Herefords triumph in 2017 RASV heifer challenge

A whiteface stud focused on balancing maternal and carcase traits has stormed home to win the prestigious 2017 RASV Heifer Challenge.

Tarcombe Hereford and Poll Herefords, owned by the Hayes family at Ruffy in North-East Victoria, was judged the winner by industry consultant Alex McDonald from 50 seedstock herds.

The sixth annual Challenge carried $4500 in prize money and recognises excellence in herd replacement females in seed stock operations.

It was held in conjunction with the 2017 Stock and Land Beef Week Field Days on January 27 to February 4 2017, with the winners announced at a gala dinner at Bendigo on February 8 2017.

The reserve champion team was from Murdeduke Angus, Winchelsea, Vic.

Teams of pregnancy-tested-in-calf heifers were judged on breed characteristics, maternal potential, feet and legs, uniformity, temperament, overall presentation and structural soundness.

Tarcombe becomes the first whiteface stud to win the championship in the history of the competition, with South Boorook, Mortlake, taking out the reserve championship in 2014 and Yavenvale, Adelong, NSW, reserve in 2013.

The 2000ha Tarcombe also supports a self-replacing Merino flock and is operated by Rob and Jan Hayes, with son Tim and daughter-in-law Cindy.

The rising two-year-old Tarcombe heifers were naturally joined at 14 months of age to Pine Hill Crossfire and Wirruna Jacob over nine weeks to calve from March 1 2017.

“One of the first things the judge asked me was my breeding objectives as he wanted to see if I was achieving that with the heifers,’’ Tim Hayes said.

“The heifers had had a tough autumn as we had no rain until May 2016 so they were naturally joined, but on the odd occasion we do AI the tops of the heifers.

“We use low birthweight, short gestation length and calving ease heifer bulls.’’

Tarcombe runs 250 registered females, autumn and spring calving, and a commercial herd of 120 females, in 800mm rainfall country of sandy loam and granitic soils.

The hill country supports native pastures while improved pastures comprise phalaris, cocksfoot and sub clover.

Mr Hayes said commercial clients were focused on 200 and 400 day weights, and milk for their weaner progeny.

“Most of our clients target the weaner calf sales at Yea and Wodonga,’’ he said.

“They are traditional Hereford breeders wanting coat colour and eye pigment, while others are focused on the BREEDPLAN figures of calving ease and birthweight.

“Commercial producers are not wanting negative calving ease or big birthweights.

“Carcase is also a big thing and they want muscle, intramuscular fat, and more recently, yield and carcase weight – those will have a big influence in the next three to four years.’’

Mr Hayes said genomic testing was on the radar for the Tarcombe stud.

The family has contributed their commercial herd to the Herefords Australia BIN (Beef Information Nucleus) progeny test project for five out of the six cohorts.

“It’s been a fantastic program to be involved with from the learning and education aspect on what we are trying to breed and aim for,’’ Mr Hayes said.

“I have gotten more out of this project than Herefords Australia got from me.’’

Mr Hayes said the 120 commercial cows were AIed to industry sires a year under the project, with the weaned steers now being grass finished to feedlot entry weights of 400-450kg.

“We still have green grass so they are being finished here otherwise we send them off for backgrounding,’’ he said.

Tarcombe sells their bulls mainly to commercial producers in the North-East and Gippsland at an annual on-property sale in March.

In 2016 the stud averaged $4142 for the draft.

At 40, Tim Hayes is one of the new generation of seedstock breeders taking the Hereford breed into the future.

“”We are heading down the right path and have gained momentum in the commercial industry,’’ he said.

“We have to be big on performance to compete with other British breeds.’’

Mr Hayes said Hereford cattle needed to perform in feedlots and on grass at a younger age.

“We need to get those cattle to the target weight as quickly as possible – gone are the days of finishing two to three-year-old bullocks.

“We must turn them off at 18 months or less.’’

RASV chief executive officer Mark O’Sullivan said the challenge was an integral opportunity for beef producers to showcase, market and develop their breeding operation.

“Congratulations to Tarcombe Herefords on being named champion for 2017 from a high calibre list of entered properties,’’ he said.

Banemore Poll Herefords, Penshurst, and Yavenvale Herefords and Poll Herefords, Adelong, were also top 10 finalists in the challenge.

Image: Tim Hayes, Tarcombe Herefords, Ruffy, has been a RASV Heifer Challenge finalist in 2014, 2015 and 2017.

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