KEN and Kerry McKenzie have clinched the grand championship award in the prime cattle judging not once, but three times since the inception of the triennial Beef Australia Expos held at the Central Queensland Livestock Exchange, Gracemere.
The cattle producers from Yaralla Droughtmasters, Blackwater, in central Queensland, will again contest the Ruralco Commercial Cattle Championships with a strong team of grainfed steers.
The McKenzies have earmarked five pens of Droughtmasters, and one pen of Simmental/Droughtmaster steers for nomination.
And it is due to seasonal uncertainty that they will dominate in the grain-fed section.
Earlier this week, Queensland Country Life caught up with Ken McKenzie, who confirmed they had selected their steers prior to Christmas, and placed them in the nearby Duaringa Station Feedlot for feeding over 120 to 130 days.
“Due the unfavourable seasonal conditions over the past 12 months, the strongest competition will come from within the grainfed section of the competition,” he said.
“However we have kept some steers earmarked to compete in the crop/pasturefed section, but will make that decision closer to the time nominations close.”
While the McKenzies have achieved great success for both themselves and the Droughtmaster breed, Mr McKenzie said: "You can never go into a competition such as this one and really feel confident".
“The Beef Australia prime cattle competition is one of the hardest there is,” he said.
“The cattle are judged in pens of 10, and they all have to look like peas in a pod."
And that he said is the winning formula.
“You may get six to eight head of even types, but penning 10 head, there also could be a possibility of a couple of steers that may let you down," he said.
“The strongest competition also comes from the Euro-cross breeds, and they are the ones to beat.”
"The Beef Australia prime cattle competition is one of the hardest there is"
Mr McKenzie is a passionate cattle breeder, and like most cattlemen enjoys riding around and selecting his stock.
“I really like what I do, and as long as you’re happy with the article you produce it doesn’t matter if you don’t win.
In 2012 the McKenzie’s winning grand championship award was a pen of 10 grainfed milk-tooth steers weighing 631kg selling for 251c/kg to return $1583/head to Kilcoy Pastoral Company.
Success also continued in the crop/pasturefed section with a pen of Droughtmaster steers, weighing 613kg, nine of which were two-tooth steers, and one a milk tooth.
They sold for 186c/kg to return $1140 to Teys Australia.
However it was back in 2003 that the name Ken and Kerry McKenzie hit the headlines when they blitzed their way through to claim a trifecta of awards including the champion crop/pasturefed, champion grainfed, and then their grainfed steers etched out their pasturefed siblings for the coveted grand championship.
Back then, not only was it the first time they had entered the prime cattle competition, but it was their first venture into lotfeeding, and, given the stratospheric grain prices which abounded at the time, they were understandably very nervous.
“It was an anxious time”, Mr McKenzie told Queensland Country Life at the time.
"Our family has been breeding Droughtmaster cattle for 50 years, and we have found they are an excellent all-rounder"
“But we wanted to target these championships to see what our cattle could do – we regarded the cost of feeding them as a gamble, but also an investment in marketing."
It also was a similar scenario in 2006, when again the McKenzie’s enjoyed another victory.
Not only did they win grand champion pen of the show, but they also took home champion and reserve champion grainfed, and reserve champion pasture/cropfed awards.
Overall the couple run 1600 Droughtmaster females and 150 registered Droughtmaster breeders on three properties Yaralla, Pearl Creek, and Brumby.
“Our family has been breeding Droughtmaster cattle for 50 years, and we have found they are an excellent all-rounder,” he said.
“We find that the Droughtmaster female is capable in trying drought conditions of raising a calf and going back in calf, and yet the offspring can fit any market and do it very well.”
It was Mr McKenzie’s father Bruce who registered the Yaralla Droughtmaster Stud in 1962, when he bought a bull at the first Rockhampton Droughtmaster Sale now known as the Droughtmaster National Sale.
Now under Ken and Kerry's stewardship, Yaralla Droughtmasters are sold at the Droughtmaster National and the Artesian Sale, Blackall.
In their commercial operation steer calves are weaned at around nine months of age with an average weight of 280kg.
They are then backgrounded on brigalow/buffel grass country at Yaralla before they are sold direct from the paddock at 400kg liveweight.
So one would wonder, with a track record such as this, the question on everyone’s lips is how will Ken and Kerry McKenzie fare at Beef 2015.
“We can only give it a go,” he said.