Milwillah steers stud success

STRONG breeding lines are paying off at the Milwillah stud, writes BRIAN CLANCY

Milwillah topped the Angus auction averages in 2011 at $8637 for 51 bulls, and followed with another impressive $8026 for 75 bulls last year.

Not bad for a stud that only conducted its first auction in 2008.

The Milwillah Angus stud is part of a big family farming operation conducted by John Caldwell and his three children, Camilla, Will and Hugh at Milong, between Temora and Young in central NSW.

Over time John has acquired several farms to tally a total of 5300ha.

The rainfall is about 625mm and relatively reliable – except during droughts – according to Will.

Today, the Caldwells crop a third, while each year’s uncropped hectares run 10,000 Hazeldean blood Merinos and 1200 Angus cows, which includes the 400-head stud.

Calves are weaned at six months, and steers and heifers grown out to supply the feedlots.

Will said the home property had run Angus cattle for 85 years, while the stud was established in 1984 to breed bulls for the herds. Surplus bulls were sold locally and privately.

The stud operations went up a notch in 2003 when the Caldwells bought 44 pregnancy-tested autumn calving Te Mania Angus heifers from the Gubbins family, who were moving to spring calving at Mortlake.

As Will said, it was a rare opportunity to buy the top-line females from a leading stud.

These heifers and their offspring became the nucleus of the herd and began a new generation at Milwillah.

He agrees that the Te Mania Angus bloodline was part of the reason for the stud’s auction success, which included $32,000 for a bull at last year’s August sale

But were there other reasons, particularly as the marketing and promotion of Milwillah sales has been minuscule compared to other big-name stud sales?

Will struggles for an answer.

Yes, the cattle carry some top breeding values, as you would expect with the Te Mania Angus bloodline. But he admits that they are not into chasing trends or extreme traits.

Nevertheless they are not averse to investing in semen sires with strong proven breeding values.

Phenotype is high on Milwillah’s selection criteria.