Get ahead this spring

12 August 2016

Black Star Angus principal Julian Carroll is a committed forward planner who, at times, has ignored convention to take the business in a new direction.

This Mudgegonga, Victoria, producer is speaking at next week’s MLA sponsored East Gippsland Beef Conference.

From autumn to spring calving

“In 2009 we changed our autumn calving herd to a spring-calving herd so we could align our peak lactation with our peak feed availability,” he said.

“Relying on a good autumn break to avoid supplementary feeding didn’t work in most years and by changing our calving period, it also gave us the opportunity to grow out steers to feedlot entry weights by maximising feed utilisation in spring.”

Julian’s top tips for spring calving are:

  1. Get growth into heifers early in pregnancy and then aim for body condition score 3 in the last trimester.
  2. Foetal age pregnancies so females can be drafted into management groups, with the earliest mob closest to yards, and for nutrition management.
  3. Feed cows cereal straw as calving approaches to increase fibre intake and assist with uterine function, without putting extra weight on foetuses.
  4. Make sure heifers and cows are parasite free prior to calving (consider worms, fluke, lice etc.) to ensure they are not compromised during lactation.
  5. Have good quality pastures ready for freshly calved heifers to go into to ensure the heifers continue to grow, lactate well and re-join on time.

From making hay to pasture improvement

Julian said the toughest change was convincing his father that making hay on their three farms (510ha, some leased) was not the best use of resources.

“This was really tough for dad to come to terms with as he had made hay all his life, as had all our neighbours, but by shifting our peak feed demand period to spring and investing that money into pasture renovation instead, we now avoid supplementary feeding lactating cows altogether,” he said.

Contractors make silage on farm as part of the pasture renovation program which is then fed to weaners, however, Julian is proud of the fact their commercial beef enterprise is presently run on just seven hours’ labour a week as a result of not having to feed.

Their pastures are ryegrass, phalaris and sub clover-based with stock rotations worked out using the EverGraze Feed Budget and Rotation Planner and the monthly stocking rate calendar.

The benefits of change

Julian said the transition to spring calving has enabled their business to maintain a strict six-week joining regime across heifers and cows and to cull all empty cows, post weaning.

“We retain 75% of our heifer drop and we sell the remainder to live export,” he said.

“Cull cows are sold and graded MSA through the JBS Farm Assured Great Southern program.”

This mantra keeps the herd young (oldest cows aged six) and less prone to metabolic conditions such as grass tetany and milk fever.

Julian has a moderate approach to cow size and does not differentiate between heifer and cow bulls.

“Every year I deploy three to four 15 to 18-month-old bulls in an (Estimated Breeding Value) birth weight range of 3.5-4.5 to be joined to heifers and the following year they are joined to cows,” he said.

“I like to keep the mature size cow EBV around 100, have good 400-day growth and positive rib and rump fat for fertility and doing ability.”

Julian will share more of his story at the MLA More Beef from Pastures-supported East Gippsland Beef Conference on Tuesday, 16 August, at the Bairnsdale racecourse.

The day includes numerous seminars, field trips and dinner.

MLA Managing Director Richard Norton will speak on the red meat industry to 2020. MLA Market Analyst Tim Ryan will present a beef outlook and MLA corporate chef Sam Bourke will tempt the tastebuds with a demonstration featuring new beef cuts.

More information

To register online visit or contact event manager Craig Bush T: 0427 943 155 E:

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