A passion for breeding cattle which look good ‘inside and out’ paid off for the Bendotti family, who presented the winning medium weight pasturefed pen in the 2018 ANZ National Carcase Competition.
John Bendotti farms with his brothers Peter and Stephen and his son, Jason, at Pemberton in southern WA.
Their diverse enterprise includes potatoes and avocados, but John is a cattle man at heart and credits his love of producing quality beef back to the 1970s, when his father sold their dairy-cross herd and bought Angus breeders from Epasco Farm, Esperance.
Cattle with more than just a pretty face
John can still trace every female in the herd back to the original breeders, matched with sires selected for 200/400/600 day growth, eye muscle area and intramuscular fat for eating quality.
“It’s not enough for our cattle to be good to look at – they have to be good to eat as well,” John said.
John buys three or four bulls a year (backed up by an AI program from these sires to maintain pregnancy rates around 97%) and joins small mobs of 40–50 breeders for easier management.
All calves are tagged at birth and matched to sire and dam to track performance.
In his quest for a young, fertile herd, John culls all dry cows, sells breeders after six calves and selects for good milking traits.
He prioritises temperament and sends any animal that falls short direct to works, regardless of their genetics or conformation; his refusal to sell these cattle to other breeders reflects John’s pride in his herd.
The Bendottis retain 56 of their top heifers a year as replacements, and sell surplus heifers and steers in December through AuctionsPlus, usually to feedlots and processors. In last year’s sale, 115 milk-fed steers averaged 445kg live weight at 8–10 months-of-age.
The secret to good genetics
John credits his marketer and agent, Colin Thexton, as one of his secret weapons when it comes to selecting genetics.
John backs up genetic selection with on-farm management to ensure animals are quiet and maintain good nutrition. His strategies include:
- John does all the drenching, marking and other husbandry practices to ensure animals are calm and used to being handled by him.
- Electric prods are never used on-farm or by truck drivers.
- When cattle are shifted to new paddocks, they’re moved through the yards so they’re familiar with being handled.
- A week before the annual sale, calves are drenched, vaccinated and given electrolyte blocks to help reduce stress.
- Calves are drenched four times a year to maintain health and productivity, and to prevent selenium deficiency.
- John selects for good milking traits to maintain calf nutrition.
- The Bendottis produce hay to maintain nutrition through the autumn feed gap.
John credits these strategies, especially breeder selection, with lifting his herd’s performance, and has seen turn-off weights increase over the past 10 years from 380–390kg to 430–445kg.
When possible, John likes to see how his cattle present in the processing plant, and reviews MSA feedback to assess their market compliance.
He also used the performance of his steers in the ANZ National Carcase Competition as a benchmark of management and genetics.
The Bendottis entered three pens of steers in the national competition, and received a first and second place in the class for pasturefed heavy trade animals (260.1–340kg) and a third in the medium weight class (180–260 kg).
All their steers returned an MSA index of over 61, with the winning pen recording 63.23, 63.40 and 64.32.