Wayne Cooke aims to market 80% of his weaner steers in one line at Casino and finds the Charolais sired calves can achieve this. The Charolais sires calves have more colour uniformity aiding visual marketing more than other sires used in the past. The F1 cows have significant variation in colouration with the majority of calves exhibiting a beautiful soft cream colouration. Wayne and other breeders in the area with similar breeding programs can work together to market lines of cattle when larger numbers are required. Wayne commented “the uniformity that Charolais pass onto their progeny means that calves from many programs can be consolidated with the only real difference their earmark”.
Charolais offer many advantages to the Cooke Family breeding program located on the Richmond River just north of proclaimed beef capital Casino in Northern New South Wales. Wayne and Angela Cooke with Wayne’s parents Barry and Joan run 200 F1 Brahman Hereford breeders as well as a well-established piggery operation. Barry and Joan purchased the property in 1962. With the goal of breeding highly marketable weaners the Cookes have used Charolais for over twelve years now with great results. With a rainfall of 1270mm the Cooke Family can run their herd at high density on the 214 hectare property and Charolais have become a key component of their program.
The property has a range of soil types from riverbank loam to sandy soils on the higher country. Being located on the coastal side of the Great Dividing Range with high rainfall the country leaches nutrients and is copper deficient. Pastures include Rhodes Grass, paspalum and kikuyu that take advantage of the summer rainfall. Effluent from the piggery is spread on the property with recent additions of single super and sulphur to encourage pasture productivity on the property.
Temperatures in the region range from 0-5 degrees in winter to low forties in summer with high humidity making for challenging conditions for the breeding herd. The 200 F1 breeders suit the local area exceptionally well with Wayne commenting that “some breeders have lasted with full mouths until 17 years of age”. These large framed females have the ability to hold condition and retain a strong salvage value with Wayne quoting cull F1 females making $1,400 when sold in 2016. Cull cattle are sold through Casino saleyards 18km from the property. Wayne said “the Brahman Hereford F1 females have great mothering ability and the F1 Brahman females opened access to many markets looking for some content”.
Replacements are joined to a Limousin sire to calve as three year olds which is standard practice on the coast. They are then joined to Charolais for their subsequent calves. Calving starts in August with the goal to market these calves late March at the local George & Furhmann weaner sale held in Casino. This long running event attracted over 1821 European infused weaners in 2016 being the 41st annual sale. This sale is highly regarded and attracts repeat buyers from a large buying area. The Cooke weaners averaged 280kg liveweight at the 2016 sale.
Cows receive an annual drench, fluke treatment and 7in1 with calves vaccinated with 5in1. Although ticks are in the area no cattle are treated for ticks. Cows are fly tagged for Buffalo fly when required. The herd is supplemented with silage, their own molasses mix and calves are creep fed to assist with growth potential. For the first time Wayne is planting 16 acres for corn silage this year. Ryegrass is direct drilled with great success for feed and after grazing is finished, soy beans are direct drilled into the paddock.
Sires have been used from Temana, and Palgrove with Wayne looking for good temperament and ability to produce softer easy finishing progeny. Wayne leans towards a sire with strong muscle attributes as his females have plenty of frame. Adding the Charolais to the F1 Brahman Hereford captures both direct and maternal heterosis and makes for a highly productive breeding herd. The calves on their dams showed significant muscling, depth and growth rate with that all important softness of skin.
Wayne aims to market 80% of his weaner steers in one line at Casino and finds the Charolais sired calves can achieve this. The Charolais sires calves have more colour uniformity aiding visual marketing more than other sires used in the past. The F1 cows have significant variation in colouration with the majority of calves exhibiting a beautiful soft cream colouration. Lighter calves are retained and grown out if required to marketable weight.
Wayne and other breeders in the area with similar breeding programs can work together to market lines of cattle when larger numbers are required. Wayne commented “the uniformity that Charolais pass onto their progeny means that calves from many programs can be consolidated with the only real difference their earmark”. This ability is significant when orders are available that cannot be filled by one breeder.
Seeing the herd grazing in what has been a dry period, it is apparent that the Cooke Family program is achieving results with the calf drop extremely uniform and marketable. Harnessing heterosis and keeping the cow herd adapted to the local environment has provided a springboard for the success of the Charolais sires. Proof of the quality of the breeding program is Wayne and Angela’s children Riley and Ella, exhibited one of the Charolais sired calves to place first on the hook at the Lismore North Coast National Steer Show. Riley and Ella also purchased a Charolais Angus cross steer and this calf produced the champion carcase at Lismore. A picture on the wall shows Barry’s considerable success with their pigs at the Sydney Royal showing the family’s eye for quality livestock has been passed down the generations. Wayne is proud of the success of his calves with return buyers regularly operating on the properties annual draft at Casino and Charolais are a key component in this achievement.