John and Barbara Dunnet, Scotts River WA have found Charolais cross calves perform highly in their grass fed production system. With the feedback from their grassfed brand, John and Barbara have found the Charolais sires have been the most consistent over their type of cattle and produce great calves. When you own a property with the diversity of Milyeanup its pleasing to see Charolais can deliver time and time again. The growth and muscle expression of the Milyeanup calves was exceptional and this followed through to the trade cattle on the farm. Although many breeds are fed, the Charolais influenced cattle had the capability to utilise the exceptional pastures to pack a punch with their development.
The coastal plains of Scott River in Western Australia’s Deep South west provide an ideal environment for Charolais sired calves to flourish. John and Barbara Dunnet Trading as Milyeanup Pastoral Company have developed their Milyeanup property to a high standard and Charolais have been a key component for over 16 years. With a rainfall of 1,000mm a year and mild seasons Milyeanup provides an ideal environment for the Charolais cross to express their growth to full advantage.
Milyeanup fronts the southern ocean and is 20 kilometres as the crow flies from Augusta, the most south western point of Western Australia. The Scott River region is 300km south of Perth. To the immediate northwest of the property are the forests including the massive jarrah and karri trees that the west is renowned for.
John and Barbara farm just over 2,000 hectares that includes some coastal scrub. Their enterprise includes 200 hectares of pivot irrigation which is invaluable providing year round supply to their established beef brand, Black Point Grassfed Beef. Black Point is a local surfing point near the property which is less than 2 kilometres to the southern ocean.
Both John and Barbara are 4th generation farmers and the last 35 years have seen them grow a huge range of crops including wheat, barley, hemp, potatoes, canola and they’ve also run sheep for wool and lambs, but they have now focused their attention on producing the best quality grass fed beef. They love working with their animals and strive for continuous improvement with the production systems, raising the animals so that the meat is healthy and safe for humans (and incredibly tasty!). They have implemented soil management programs that manage, replenish and improve the soil biology and fertility which leads to high quality pasture and a healthy environment.
John explained his family relocated from the west coast of South Australia walking their sheep across the Nullarbor Plains. In 1906 his family came to Nannup in the South West and they acquired a coastal run in 1908. In summer the dairy cows were dried off and walked on horseback the 80 kilometres to the summer grazing available on the coastal plains. This was an annual practise until 45 years ago.
In 1968 John and his brother received by ballot a conditional purchase block at Scott River requiring them to clear and fence 10% of the block annually. The Dunnets shifted to Scott River in the early 1980s and have developed their property into a highly productive unit.
John and Barbara first introduced Charolais sires in 1990. The neighbours were sceptical, however the introduction has been highly successful. In fact many of the neighbours are now using Charolais themselves. The breeding herd runs at 500 cows which initially was the favoured F1 Dairy cross but more recently John and Barbara are transitioning to a more beef based breeder. The Charolais was initially introduced to provide more growth and muscle in the dairy cross females and these bulls mate the majority of the breeding herd. Some breeders are joined to Angus or Murray Grey sires to produce replacement females. Some 700 trade cattle are purchased and finished to supply their brand.
In the early 1990’s a centre pivot was installed to grow seed potatoes for Simplot. When the contracts for the potatoes finished the country was returned to pasture and now provides the family with year round grazing for their Black Point Grassfed Beef brand. There are now five pivots covering an area of approximately 200 hectares which is cell grazed on rotation. Barbara quoted that “irrigation in the Scott river region is five times more efficient than the warmer Gingin area north of Perth due to the milder climate”. Although the region has an extended growing season with its milder seasons the pivots are essential to turning off quality grassfed trade cattle at a carcass weight of 280kg.
Black Point Grassfed Beef is available at the Capel Butchery and also is used in Nannup Pies who have been invited to exhibit at the next Perth Royal Show. The brand has also been available at some outlets in Perth. John and Barbara are now utilising an external marketing company to increase the outlets for their premium brand. Feedback on their product has been outstanding.
John and Barbara are passionate about providing a clean green product and use no hormones and try to limit the use of sprays and chemicals. To this end they have used trace elements such as Cobalt, Selenium and Copper to increase production and Barbara explained how their “biological based” system looked after the soil. Sprays such as liquid Dolomite is used to get balances right and both dolomite and lime are applied to get ph balances right. When you drive through the property and see beautiful pastures supporting obviously healthy contented cattle it is obvious that John and Barbara’s strategy is paying dividends.
Pastures are clover and rye based with lots of kikuyu common in coastal locations. Perennial pastures are established under the pivots and chicory is being trialed. The Dunnets working with Hi-Tech Ag Solutions have tissue tested pastures and the chicory has excelled for trace mineral content due to its deep rooting ability.
Fertiliser and humates are applied through the pivot irrigation. Humates, which are composed of various forms of carbon, are naturally occurring material that is very rich in humified organic matter and humic substances. Humates are now recognized as the single most productive input in sustainable agriculture.
The Dunnets have mapped their soil types and manage these to achieve the best outcomes. Barbara mentioned there are 42 different soil types in the area. The property has been fenced into 45 paddocks under the pivots and 19 paddocks in the dry land grazing. A central laneway with an all-weather gravelled main laneway assists in the management of the property. Drainage work has been done with purpose built spoon contour drains allowing better pasture utilisation. John and Barbara employ a full time manager on the farm.
Charolais sires have come from the old Knutsford Grassfed Trials and Kooyong Charolais. John and Barbara prefer a compact type of sire to achieve earlier finishing and use EBV’s when available to make sire selections for the herd.
The beef herd is focussed on an autumn calving, and weaned calves can be either sold direct or utilised in the Black Point brand. Sires are multi joined with 2 to 3 sires per mob. Cattle are only drenched if required. Cull cattle are sold through local processing plants in the South West.
Trade cattle are purchased from the Great Southern region of Western Australia. The trade cattle are turned off when they are 18 to 24 months when they are approximately 280kg dressed weight. (The extra age of the Trade weight cattle increases the flavour of the meat). Barbara and John have found over the years that cattle from different regions with mineral deficiencies have had varying temperaments supporting their desire to balance their soil and pasture with the best available mineral accessibility. John said that “cattle do well in the region due to the milder climate and clean disease free area”.
With the feedback from their grassfed brand, John and Barbara have found the Charolais sires have been the most consistent over their type of cattle and produce great calves. When you own a property with the diversity of Milyeanup its pleasing to see Charolais can deliver time and time again. The growth and muscle expression of the Milyeanup calves was exceptional and this followed through to the trade cattle on the farm. Although many breeds are fed, the Charolais influenced cattle had the capability to utilise the exceptional pastures to pack a punch with their development.
The Milyeanup property is a credit to John and Barbara’s development and management strategy and their use of Charolais has been highly successful. When you feed into your own brand, quality and consistency is crucial and the success of Black Point is testament to John and Barbara’s management skills and passion.