A selection focus on good temperament, fast growth, low birthweight and high fertility underpins Karowara Pty Ltd's production of an all-round top quality Angus steer "package".
And the company's efforts in making continual herd genetic improvements are being recognised in the market, as export-focused processors keenly and consistently seek-out its steers - and pay a premium for them.
Karowara, owned by an Adelaide-based family, operates four properties spanning 6500 hectares around Naracoorte and Langkoop.
These farms are managed by Peter Ker, with staff members Chris McBain, Jess Thomson, Lindsay Cadzow and Amanda Findlay.
They feature regularly in saleyard reports, with lines of their Pathfinder-blood Karowara Angus steers hitting the top of the market.
Some highlights from 2020 sales at the Naracoorte Regional Livestock Exchange included achieving $3.98 per kilogram - or $2346/head - in June for steers weighing 589kg that were grass-fed and finished on irrigated lucerne. At the same sale, feedlot heifers weighing 471kg fetched $3.80kg - or $1791/head.
Then in August, a pen of 480kg steers that were 20-months-old fetched $4.15/kg - or $1993/head - and heavy steers were bid to $4.35kg - or $2752/head.
Karowara runs 700 purebred Angus cows mated to Angus bulls from Nick and Sarah Moyle's Pathfinder Angus stud.
It also has a 5900-head self-replacing Dohne sheep flock, half of which are mated to White Suffolks for prime lamb production. There is also about 500ha of winter cropping.
Mr Ker said their autumn and spring-drop steers were mostly bought through the saleyards by Victorian processors for premium export markets, typically targeting the restaurant trade.
"These buyers tend to pay us a premium over grid prices," he said.
"And they actively seek our cattle when our agent lets them know they are coming on to the market.
"Aside from the general Angus premium they are prepared to pay, our regular buyers are also willing to spend extra on the high-performing steers we breed from Pathfinder bloodlines that meet their carcase requirements."
Mr Ker said the Moyle family's Pathfinder stud, based in Gazette Victoria, bred consistent lines of well structured, high growth and very fertile Angus cattle that also had all the necessary carcase eating quality traits.
He said their bulls ticked all the boxes for commercial beef producers and met the requirements of their markets - whether that was finishing, lotfeeding or processing.
"I attend the stud's field day to assess the bulls visually and then analyse the catalogue for Estimated Breeding Values (EBVs) and indexes for 600 and 400-day growth, growth rate on grass, feedlot performance and low birthweight," he said.
"My goal is to have a frame 'five' cow that is well muscled, has depth and length of body while keeping femininity, is structurally correct and produces a calf each year.
"The genetic improvements we are making from the Pathfinder bloodlines are lifting the productivity of our herd and we can turn-off heavier steers at a younger age.
"Seven years ago it took us 2.5 years to get steers to 550kg, but now we are turning these off from 15-16 months-old.
"We can also carry extra cows, so we are actually making more money per hectare from the cattle enterprise as a whole."
Karowara mates its Angus cows in both autumn and spring to split calving on to native and improved grass-based pastures and be able to then sell stock year-round.
There is about 100ha of land devoted to pivots, where lucerne is irrigated to finish steers for 80-100 days to reach liveweights of about 520-550kg.
About half of the annual heifer drop is retained for breeding and the remainder sold at weights of 450-490kg into feedlots - or finished on grass.
This makes them an ideal package for lotfeeders, who can get their margin from the extra growth.
"We have set up good markets for all of our cattle classes and we often get the top returns because we use top genetics," Mr Ker said.
"Careful bull selection is reflected in how our commercial Angus enterprise performs and we are achieving very consistent lines of cattle that are recognised as top of the range by buyers."
Mr Ker said another major advantage of using Pathfinder genetics was the cattle had an excellent temperament, making them easy and safe to manage.
"Using low stress animal handling techniques is a key aim at the Karowara properties and the Pathfinder bulls give us progeny that really responds to this approach," he said.
"Calves are weaned at 10-months-old, then fed on hay and walked through yards daily - so they are regularly handled by people and horses.
"This is an advantage when they are entering feedlots.
"Having quiet cattle is also important from a staff occupational health and safety perspective."
Mr Ker said he was confident going into 2021 that this would continue to be a "boom time" for cattle producers.
"Market prices have been huge and many people - especially in the north - are rebuilding cow numbers," he said.
"We just hope that export markets continue to hold-up in the medium and longer-term, and that prices remain at a level that rewards us for our efforts in improving stock quality."
The story SA company reaps the rewards of its investment in top Angus genetics first appeared on Stock Journal.