Breeding best in beef for 90 years
IT STARTED in the 1920s, when a timber getter and cattleman decided to venture into breeding herefords.
And today it's a premier stud servicing clients throughout Australia, New Zealand and America.
This year marks 90 years of breeding cattle for Cootharaba Beef Genes, a seed-stock business that has been in Galloway family hands for all nine of those decades.
This week the Rural Weekly caught up with Ian Galloway, after he had finished branding calves that morning and before he met with his accountant that afternoon, to find out the secret to the stud's longevity.
THE headquarters of Cootharaba Beef Genes is based at Duarran, a property about 10km south of Roma.
Alongside his wife Anne, Ian manages 1600 breeders that are run across four properties in Roma, Duarran, Cooroora, Maffra and Bidarli, and one in the Mitchell district, Morwhena.
Ian is a man who uses his words wisely, and he used just two to describe what it felt like to see the stud prosper through 90 years: "a privilege”.
"For me personally, it's quite a privilege to carry on the genetics that my father and grandfather started,” he said. "Whatever stud breeding operation you have, you always need a good base, and that generally lies in your female herd, so I inherited a very strong genetic base in the female line from my father, and he from his father.”
IAN'S grandfather, John James Galloway, built the foundations of the stud when he bought land at Lake Cootharaba in the Noosa Shire in 1901.
The blacksmith/timber getter/cattleman was working the country near Noosa at that time, and in 1927 he bought 12 Cressbrook herefords and founded the stud.
The following year, he started the family's long-running tradition of showing cattle at the Royal Queensland Show, which was a hard feat for him at the time, as it involved walking cattle 24km, before loading them onto a train to travel 12 hours into Brisbane. In 1931, JJ, as he was called then, built a crate for a wagon and 26 bullocks transported 15 head of show cattle to the railhead at Pomona.
By 1953, Ian's parents, Allen and Ruby, were in control of the stud and they moved the business to Monto.
Thirty years on in 1980, when Ian was just 31, he took over the reins of the stud and moved the operation to its current home at Duarran.
All family members have been hands-on with the workload, and Ian said some of his best guidance, or advice, was received from his family during casual conversations working in the yards.
"Through the world financial depression in the 20s, to the beef depression in the 70s, the Cootharaba herefords have seen it all,” he said.
"Growing up working with your parents is always a great learning experience.
"And if you are working with your father in the yards, or your siblings, you learn a lot from their experiences.
"It's passed on, not only from your parents, but from your mentors too.”
IAN has a philosophy that to be successful in the stud game you need to be working five years ahead.
"You have to be abreast of all changes in the beef industry and keep an eye on the trends because really, in the stud industry you need to be five years ahead of the trends to be successful,” he said.
The secret to doing this was not jumping on board with the latest breeding fads, or traits praised in the show ring, but keeping your attention firmly set on the commercial reality, he said.
"The Galloway family has always focused on commercial traits on their cattle, which has endured the Cootharaba cattle through droughts, floods, fires and famines, as well as the good times.”
As the industry has become much more science-based, the Galloways have enjoyed benchmarking their cattle against more complex standards.
The family has entered steers in all RNA 100-day feedback trials since the competition was first started 17 years ago.
The event can compare up to 1100 head of cattle during the feedlot trials.
"Our steers have consistently gained 2.63kg to 3.2kg per day over the 100-day trial period,” he said.
"We put our product on the line when we put our steers into trials.”
Ian and Anne are still hands-on with all aspects of the stud and have their time management down pat.
"In whatever business you are in you have got to be very much involved, and that's all about time management,” Ian said.
"So today it was a 4.30am start and I branded a mob of calves then weaned some, and I was back here by 9.30am. It's an hour drive there and back to Mitchell.”
JOYS OF BREEDING
NOW well-travelled, having inspected the cattle industry abroad, Ian talks about the Australian cattle industry with great pride.
"The Australian cattle breeders need a lot more confidence in their product,” he said.
"Across all breeds, Australian cattle are the best in the world.
"I think the Australian cattleman needs to take their hat off to themselves as they have been able to breed the right cattle for the environment and markets.
"The Australian cattlemen, commercial and stud, have done a great job in moulding all breeds to be more productive on grass land, as well as in feedlots,” he said.
While the Galloways have faced many hurdles over the years, there is nothing the family would rather be doing.
"Breeding cattle has a lot of challenges, but the joys of seeing the results of your breeding program overcomes all,” he said.
The 47th annual on-property Cootharaba hereford bull sale will be held at Duarran, Roma, on Wednesday, September 6.