SOUTH East beef producer John Andre believes a black baldy cow is the number one beef breeding female for milk production, mothering ability and doing-ability.
He has been using Herefords and Angus in a crossbreeding program for more than 25 years on Ceres, the property now run by son Peter at Furner.
The March-April calving herd comprises 800 breeding females - equally divided between red and black coloured females.
Angus bulls are mated to red coloured cattle and Herefords to black cattle.
The resulting hybrid vigour in the progeny helps them achieve improved weight gains with their whole-of-life weight gain target of about 1 kilogram a day.
This is important to enable them to sell their cattle at a younger age, and also for achieving good meat eating quality.
They have gradually brought forward the selling age of their steers, which are sold over-hooks into the EU market at under two years rather than three-year-old Jap Ox bullocks at about the same weights.
Last year, having received just 500 millimetres of their 660mm annual rainfall, they sold earlier again.
Their 20-month-old steers still averaged 338kg carcaseweight.
"The lack of rainfall and pressure on feed saw us turn off the steers in November-December rather than January-February but it worked well getting our next year's drop onto the irrigation earlier," Mr Andre said. "We'll probably do it every year now."
The surplus to replacement heifers - about half of the heifer drop - are sold at 10 to 11 months on the MSA grid.
Mr Andre's late father bought his first Hereford cows in 1953 from a reduction sale held by the Wright family at Wallamumbi, NSW.
Their first target market was selling vealers in Millicent.
In the 1960s the Andres introduced Friesians for added milk and height but this was short lived, and this idea was discarded after five or six seasons.
"We didn't trust they had the eating quality and they were hungry, big-framed cows," he said.
The first Angus bulls were introduced into the Ceres herd in 1988 over heifers from Te Mania and Lawsons studs, but this has since grown to a much larger proportion of the herd.
"We tend to mate the reds to Angus and the blacks to Herefords, but into the future we might need to look at running a straight Hereford and straight Angus herd to then cross with," he said.
For the past nine years sires have been bought from John's son-in-law Tim Bailey, who runs the Wimberina stud at Penola.
"They have good carcase quality and carcase figures," he said.
The Andres have used a range of SA studs for their Poll Hereford sire battery over the years, including Warrensville, Markowen, and Spotshill.
They are looking for moderate birthweight, high 600-day growth and high eye muscle area Breedplan figures but with the lower accuracy of many young Hereford bulls, visual appraisal is highly important.
"We also look through the pedigree at the sire and grandsires," Mr Andre said.
He says the EU market has been good for them as another marketing option, often offering a significant premium over other markets.
Calves are weaned in November, and as soon as possible put on summer crops under irrigation.
They have two centre pivots - one covering about 50 hectares and another about 100ha - which are divided into small cells.
A third of the larger pivot is under lucerne to finish prime lambs, but the remaining area is Subzero brassica, where the calves are run to maintain their weight gain over summer.