issue 4: Diminished Shorthorn Genetic Diversity: Are We Headed For A Crash?
Joseph Schallberger, DVM, PhD
Whispering Hills Farm
Member Academy of Veterinary Consultants