Disheartened with cropping and sheep, Tony Jackson, from Wallabadah in northern NSW, ambitiously pulled up stumps from his home in South Australia to follow his dream.
He now breeds Angus-cross cattle in the foothills of the New England region and loves every minute.
Fourteen years on, Mr Jackson and his partner, Cheryl Wilson, and her daughter, Emma, have successfully created a thriving Angus-cross cattle production business.
They now run as many as 1500 cattle on 1600 hectares across their two properties, “Creek Heights” and “Glen Idol”.
In the past three years, Mr Jackson and Ms Wilson have seen a sharp increase in the position of the company, riding high on the wave of the booming Angus cattle market.
On balance, Angus-cross cattle are on equal terms with pure bred Angus when it comes to market price and demand, each receiving consistent price premiums, as well as strong demand for weaners from fellow beef producers.
“Angus females are also in high demand by producers re-entering the market or through live export,” Mr Jackson said.
“We certainly got into the business at the right time.”
Tony and Cheryl’s Angus-cross cattle consist of about 400 Angus-cross cows. These include a combination of Santa Gertrudis crossed over Angus and Hereford crossed over Angus, with the Angus breed being the predominant genetic source among the mix.
“We put a purebred Angus bull over the Angus-cross cows and it has produced outstanding results,” Mr Jackson explained.
The popularity of the Angus cross continues to grow right across Australia, and throughout markets overseas, due to the many attributes the Angus-cross produces.
We find the many benefits in the Angus-cross sometimes outweigh pure Angus,” Mr Jackson said.
“In our Angus-cross there is more rapid growth and we are witnessing, excellent carcase quality, high muscling, quick weight gain and greater production and they are consistent, hence why they have become so popular.
“Our young heifers are maturing early, which means they calve early and keep going until a mature age and our crossbred cows’ fertility rates are high.
The couple’s Angus-cross cows have also proved to be good mothers, with an even temperament and high milk production.
“Our Angus-cross are also tough animals that can sustain (themselves) in all environments here in the New England region, and across Australia,” he said.
The market acceptance of their Angus-cross, as opposed to purebreds, came from the hybrid vigour their stock demonstrated, and attracted strong attention from buyers.
“We believe in the Angus-cross because you get greater hybrid vigour and they are proving more efficient and easier to handle,” Mr Jackson said.
Culling temperamental cattle was a priority for Mr Jackson. He understood the value in the meat with a good natured beast.
“Woolworths puts up penalties if the Angus beef looks too dark, so we can’t afford to keep temperamental cattle,” Mr Jackson said.
“We trade up to 300 cattle a year and also buy weaners, feed them up and sell them on.”
By selling direct to the buyers where possible, Mr Jackson and Ms Wilson avoid the costs otherwise incurred by selling through agents.
In the past couple of years, they have sold directly to Woolworths and JBS.
“Ninety per cent of our heifers predominately go to Woolworths, which is our major buyer.”
While their Angus-cross don’t require a great amount of feed – another benefit in the cross breed – Mr Jackson and Ms Wilson believe in good pasture and nutrition and see this as a number one priority.
“We grow up to 120 hectares of rye grass and pastures, including dryland lucerne and have seen excellent results in the weaners,” Mr Jackson said.
“Spending a lot of money on pastures and nutrition for our cattle is far more important and beneficial than anything. The amount of return is rapidly increasing, especially for weaners.
“And while the market is up, the only planning we are embarking on is to increase our sales of weaners to 700 per year, otherwise it is a waiting game.”
Angus Australia has been instrumental in helping many cattle breeders, including Mr Jackson and Ms Wilson, and provides a range of services from advice on breeding, marketing, exports, buying and selling to name a few.
Members receive a lot of benefits through the professional standards of Angus Australia.
“Angus Australia does an amazing job of promoting the industry nationally and around the world,” Mr Jackson said. “A lot of professional and talented individuals are now involved, particularly marketing people.
“This organisation far dwarfs any other cattle organisation in Australia due to the amount of services and professionalism and as a member you receive so much help”.
Picture - Tony Jackson, Wallabadah, and some of his 700-head Angus-cross herd, which form the backbone of his family’s business