Happy life crucial to success in tough times on the farm
LOVE is what keeps Ann Coy wearing boots and working cattle in the yards on her family's Yangan property, Edenbank.
While she might enjoy stock work, appreciate a good crop, savour the smell of fresh hay, what has ensured she endured droughts, low prices, tough times was a "special" relationship with her husband Ian.
"He's what keeps me here," she laughed.
The couple are a close-knit example of rural resilience.
They have run a mixed grain, hay and cattle operation of the 152ha Southern Downs property they have owned for close to four decades.
In that time they have known some tough years but now they fear it's getting even harder to make ends meet for those starting out in the rural sector.
"Once you could feel yourself getting ahead, you could pay off a property and still afford new machinery," Mrs Coy said.
"But now many rural people have to really think twice before the buy anything.
"It's definitely not an easy way to make a living, you have to love it."
And love it the couple does.
They have raised their three children on the property and, in the process of making a living, have earnt a reputation among the local boot-wearing set for their quality commercial cattle.
The Coy name has regularly made the winners' list, both in prime cattle circles on the Southern Downs and in the coveted local carcase competitions.
This year they won the reserve champion vealer/yearling pen of three at Warwick Show and in 2012 they finished third in the regional carcass competition.
The broad ribbon wins are just part of a long list of achievements spanning decades.
"For me personally a win in the hook side of a competition is the most rewarding," Mr Coy said.
"It's an even competition, it's all done on a point system and there are no breed preferences from judges."
But for the Coys, it all starts at Edenbank.
These days they run 60 Charolais cows as part of a cross-breeding program, which has them targeting local trade with their eight to nine month-old vealers ideally dressing out between 180-220kg.
Three years ago they invested in a Senegray bull, Angus Lane, from John Brandon's Boomerang Park stud at Yangan.
The young sire has helped produce a string of quality progeny, which despite being born small tended to finish fast on the grain ration.
While the couple believe breed is
important, they also emphasis the value of a quality ration.
"We like to keep a Charolais base, because they are very heavy in the bone and they dress out well," Mr Coy said.
"As a breed, they are also lovely to work with.
"But we have also been very happy with the Senegray cross, there are no calving problems and they grow fast and finish well on the ration."
The combination of sound genetics and quality feed are the key to the success of the Coys' fattening business.
"Feed is vital and we grow our own, which helps when it comes to economics," Mrs Coy said.
"Our grain, along with straw for roughage, a very small amount of hay, as well as supplements make up our ration.
"It's mixed here in our own grinder mixer."
Calves are introduced to the feed ration at four to five months - depending on the season - via a feeder in the yards.
"We put the calves in the yards and then let in the cows each night to feed them," Mr Coy said.
"It gives the cows a break and it also means we are handling the cattle twice a day, which helps make them quiet.
"Handling makes a big difference to stock stress levels.
"We buy our breeders in. Yarding them overnight ensures they are used to being handled.
"It's also good for the calves.
"The first two days they take a bit of training but, after that, it's pretty straight-forward: You just have to be here to open the gate."
The couple sell through the Warwick Saleyards as well as direct to local butchers, depending on the market and what they have available.
"Five weeks ago we sold vealers and made 224c/kg through the yards," Mrs Coy said.
"Then a week ago we sold similar bred and finished vealers for 189c/kg.
"All through the yards and each week we topped the market, but it shows just how much the price has come back."
Ideally the couple aims to get $2/kg, saying the figure ensures there a "worthwhile" margin.
"Yes, prices have definitely gone down in recent weeks on top of the drought in the west and other factors," Mr Coy said.
"But there is always a market for the sort of cattle we turn off, so we are very fortunate."