JOHN Muraca is out to tick all the boxes with his weaner cattle.
They are all yard-weaned, European Union-accredited and pre-feedlot vaccinated.
- AT A GLANCE
- Who: John Muraca
- What: weaner cattle
- Why: ticking all the boxes
- Where: Markwood
- Report: KIM WOODS
John and his wife Yvonne, from Markwood near Wangaratta, are among the first beef producers to gain certification under the feedlot-ready program, Maxistart.
They took a complete drop of 190 Injemira-blood steers and heifers, born in March-April-May and now weighing 280-350kg, through a comprehensive preparation program.
The calves were vaccinated with two shots five-in-one to guard against chlostridial diseases and were yard weaned on January 3.
The weaners were vaccinated twice with Pestiguard to prevent bovine viral diarrhoea virus (pestivirus), the cause of reproductive and productivity losses.
The calves also received a primer and booster vaccination of Bovilis MH to prevent bovine respiratory disease.
BRD is recognised as the most costly disease affecting feedlot cattle.
It can cause rapid death or become chronic, leading to permanent lung damage and poor performance.
Two doses of the three vaccines were given 28 days apart.
As part of weaning, the calves also received a Piliguard vaccination for pink-eye.
John estimated the cost of the pre-feedlot program at $15 a head and he hopes to recoup that through market premiums.
He will offer a line of one-mark weaners at Wangaratta's Blue Ribbon sale on Friday.
President of the Wangaratta Associated Agents, Daniel Fischer, said the Maxistart-accredited cattle plus 500 EU-accredited calves would give the Wangaratta sale a point of difference.
"Major processors and feedlots have confirmed their interest in the Maxistart program and assured us they will be at Friday's sale," Daniel said.
The Muracas switched to cattle from tobacco when the industry was shut down in 2006. John had been chairman of the Tobacco Co-operative of Victoria.
His father Joe had run a herd of Hereford-Shorthorn cows and, after the collapse of tobacco, John and Yvonne took over the cattle enterprise.
"On our five holdings totalling 323ha, we were able to run 35 Hereford-Shorthorn cows and 240 Hereford cows," John said.
The spread of farms - from Bobinawarrah, Markwood, Londrigan and Tarrawingee - means a 500km round trip each week to check stock.
"They are all separate enterprises of cows and calves - there are seven mobs of 35 cows for each bull," John said.
"The Hereford-Shorthorn cows are joined to a Limousin bull for an August calving and the vealers sent to the Wangaratta market the following July-August.
"The balance of the cows are autumn calving."
Set in a 700mm rainfall zone, the home farm at Markwood has alluvial creek flats while Londrigan is brown clay loams.
"We renovate around 32ha of pasture each year with Victorian ryegrass. There is plenty of clover and phalaris," John said. "We have been liming at 1.2 tonnes/ha and like to spread 100kg/ha of single super each year.
"I don't cut any hay but do grow superdan 2 under the old tobacco spray irrigation for silage."
The cattle are rotationally grazed at stocking rates of one cow per 1.2 ha.
Females are joined on May 1 for 12 weeks although the calving interval is set to be pulled back to nine weeks next year.
"About 75 per cent of our calves are born in the first five to six weeks of calving," John said.
It was Daniel Fischer who suggested the family try Injemira Hererford bloodlines.
John and Yvonne bought 50 cows in 2008 direct from the Injemira herd at Ladysmith, in southern NSW. "We picked up a line of second calvers as replacements. It was a punt in the middle of the drought," John said.
"We were so happy with the cows that we returned to Injemira to look at bulls and ended up buying three bulls."
John and Yvonne are not out to compete with studs but like to select bulls in the top 10 per cent of Injemira's offering, paying $5000-$8000.
They look for carcass bulls with phenotype, the right cosmetics, high growth rates, moderate birthweight, fat cover and easy doing.
The bulls are in the top 2 per cent for 200, 400 and 600 day weights (on Breedplan), and eye muscle area.
John said the injection of a new bloodline had changed his overall herd.
Daniel, who also helps the Muracas with stock work, encouraged John and Yvonne to gain European Union accreditation to give their weaners a market edge.
"We had to remove some non-EU acceptable cows from the herd and reconcile all NLIS ear tags on a data base," Daniel said.
He said there were six producers accredited in the past three months resulting in 600 EU calves.
"Last year there were none. Next year we will have close to 1000, for the Wangaratta blue ribbon sales."
Daniel encouraged producers to vaccinate all heifers each year against pestivirus.
He cited a recent case of 21 from a herd of 100 pregnancy-tested-in-calf heifers aborting calves as a direct result of pestivirus infection.
"A lot of herds in this district don't realise they have pestivirus," he said.