Girl Power – Focus on the female.
Go to any big breed society show and sale and you will find a consistent theme. As soon as you step inside you soon realise that this is all about the bull (in more ways than one ;-)). “This bull is top 5% growth rate”, “this one is top 1%.” “This is a marbling bull”, “this one has the best milk numbers” but worst of all is the bull that will do everything – maternal, terminal, milk and muscle – it probably has a cure for corona virus! The reality is that a lack of growth rate or individual yield per animal is not what is costing the suckler beef producer today. Your cost comes from your cows and their ability to bring a marketable calf year in year out, problem free. This is why we focus on maternal cows at Phepson Angus.
NO SECOND CHANCES. Our cows must breed in 3 cycles without the crutches of winter housing or high energy feed or they are shipped. We recently sold 15 in calf cows and a bull to a customer looking to expand his herd. When we pregnancy tested them 14 of the 15 were due within a month of each other and the other was only one more cycle away. You hear of people calving over 3 months or more. A calf born 90 days later than your first is already behind by over 100 kilos before it even starts. It really doesn’t matter what the growth rate is when your late calves are that far behind. Tighter calving saves on labour, it saves on inputs and makes your management of cohorts much easier. That is why fertility is recognised as the number one trait for the profitability of a suckler herd and that is why it is the number one focus here at Phepson Angus. It’s the cow not the bull that drives your profitability. By only selecting bulls from cows that pass our tests we ensure they will breed cows for our customers that will work for them and their business.
We test our cattle in our environment so that they will work for you in your operation
At calving time we take into account cow temperament, udder score, foot/leg/skeletal structure, calving ease and calf vigour. Body condition is monitored throughout the year to observe how the cattle respond to the test of outwintering on a diet of 100% rough forage. Our cows fit this system. Cows that don’t fit this system are removed, leaving us with a gene pool of extremely efficient, low maintenance cattle that thrive in our environment – and yours. We have found over time that culling is getting harder and harder as we move towards our ideal cow and so from time to time we do have females to sell that we have full confidence in.
They gain condition on spring and summer grass, calve outside with ease, provide enough, but not excessive amounts of milk to raise their calf; ensuring they have reserves to see them through the winter. Our cows are of moderate frame size but selected for large capacity making them extremely efficient forage converters.
Carefully selected bulls are run with the cows for just 60 days in late summer. We pride ourselves on high levels of fertility in our cows; enabling us to calve in a tight block with little requirement for human intervention.
The cows lose some condition over the winter; but are able to sustain their own maintenance requirements whilst still suckling a calf through the winter on forage alone; a credit to the performance of the genetics in this herd. This makes a profitable cow.
It may surprise you to hear that our bulls are tested just as much as our cows. We do not have pampered bulls – pampered bulls are expensive to run. Our bulls are outwintered on a diet of 100% forage just like our cows, they never see grain, but they maintain plenty of quality. We monitor our bulls closely over their first winter after weaning – this is a crucial test for the bulls to see if they fit our system. They might wean heavy but it’s how they come through a winter with no milk that tells us about their maintenance requirements. It’s by this time of year at 20-22 months that we really know what they are made of and select those that meet our standards as sale bulls.