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Bald Blair Angus stud relies on cutting-edge Gallagher technology

For one of the oldest Angus studs in Australia, using the latest technology to measure livestock productivity is essential.

The White family bought “Bald Blair” at Guyra on the Northern Tablelands in the NSW New England region in 1898. They've been running Angus there ever since. In 1908, FJ White and Sons started the Bald Blair Angus herd book, and some 11 years later, in 1919, was a founding member of the Angus Society of Australia.

Today, FJ White’s great grandson Sam, along with his wife Kirsty, run the operation over 2,530 hectares (6,250 acres) of mostly freehold land across five properties.

The Whites’ management approach today remains focused on livestock productivity, sustainability and profitability, building on the work of previous generations.

A pioneer of pasture improvement, Sam’s grandfather H.F. White began weighing animals in the early 1950s to measure weight gain. Again building on the work of previous generations, today Sam and Kirsty remain dedicated to pasture improvement. Weighing animals to measure weight gain is fundamental.

However, the tools they use have changed in the ensuing century.

An article called “He looks for weight-gain” in the “Australian Country” newspaper in January 1957, talks about H.F. White’s forward-thinking management. It reports he’d been working with the NSW Department of Agriculture for three years to weigh calves monthly up to weaning, then again “at about peak of growth”.

The article describes how Harold’s farm-management decisions were based on animals having “exceeded the mean average daily weight gain” and their selection as “the ones most likely to make full use of the feed available”.

Upgrading after 15 years

Recently, Sam and Kirsty bought a Gallagher TWR-5 Weigh Scale, Data Collector & EID Tag Reader. The new solution replaced a 15-year-old Ruddweigh W800 and hand-held reader.

Sam says they initially chose the Ruddweigh 800 in support of local businesses, because the Ruddweigh equipment was developed in Guyra by their good friends the Thomson family.

“It’s not like a mobile phone that can die in two years, but it does give the Thomsons a chuckle that we’ve kept the W800 as backup still, along with the last W300 that’s alive.”

While they were impressed with their old solution, they’re more than impressed with the new one.

“The Gallagher TWR-5 has made everything, including data transfer, a lot simpler, quicker and easier, so perhaps we should have done it a long time ago!”

Commercial and stud enterprises

The Whites run 1,000 breeding cows, plus all their progeny, giving them a bit over 2,000 head at the moment, along with 3,000 sheep. However, these numbers are reducing rapidly as the effect of the drought hits.

“The sheep flock is predominantly a sheep-meat operation, where we’re supplying first-cross lambs and second-cross lambs to the feeder market.

“Of our 1,000 breeding cows, 400 are stud and 600 are commercial. The stud produces bulls and replacement females, while we sell the majority of commercial heifers, retaining 10-15%. All commercial steer progeny are normally grown out to feedlot entry specs for Rangers Valley Cattle Station.”

Rangers Valley is a world-renown premium marbled beef producer specialising in long-fed pure Black Angus and Wagyu cross-breeds for both the domestic and export markets.

To meet stud-record obligations, Sam heads out every morning and afternoon during calving to catch and weigh every stud calf on the day it’s born.

The commercial calves are weighed from weaning onwards, generally every few hundred days, until they reach the point for sale.

Weight gain focus

“Weight gain is one of the primary aspects in determining condition and which teams are ready to sell. That’s why we like it, so we use the Gallagher TWR-5 on all our cattle. Whenever we’ve got cattle in the yards, having that ability to weigh and then assess weight gain from the last time to now, and whole-of-life gain, that whole screen, it is awesome. The ability to go from all animals in a session, to just the one animal that you’ve got on the scales, I love that. The simplicity and the time savings are great.”

Set up key

Sam says working with Gallagher to set up the TWR-5 Weigh Scale, Data Collector and EID Tag Reader properly was key.

“We worked with the Gallagher help desk and gave them a file of all our management tags and corresponding NLIS tags, then we uploaded that into the TWR-5. So when an animal comes across the scales, it automatically comes up with their management tag and associated NLIS. That saves an incredible amount of time, because previously we had to key in the management tag for every animal, every time it came across the scales.

“Say I want to look up a stud heifer group or even just a particular animal; I just tap on the history and there’s every session with that animal’s weight and treatments.

“We find the transfer across onto the laptop easy. We use the HerdMASTER program to manage whole-of-life treatments we keep for all the animals – commercial and stud. That file works well with the Universal File import on the Gallagher TWR-5, so that’s easy.”

As far as Sam is concerned, “As long as I’ve got it in the computer at the end of the day, I’m okay.”

Powering on

The Whites also have half a dozen mostly Gallagher Energizers, several powered by Gallagher solar units.

Recently they installed an MBS2800i Fence Energizer on a new property.

Sam says, “We didn’t believe the Energizer there was good enough. When I spoke with Chris Richards [Gallagher Territory Manager] about it, he suggested this one and using a High Conductive Wire to get more power out the back, because we were having a lot of trouble with power drain. So we rejigged the earth, rejigged the main wiring to the point where we head off from the fence, and put this new Energizer in. Now it’s all good.”

Sam says they also got the Remote & Fault Finder.

“Going all the way back to the shed to turn an Energizer off to do a job is a pain in the proverbial. This unit helps find faults and you can turn the whole system off and then on again from where you are. That function is unbelievable!”

Time-efficiency goal

“We’ve got this on a 650-acre [263.2ha] property, doing all the external boundaries and internal fences. We’ve got switch-off points all down the laneway, which isolates sections, so we can find anything pretty quickly with the remote.

“The next step on the list is to have it all back to a phone [using the i Series WiFi Gateway and Dashboard Fence], because we want to bring in even more efficiencies in terms of the time in trying to find a short. That would make it a five-second job then.

“All this technology is evolving, and it’s all about saving time.”

Time savings come from having fence-performance information “in your pocket”. Compatible with all Gallagher i Series Energizers, the i Series WiFi Gateway gives users the ability to manage their Energizer via the Gallagher Dashboard Fence App, providing regular, real-time fence information and alerts from the Energizer to a smartphone. The app reports on the unit and up to six configured fence zones, and can also be used to turn the Energizer on and off.

Happy with the story

Sam and Kirsty looked around briefly for livestock productivity tools, choosing Gallagher for several reasons.

Sam says, “We’ve done a lot of things with Gallagher, but what impressed me more than anything was the service, and Chris coming out and spending time with us. We were going to choose the more basic option instead of the TWR-5, but talking through what we needed and wanted and how we’d use it, yes this cost more, but at the end of the day, this whole system is going to suit us a whole lot better. So the service, and being able to talk about what we needed, was what impressed me."

“Gallagher is a Kiwi company, and the guy who owns it is still committed to agriculture, and that’s what we like. We like the whole story, so we use Gallagher."

“What I also really like is the service that the Gallagher crew gives. We do a lot of work with Gallagher electric fencing gear, and Chris came out and spent time with us, and he was fantastic. So that’s why we did what we did.”

📷 Photo credit: Alice Mabin Photography

“The Gallagher TWR-5 has made everything, including data transfer, a lot simpler, quicker and easier, so perhaps we should have done it a long time ago!”