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TAS Country : September 16th 2010
16 Friday, Septem Farm Feature WOODBOURN SHELTER: Charles Wallace next to a recently planted shelter belt at Woodbourn. Irrigation shapes a show A love of breeding top quality cattle and a willingness to try new things has seen the Wallace family's Woodbourn property develop into a highly successful farming operation. land THIS Karolin MacGregor There's nothing better for me than going out to a client's place and seeing a bull we've bred and how they've grown out and what they're putting on the ground . . . that's what it's all about I think.' SITTING around the family's kitchen table with a cuppa enjoying homemade scones with jam, it is easy to see why the Wallace hospitality has made Woodbourn's annual bull auctions two of the state's most popular sales. Running the diverse property, which includes large Murray Grey and Angus studs, is very much a team effort for Charles and Janet Wallace. Nowadays the couple's son in law and daughter Lauchlan and Sarah Cole also play a major role in the operation. Woodbourn has been in the Wallace family since 1941 and has been gradually expanded over the years. It is now about 810ha. Mr Wallace, who grew up on the farm, was first introduced to Murray Greys, which were then known as Tasmanian Greys, when he went to work at the Reed family's well known property Parknook as a teenager. Even at that early stage Mr Wallace said he could see potential for the breed which combined the best characteristics from both the Angus and dairy Shorthorn cattle which had originally been used to create it about 1938. ''When I was at Parknook, nearly every conversation around the dinner table was about Murray Greys so I guess it was inevitable that I'd end up with some,''he said. The first stud Murray Greys were introduced at Woodbourn in 1969, but a commercial herd of Angus cattle had been on the property since Mr Wallace's father, Peter, purchased it. Determined to see the breed succeed, Mr Wallace played a vital role in getting the Tasmanian Grey breed society to join forces with the national Murray Grey society when the breed was first being established, and finally succeeded in 1981. The Wallaces have always been willing to try new things and one of the first pea crops in the district was grown on the property and was harvested by hand. Mr Wallace said one of the most significant developments that changed the whole farming operation at Woodbourn was the introduction of irrigation through the Cressy Longford Irrigation scheme in in 1972. ''It totally changed the way we were doing things,'' he said. ''Without it I don't think a lot of us would still be here.'' Over the years the cropping has gradually expanded at Woodbourn and with that has come a big investment in irrigation infrastructure. Things have changed quite a bit from when they started out with about six travelling irrigators. Since then the Wallaces put in their first centre pivot about 12 years ago and now have seven, with 260ha under irrigation. About half the enterprise is now cropping and half livestock. ''There's no doubt we rely on cropping now,'' Mr Wallace said. Over the years they have grown a range of crops at Woodbourn including peas, beans, wheat, barley, broccoli oats, sweet corn and poppies. A couple of years ago they also grew their first maize crop for silage which Mr Wallace said had been a huge success and something they would consider doing again. Spring is a busy time at Woodbourn. As well as a busy planting program, it is calving time for the studs. Some of the property's cows also calve in autumn. The Wallace's run about 400 cows on the property. While the Murray Grey stud was established first, Mr Wallace said he could see the demand for Angus cattle increasing, especially after the introduction of the Tasmania Feedlot, so he decided to get on board, establishing the Angus stud using genetics from the well-known Creekton stud about 25 years ago. ''I could see a quid in it, so I thought if you can't beat them, you'd better join them,'' he said. While Angus has become a dominant breed in Tasmania, last year's Woodbourn Murray Grey bull sale averaged the highest prices of any breed in the state. Bulls from Woodbourn are now bought by buyers across the country. In the 1980s the Woodbourn Murray Grey Stud's reputation also spread beyond Australia and a small group of eight heifers and a bull from the stud were sold overseas to Suliman Vanion in England. Impressed with with the cattle, Mr Vanion bought more Woodbourn stock the following year, including a three- quarter share in the bull Woodbourn Thor for $60,000. Mr Wallace said they stuck to a strict breeding program and culled out any cattle that did not perform. ''We buy in new bulls and genetics all the time because we have to have something available for our buyers every year,'' he said. ''The most expensive mistake you can make is continuing to use a bull that isn't up to scratch so if we get any that aren't producing what we'd like, they have to go, no second chances.'' Having clear breeding objectives has enabled the Wallaces to increase the growth and muscling of the Woodbourn cattle while maintaining other essential traits such as fat cover and milk. The Wallaces now sell about 90 bulls a year. Keeping a balance between Breedplan figures and the physical attributes and conformation of their cattle is something Mr Wallace takes pride in. He said the Angus breed's adoption of Breedplan in the early stages had allowed it to gain a significant advantage of over many other breeds. At Woodbourn all stud calves are weighed at birth to ensure integrity of the Breedplan information. Mr Wallace said having a full list of correct figures was a high priority for both studs and produced better results for their bull buying clients. ''It does cost us more money, but I
September 9th 2010
September 23rd 2010