In the Felton Valley, beef cattle are often grown on farms that also grow crops in what’s known as ‘mixed farming’. Cattle graze on natural pastures or those that have been planted with improved pasture species. Often ‘cattle paddocks’ are more steeply sloped or they may be too rocky to allow for reliable crop production. Sometimes farmers will plant forage crops (oats, forage sorghum, lab lab) for cattle to graze in the paddock, or to make hay for feeding to cattle when paddock feed is scarce.
There are a wide range of cattle breeds grown in the valley for commercial meat production, and whether it’s Angus, Hereford, Limousine, Droughtmaster or a combination of these or other beef breeds will depend on personal preference of the farmer. Some properties have breeding cows and raise the calves for sale direct to nearby feedlots or saleyards. Other properties buy weaner calves or store cows (ones that could do with a good feed!) and fatten them when paddock feed reserves are abundant. There are also a number of cattle studs in the valley, who sell their bulls and cows as breeding stock. Around 20,000t of beef are grown in the valley annually.
There are not many sheep grown in the Felton Valley but those that are, are guarded closely by either Maremma dogs or alpacas. This is because wild dogs and dingos still roam the timbered hills and can be devastating to a flock of sheep. The sheep that are grown are typically sold at the Warwick markets as prime lamb when they reach about 45kg. There has been a shift to running self-shedding meat breeds, such as Dorpers, that lose their wool naturally, rather than needing to be shorn. For the more traditional amongst us that love the benefits of natural fibres, wool growing Merinos are the go. Jan Lowing from Karmala Working Kelpie and Merino Studs at Nobby has achieved great success over the years growing fine wool Merinos and exhibiting animals at Agricultural Shows. Jan admits there is nothing quite like watching the natural instincts of a well bred and trained kelpie skilfully working a mob of sheep.