Bull breeder ready for busy season

Hamish and Mary McRae farm beef and sheep over 5200 hectares at Lochiel Station near Hanmer Springs and operate a 520-hectare beef finishing farm nearby. As service bull providers, they’re gearing up for a busy season and that involves ensuring all bulls are traceable before they go off-farm.

How big is your beef breeding operation?

We run 870 Angus and Hereford breeding cows, there is about 2300 beef animals in total. We have four staff.

How many NAIT locations do you have?

There are two, the main farm and the finishing block 20 minutes way - they are both under one NAIT number.

When do you start buying in service bulls?

It depends on the season, the price and available feed. Typically, we’ll buy them at 100 kilos and up to 400 kilos so there isn’t a set pattern.

Do you have a specific source for buying bulls?

We use the same stock agents and choose animals that have sound traceability. One of the stock agents we’ve dealt with for 18 years. As a supplier of sire bulls, you’re always wary of animals that may have had multiple movements. The only beef animals we introduce to our breeding unit are sire bulls.

Do dairy farmers ask about the service bull’s history?

The dairy farmers I deal with won’t buy bulls if the animals have no traceability. The M.bovis disease has made a huge difference as to how farmers view NAIT and the value of tracing animals. You can see the evidence too in the NAIT system, animal registrations are at an all-time high and it’s a no-brainer if you want to protect your herd and business.

How many clients do you supply?

We supply multiple dairy farms each season. One of our buyers purchases 50 Hereford bulls for servicing to other clients. We expect to offload about 150 bulls this time.

Who looks after your NAIT obligations?

My stock manager looks after the NAIT account as he oversees the beef finishing farm where the greatest NAIT movement activity is. I receive updates on confirmed animal movements by email. All the animals are scanned on and off-farm.

How are the animals registered in NAIT?

We use a Tru-Test scanner along with the Datamars Cloud Farmer App. All staff have access, it’s ideal for Bluetooth compatibility and the App is a great back up for maintaining your animal health records and sales. You don’t need to go back to the office and plug into the desktop. You can do all transactions at the cattle yard.

Is tag retention a problem?

It’s reasonably good. We often find missing tags when we bring them in for TB testing. In that case, we’ll ensure the animal has a replacement tag and that tag is registered in NAIT. The reality is animals will always lose tags, though its’ not a big problem for us.

Have you ever sent an unsafe to tag bull to the meat processor?

No, never been in that position. We have ample tagging facilities on-farm for tagging our bulls.  

Any NAIT tips?

Keep your NAIT account up to date. Whether moving animals or registering them, just do it at the time, and that way you won’t forget. Also, it’s important to have a good relationship with your stock agent.