WITH an interest in farming from a young age it was a natural transition for Andrew Tempra to return to the family farm at Manjimup.
He is the second generation to farm the 223 hectare property after it was acquired by his family in 1962.
The family trades as Tempra Bros Pty Ltd.
When his father Remo retired in 2003, Mr Tempra was ready to take over the farm and continue running their cattle and potato enterprise, along with his brother Paul and cousin Stephen.
He currently runs the operation with a full-time farmhand Darren Parke, along with his son Josh who helps out when he is home from studying Agribusiness at the Muresk Institute.
They run 150 Angus breeders crossed with Black Simmental bulls.
- WA strawberries in the March 1999 spotlight | FLASHBACK
- WA table grapes explore disease management tools
- WA keeps up healthy apple research
Alongside their cattle herd, they grow 36ha of potatoes, with the remaining land used for pasture and hay.
The Tempras have been growing potatoes since the 1950s as it works in well with their paddock rotations and returns nutrients to the soil, from which their pastures benefit.
"We find after the potatoes we generally grow a really good hay/pasture crop," Mr Tempra said.
In the past couple of years, the Tempras have made the change from Angus-Friesian cows to purebred Angus cows using bulls from the Introvigne family's Bonnydale stud, Bridgetown.
Mr Tempra said they used the Introvigne family's stud because they were very easy to deal with and have had good results with their bulls.
He also said the Bonnydale bulls had a great short-term weight gain and a quiet temperament.
"The calves' temperament is great, especially at weaning, they are very easy to handle," Mr Tempra said.
Ease of calving is also an important trait when selecting their cattle, especially as calving occurs during their busiest period - potato harvest.
Prior to switching to purebred Angus cows, they produced mainly milkfed vealers for Woolworths.
The majority of their cattle are sold to feedlotters, but they occasionally still sell some to Woolworths if they meet the criteria.
The remaining cattle that don't make the weight for the feedlots or Woolworths are sold in a local sale.
Mr Tempra believes that the market conditions in terms of price has improved over the past few years and it is looking particularly strong this year.
"The prices are probably where they should be," he said.
Over the past couple of years the drier seasons and a lack of late feed has forced producers to unload all their cattle into the market at the same time, which resulted in lower prices.
But the strong season this year means the Tempras have the opportunity to hold some of their calves for a longer period, delivering better prices from the extra weight gain, as well as avoiding the peak supply period.
"While our returns have been reasonably good in the past they will hopefully be better this year, I'm always optimistic," Mr Tempra said.
Joining is from May to August with calving from February to May.
"It is a long period so we are aiming to tighten calving up a bit," he said.
Weaning occurs in mid-November and the average weight is usually about 350 kilograms.
In the past with calving beginning early in the year during the drier seasons, it was challenging at times to get enough feed, especially with the shorter seasons, but changing from the first crosses has meant that they have been able to push calving slightly later in the year when the feed situation is slightly easier to manage.
"The past few years the seasons were a bit challenging with the feed running out a bit earlier, but this year there seems to be enough feed to go around," Mr Tempra said.
According to Mr Tempra this year's calves look to be in the best condition they have for a while, with early weights looking promising.
He attributes this to the favourable weather conditions through winter this year, as there was enough rainfall to encourage plenty of pasture and grass growth and it was reasonably warm.
Maintaining a productive herd is essential to the operation which means they have a strict culling program, with any older cows being sold off at the end of each year.
They buy in replacement heifers annually and have started keeping some of their best heifers from their own genetic line.
"We try and rotate through to maintain fertility," Mr Tempra said.
Heifers are usually bought out of the local Elders sale.
As for future improvements, the Tempras are striving to maximise their grass potential.
"We have been doing a lot of work on improving soil health in our potato crops and this is providing benefits to our pastures in the rotation," Mr Tempra said.
This year they started adding Flexi-N fertiliser between grazings to help the grass recover and increase yield.
"Slowly but surely we are working towards getting the best possible grass," he said.
They are also working towards a more regimented and organised grazing rotation program.
Sign up here to Good Fruit and Vegetables weekly newsletter for all the latest horticulture news each Thursday...