Production

Consistency hallmark of 60 year cattle breeding career

James Nason, 23/06/2011

Producer focus: Ian and Jane Murray, Kindee Pastoral Company, Injune

Ian Murray, Kindee Pastoral Comany, Injune.A difference of just 0.3 kilograms in the average weight of their last two annual weaner steer drops tells the story of consistency that Ian and Jane Murray have strived to achieve in their 60 year cattle breeding career.

The Murrays operate a commercial cattle breeding enterprise on two properties comprising improved Brigalow and Bottletree country near Injune and Taroom in Southern Queensland.

They run a Santa Gertrudis breeding herd based on primarily Yarrawonga Waco bloodlines on their Injune property, Muya, and a Santa Gertrudis/Charolais cross breeding herd based on Yarrawonga Waco and Palgrove bloodlines on their Taroom property, Cowangah.

The properties are run as individual entities but both are geared to breeding and turning off steers and non-replacement females as weaners.

In a unique marketing strategy the Murrays sell their annual weaner turnoff in one weekly store sale at Roma every July.

The annual run of Kindee Pastoral Company weaners has become a fixture on the annual Roma store sale calendar for the past 16 years, giving buyers the chance to bid on a consistent line of 1000 plus Santa and Santa cross weaners at the same sale each year.

Cattle from the Kindee draft often top the sales in which they sell at Roma, Australia’s largest store cattle selling centre.

The comparative similarity in average weights of the annual weaner mobs produced by Kindee underlines the almost factory-like consistency the Murrays have achieved in their operation.

In the past two years there was a difference of just 0.3kg between the average weights of the Santa Gertrudis weaner steer mobs turned off by Kindee from one year to the next.

For the Santa/Charolais component of their annual weaner drafts, the difference in average weights was just 2.4kg.

Asked to explain the reason behind that consistency, Mr Murray, a former wheat and beef cattle producer from North Star in northern NSW, prefers to deflect any credit to the “perfect buffel grass beef producing country” at Taroom and Injune he says he was fortunate enough to buy 32 years and 25 years ago respectively.

“You can cover up a lot of faults with good country. We’re not perfect cattle people, and you can cover a lot of faults with good country,” he said.

Mr Murray said he spent 10 years in the 1970s looking for quality cattle country in Queensland, and held out during the good buying opportunities presented by the beef price slump until he found just what he was looking for.

“You could buy country for almost nothing, but I just never bought anything until I saw something I liked, and then I never let it out of my sight.

“When I came from NSW I didn’t understand the real quality of the type of country these cattle are on. The quality of the country is where it all is, and that has just been a fluke for us.”

As Mr Murray talks about cattle and beef production, three principles emerge that explain his no-fuss approach to producing cattle.

The first is a zero-tolerance culling strategy. “We breed them to a standard, and they have got to stop at that standard, or their mothers go.” Temperament is the number one criteria, followed by conformation. He describes his preferred type as “big and square, heavy-boned, quiet cattle with a good top line”. The strict culling strategy sometimes extends to bulls. “This year we had one Santa Gertrudis bull, not a Yarrawonga brand, that did not come up to standard. We were short of bulls, but we didn’t put him out. That is how strict we are.  If the bulls don’t come up to scratch the next year, they don’t get used.”

The second is an unswerving commitment to conservative stocking practices. “When you don’t overstock your country, you are looking after your country, and when you sell the few calves you’ve got you are looking after your bank balance as well, because they are a lot better. They have not been overstocked and the mum has not been starving. Some people like to jam their country down and keep it flat, but we have never been fully stocked.”

The third relates to breeding, and buying the best genetics possible.  “We can’t afford to buy the top bulls, but we buy what we like, and what fits our herd. We don’t go in with any set amount of brass, we buy what we like. There is no good buying a bull because he is $1000, and his mate alongside him is $2000. You may as well buy the one you like.”

One notable constant throughout the Murray’s cattle breeding career has been their association with the Bassingthwaighte family’s Yarrawonga Waco stud at Wallumbilla. Mr Murray travelled from North Star to buy Santa Gertrudis bulls to cross with his then Hereford herd at the very first Yarrawonga bull sale in 1959. His operation has purchased bulls at every Yarrawonga sale since, and in 2009 he was given the honour of officially opening the stud’s 50th annual bull sale.

This year’s draft of Kindee Pastoral Company weaners will sell through Watkins and Co at the weekly Roma Store sale on Tuesday July 5. The draft will comprise 800 Santa and Santa/Charolais weaner steers and 400 Santa and Santa/Charolais weaner heifers.

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