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The Inverell Times - Weaner challenge 2018 in Tamworth testament to producers

“Outstanding lot of cattle and probably some of the worst weather conditions we’ve had – just testament to the producers and ... to the district we live in.”

That’s how judge Rob McCarthy described the turnout at Friday’s Virbac Weaner Challenge and Feature Sale, the fifth annual event.

It wasn’t a record-breaking sale at Tamworth Regional Livestock Exchange, but it did draw more than 5000 head of cattle.

The champion pen of steers title went to Neil and Beth Higgins of Old Crockford, Nowendoc – and they also took out the overall champion pen.

Mr McCarthy described the Higgins’ angus-cross weaners as “outstanding – long, big, growthy steers”.

The Higginses broke the winning streak of the Haling family of Hillside Park, Woolbrook, who have won the overall champion title every year since the event started.

Colly Creek Pastoral Company of Colly Creek, Willow Tree, had “the pick of the heifers”, winning champion pen of heifers with their angus cattle.

Top price for weaner steers was $1080 a head for Angus cattle sold by Bill and Sue Wilson of Klori, Manilla.

Weaner heifers went for a top of $850 per head for a pen of limousin-angus cattle sold by Richard and Robina Burns of Belandi, Blackville.

The challenge and sale drew in more than 5000 head of cattle, up from 4000 head last year.

Tamworth Livestock Selling Agents Association’s Phillip Hetherington said the increased numbers were a combination of the season and the sale’s reputation.

“The deteriorating season has seen record numbers of cattle through TRLX and, while some people have been forced to sell their weaners early, many beef producers are now gearing their operations towards this sale, regardless of the season, because of the reputation it has developed,” he said.

“Last year people had a few more options because we had some rainfall but, this year, people are getting very short on feed and water and there’s no sign of the season improving,” he said.

Among the sellers were Breck and Margôt Johnston of GlenBarra, between Manilla and Bendemeer.

Regulars at the event, they brought over 177 weaners this year.

“The quality is good [at the sale] considering how dry it is,” Mr Johnston said.

He said they were coping well with the conditions on their 22,000 acres.

“Water’s still really good; feed’s getting down a bit, but we’re still managing,” he said.

“We have 700 acres of oats planted, so we hope with rain we’ll have some good feed.”