The Burnett Group’s bull breeding enterprise is based at Bendemeer. Bulls are bred and grown on the same land types that bullocks are fattened on throughout the company, thus enabling direct and meaningful growth rate data to be collected and used for bull selection. Our aim is to breed structurally sound, well-muscled, polled, docile, athletic bulls with tidy underlines that are able to not only perform but thrive in our Central Queensland climate.
Although we sell a few bulls each year, most of the bulls we produce are used on our various breeding properties as herd bulls. In buying exceptional quality bulls from outside sources and using these in our bull breeding enterprise, we are able to distribute these superior genetics more rapidly, more economically and with more quality control than would otherwise be the case if we were buying in a huge number of herd bulls each year.
Approximately 80 suitable bulls are produced each year. Of these, about 20 are sold to outside buyers and the remainder are used throughout the commercial breeding herds, with most being joined to maiden heifers for their first season.
The bull breeding system consists of two main herds. The first and most intensive herd consists of 150 to 200 pure-bred Braford cows. The other bull breeding herd is made up of about 200 high content Brahman-cross/Droughtmaster type cows, and within the company is referred to as the “Red Herd”. As well as these two bull producing herds, about 30 cross-bred superior bull calves are selected each year from across the company’s large number of commercial breeders. Most of these cross-bred bulls are used at Frankfield, and they also help to increase the selection and performance pressure placed on the pure-bred bulls.
The Braford bull breeding herd was first established in the late 1970s. About 50 of the best and most productive females were selected from what was then the main commercial herd at Bendemeer. Since then, production and hereditary data has been collected from the herd. Birth details are recorded every year for each calf allowing parentage, date of birth and other production traits to be stored and used as selection tools.
Now days, this herd consists of about 150 females that are almost exclusively direct descendants of the first “Bendemeer Brafords”, bred over 30 years ago. The sires used in this Braford bull breeding herd are predominately sourced from other stud breeders so as to introduce new and hopefully superior genetics. Sires being used at the moment include bulls from Burradoo, Abernethy, Donrinda, Sunny Lawn and Taroela Braford studs. Each year a number of single-sire and multi-sire herds are managed for the joining season, which runs from December through to about June.
The Red Herd was established at Bendemeer over a decade ago when selected South Devon bulls were joined with a line of red Brahman-cross females. This first cross produced some excellent, big framed cattle with the females having exceptional udders and mothering abilities. The steers produced from this cross however, whilst being tremendous in size, were taking too long to finish and fatten on grass. So, after a number of years, these South Devon-cross females are now joined to Brahman bulls currently from Neslo, Rathlyn, Kandoona and Kariboe Valley studs. This breeding produces high Brahman content, predominately red calves, similar in appearance to the Droughtmaster breed.
The Red Herd is run as one multi-sire mob so no date of birth or parentage data is collected from this herd. All the male calves are kept as bulls until weaning, when the individuals showing the greatest potential are selected to grow on for possible future use.
At weaning, the progeny from the Braford and Red Herds as well as the selected commercial bull calves are all weighed for the first time. These weight records are later used to calculate growth rates, which are then used as a tool for bull selection. Any weaners not showing potential are culled at this stage with only the superior animals grown on.
The young bulls are weighed at regular intervals of about six months to consistently gather growth rate data and apply selection pressure. At each of these weigh events, the bottom performers are culled from the system leaving only the highest performing individuals.
Although growth rate performance is relied upon heavily as a selection tool, many other traits are also used to help decide on the animals to keep and the animals to cull. These include (but are not limited to) temperament, horn status, bone structure and confirmation, fertility and muscle development.
Fertility is of great importance to us, and once mature, all the bulls have scrotal measurements taken and are semen tested for both motility and morphology before being considered for our own use or for sale. Throughout the entire Burnett Group there is no place for unproductive cows, thus any females that do not produce a calf each year are culled. This stands true for both the bull breeding and commercial herds.
"I worked with the Burnett Group for over 5 years and can not speak highly enough of the support and guidance that I received in this time. I was initially employed as a Stationhand, however then moved into the Headstockman position at Frankfield. My partner Holly and I were sad to leave, but we have left with a great memories and the knowledge to pursue other interests in the beef cattle industry."