Mining Murray Greys at Boddington | My Machinery
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Mining Murray Greys at Boddington

Ray Farmer’s wise eyes have seen a few things over the last 52 years of farming. The fourth-generation Boddington local left school at the age of 15 to live life on the land and he has been farming ever since. Together with his wife Brenda, Ray has seen the surrounding farming land slowly turn into mining land, with the family’s 1060 hectare boundary now backing straight onto the encroaching mines. “I still love farming, I love the lifestyle,” Ray said. “The biggest change that I have seen over the years is the impact of mining around here with all the noise, the blasting and the traffic. ‘It’s hard to ignore.” He’s also seen different cattle breeds come and go, including the initial herd of Shorthorns, with a few Angus in the mix, due to a weak fence between the neighbours’ cattle. Ray first came across the Murray Greys in the early 1970s when they initially caught his eye for their shimmering grey-silver coat. “When they first appeared on the scene, I liked them because of their colour and I’m still in love with them because of their colour,” he said. “They have an excellent temperament and are a well-muscled and balanced breed.” So Ray bought his first Murray Grey bull in 1972 from a stud in Kojonup and has been Murray Grey since. These days the Farmers run 170 Murray Grey breeders and 30 heifers, all pure Murray Grey – with the exception of one heifer with exceptional fence-jumping skills. “They’re 100 per cent Murray Grey, maybe with the exception of one heifer that jumped the fence into the neighbour’s yard full of Herefords,” Ray said. Ray was so impressed with the Murray Grey’s he decided to take it a step further and purchased some stud cows from a stud dispersal in 2000. It was initially to breed their own bulls and occasionally sell a couple each year to local cattle producers. They have infused a variety of different genetics by purchasing bulls from a number of WA studs, usually chasing sound feet together with good depth and muscling. “I just enjoy breeding them, mostly for our own use but I still sell one or two bulls every year locally,” Ray said. “In the early days, the hardest thing to get right was their feet and they were usually culled if they weren’t sound in the feet.” He also culled any females narrow in the hips to help with calving – an added measure to using sires from the same drop as the heifers, for calving ease. By using bulls the same age as the heifers for the last decade, Ray believes he has significantly reduced the number of birthing difficulties caused by large calves. “We’ve had no problems with calving for the last four to five years,” Ray said. “Our bull calves were getting too big for first-calvers and were getting stuck, so we started using sires from the same drop as the heifers, which worked well.” The heifers were mated in May to allow more focused management while the cows were usually joined in July. Ray said the benefit of breeding his own bulls was that there were never any shortages of bulls, with those that he doesn’t keep for his own breeding purposes being sold locally. Otherwise they were sent to the Muchea Livestock Selling Centre along with any culled cows. The weaners were usually sold through Boyanup to assist Ray in maintaining his numbers around 200. His self-confessed loyalty to the breed has meant Ray has resisted introducing another breed for hybrid vigour and also reinforced his commitment to hang onto them through tough times. “Over the hard years of 2010 and 2011 we had to buy in pellets and large quantities of hay in order to hang onto our cattle,” Ray said. “Everyone else was downsizing while we wanted to maintain our numbers but we certainly paid for it.” Even when times were tough he wouldn’t consider increasing his 80ha feed cropping program and wanted to remain focused on livestock production. “We are pretty much 100pc livestock and I just want to stick to what I know,” Ray said. The other part of the business comprises 3000 Merino ewes, with the older ewes being crossed with Poll Dorset rams to produce prime lambs. Keeping a balance between sheep and cattle is important for accessing different markets, particularly with the cattle industry currently under pressure after the current focus on live export. “I think the cattle industry is a bit depressed at the moment but there’s still demand there,” Ray said. “It will pick up, it only takes time.”

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