Knowing absolutely nothing about cattle or farming, my husband and I bought our farm sixteen years ago. Our first herd was that of 50 Black Angus steers which we picked up at the local livestock exchange. It didn’t take us very long to work out that after subtracting the cost of buying them, you didn’t really make a lot of money once they were fattened and sold, so we decided to buy some breeders. Staying with the blacks, we then acquired ten heifers, most of which we still have. All of them have given us many fine looking calves and have always been excellent cows. Hence why we have a few black cows and calves in the herd as you can see from the photos.
Needing a few more, we decided to go back to the sale yards to look at 30 commercial Red Angus cows that had been advertised in the local paper. The moment I saw them I fell in love with the look of them, their red colour and the fact that I’d read about how good they were with mothering their calves and that they were also known to have a very placid temperament.
The cows were purchased and so too was a bull who we named Awesome from a local Red Angus breeder Jillangilo Park who turned out to be the original Australian importers of the Red Angus from Aberdeen Scotland. We were so impressed with what their cattle looked like, we decided to try and get some. It was by pure luck that not long after, a herd of their cattle were being sold in a dispersal sale. We attended the sale and bought all of them except the bull. Registrations for the cattle were completed and we were officially a stud named Gregory’s Red Angus.
A couple of years later we decided to go for a drive around a few of the farms doing Beef Week as we wanted to bring a bit of hybrid vigour to our herd. The Jillangilo cows were your typical original run of the mill short nuggety Scottish cattle. We needed a bit more length and depth in our herd, so we decided to find another stud who could help. Beef Week is where farmers open up their properties and allow buyers to purchase stock. Our main aim was to pay a visit to Kallioota Red Angus, as we had been told that they were doing a lot of AI (artificial insemination) and embryo transfers and were using Canadian genetics. Red Angus, like Black Angus have been bred big in Canada. Our initial idea was to put our Jillangilo bull over the commercial cows and try to create an animal with excellent marbling that would be ready to be sold around the 14 months of age. Now we were looking for a bull that could be used on the Jillangilo cows and the heifers who had come from our Jillangilo Bull.
After doing many courses at Glenormiston Agricultural College and and a lot of reading about genetics, growth and bull selection, I became curious to the design and outcome of calf’s through careful paring of which bull to which cow. The need for a variety of genetics was what we were looking for. Kallioota Red Angus provided us with that. We went away with a few show quality females who had been given AI and had been impregnated with champion Canadian genetics. Lucky for us, a number of the cows had a bull, all from different semen, and we were able to grow them and use them to vastly improve our herd.
Staying with our original plan we set out and bred trying to bring the hugeness of the Kallioota back a peg to get rid of the legginess. At the same time increase the size a little of the Jillangilo animal. What we wanted was a mid size herd, steers that would be ready around the 14 month mark with excellent marbling and for our stud numbers to increase. Low weight births and most importantly good temperament. We achieved that over the years and to this day are very proud of our contribution of excellent quality cattle to the growth of the southern Red Angus cattle market.
Awesome was our first bull and gave us over 300 progeny before being retired to live out his life on the farm. I remember the day we went to look at a herd of Jillangilo bulls that were for sale. We drove with the owner into the paddock where the bulls were being kept and were directed to where there had been hay put out and about 20 of their best bulls were standing and eating. On our way in I had noticed that there was a bull away from the others eating on his own. After being shown all of what was available, I enquired about the lone bull off in the distance. The owner read out his details but told us that the bulls in front of us were of better quality. I don’t know call it instinct, a gut feeling, whatever, but for some reason my mind was telling me that the bull over in the distance was who we needed to buy. The farmer didn’t care, he was more than happy to sell him to us, so we paid him, loaded him on the truck and took him home.
Bellbird Park W31 aka Awesome was a very gentle, easy to handle boy who never gave us a moment of grief. His calves were low birth weight, early finishers and always got a score of 100/100 when their carcasses were tested by Meat Standards Australia at the abbattoirs at JBS. The photo above was taken not long before he died. He had spent his final years roaming the farm with the steers or other bulls and he did not suffer in death.
Petal was one of the Jillangilo cows that we bought in the beginning. She was a beautiful lady and had her last calf at the age of 16 before being retired to live out her years here on the farm. She was 22 years old when she died and this photo was taken when she was 21 and still happily roaming the paddocks with the younger cattle.
Trixie was one of the Kallioota cows that gave birth to a bull. We called him Zion and used him for many years. This photo was used on a lot of our advertising material and featured on a board at the front gate of the property. She was a huge, very well bred animal and gave us many calves before dying here on the farm in her late teens.
The cow in the next photo had her tail eaten off all the way up to her rear by a fox while Mum was off passing her afterbirth. I luckily woke up that night at 2am and had this gut feeling that I should get up and check on the herd. When I entered the paddock with the spotlight I could see the fox standing over the calf. The vet was called, the calf was treated and moved with Mum to the safety of the stockyard, where they both remained until the wound had healed. If I hadn’t of intervened, the fox would have continued eating her alive right up into the bowel.
I’ve seen that in the past and had to put down the newborn myself. Not having a gun, I had to come up with a humane way of disposing of the poor little thing which was found unconscious with its tail and bowel completely eaten with a great big cavity showing. For me having to kill something was traumatic. I’m the type of person who picks up worms stranded on a footpath, I even chase ants out of the house instead of spraying them and spiders, as much as I hate them, I always catch and release them outside.
After much thought and a lot of panic about what I was about to do, I placed a freezer bag over the little ones head, tied the bottom of the bag tight around it’s neck to restrict the oxygen and stood back watching as it’s breath grew more shallow. The newborn died very peacefully and afterwards I cried for hours and have hated foxes with a passion ever since for making me have to do such a horrific thing.
To get their winter coat off, cows love to rub themselves on trees.