THEY’RE distinctly long, sleek and have an ability like no other cattle breed to convert feed into lean beef.
Meet the Canadian developed breed Hays Converters, which are now being bred at Bromelton House near Beaudesert.
Breed proponent and vet Stuart Murray said many growing cattle needed to consume more than 8kg of feed to deliver a 1kg increase in body weight. However, Hays Converters required just 5.5kg of feed for the same result, he said.
While that’s still way outside the ability of chickens and pigs to convert feed to produce protein, the implications of a more efficient beef animal are significant.
“The world has 1.2 billion cattle and is expected to have a population of 10 billion people in 2050,” Dr Murray said.
“In that time we need to double meat production and produce a billion tonnes more cereal grain.
“At the same time we are losing land to urbanisation, pollution and other environmental impacts. More efficient beef animals that produce less emissions are all about being more sustainable and more profitable.”
The introduction of the Hays Converters breed into Australia is a joint initiative between the husband and wife team Stuart and Kathy Murray and Alberta-based Dan Hays, the son of Harry Hays, who kicked-off the feed efficient breed in the 1950s.
Dr Murray, who trained as a vet in Canada, said the objective was to develop a nucleus herd and then to share the genetic capabilities with Australian producers.
“Most likely we will develop a composite animal,” Dr Murray said. “That way we can incorporate other important traits like tick resistance and heat tolerance for northern Australia.”
At present there are about 50 Hays Converters calves on the ground. The number of purebred animals is expected to increase to about 200 in the next 18 months.
Displaying Bromelton House’s distinctive brand, the calves are the result of an in vitro fertilization program.
The amount of genetic information about the Hays Converters breed is also impressive. DNA samples have been kept from 11,000 animals during the past 50 years of breeding.
The Hays Converters breed is the result of a vision by farmer, auctioneer and former Canadian Minister for Agriculture, Harry Hays, who set about producing cattle focused on feed efficiency while maintaining a range of other essential genetic traits.
Central to the selection process was developing a breed capable of producing calves weighing 500kg at 365 days old.
Developed in Alberta, Canada in the 1950s and registered in the mid-1970s, the breed is the result of crossing Holsteins over Herefords and Brown Swiss.
The breed is noted for its impressive feed conversion rates and rapid growth rates. However, other selection traits included high fertility, ease of calving, pigment around eyes and on the udders, abundant milk, plus both sound feet and legs. Eating quality is also a prime consideration.
The breed is generally black with some white markings. However, occasionally a red and white animal appears.