Versatility the key to interest in Speckle Park

Appeal high for Speckle Park

Local Business Feature
Steve Armstrong is a firm believer in the versatility of putting his Angus herd over Speckle Park bulls.

Steve Armstrong is a firm believer in the versatility of putting his Angus herd over Speckle Park bulls.

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The versatility of a Speckle Park-Angus crossbred animal attracted commercial and stud breeders, Steve and Sal Armstrong, of Walcha, NSW. They use bulls, artificial insemination (AI) and embryo transfer (ET) to diversify Speckle Park genetics.

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The versatility of a Speckle Park-Angus crossbred animal attracted commercial and stud breeders, Steve and Sal Armstrong, of Walcha, NSW. They use bulls, artificial insemination (AI) and embryo transfer (ET) to diversify Speckle Park genetics.

The 293 hectare undulating Bendee Speckle Park property, with basalt soils, benefits from a very reliable 1016mm rainfall average - although that has been reduced by 50 per cent the past couple of years.

The Armstrong's run a 150-head F1 Angus cow herd, joined to Speckle Park bulls, along with their progeny. The couple are also building a stud herd of registered Speckle Park cows and Wattle Grove bulls. Using ET in recipient cows, this year they have 13 purebred Speckle Park calves on the ground.

Mr Armstrong said it was financial impetus that saw them choose the breed, when they re-entered farming a few years ago. In a good year, the farm will support 200 commercial cows, their calves and backgrounding cattle.

"When we returned to farming, in 2017 we bought quality Angus cows, joined by AI and pregnancy-tested-in-calf to Smoke & Mirrors, a well known Speckle Park bull," Mr Armstrong said.

"They calved down in July and August. When it came to assessing the meat yield, at plus-60 pc the progeny were yielding four-to-five pc more than other breeds.

"That's money in the bank as far as I'm concerned."

When it came to rejoining the cows, Mr Armstrong said the herd had a high conception rate, which also impressed him.

Then there was the versatility of the breed, given drought conditions.

"We're feeding hay to everything," he said.

"The heifers were turned out and receive hay and they're still doing exceptionally well. The steers are on a ryegrass crop."

They have engaged with the opportunity to brand their livestock under the SPKL Speckle Park premium.

"We get steers to 380-400kg, for a $0.20-0.30 premium," Mr Armstrong said.

To do that, they decide if the seasonal conditions warrant weaning early, in March, or normally in May.

"This year, we weaned early so the cows could recover. At calving they'd retained a condition score of three and remained there," Mr Armstrong said.

"It's in lean times, you see the result of choosing good genetics."

The Angus cows were bought in four lots, through AuctionsPlus.

"We knew their breeding lines, we wanted quality-frame cattle," he said. "They're proving their versatility."

Last year, 24 Angus heifers were joined at 18-months-old, to Born Ready.

"He's a bull who stands up big in any breed, but he has estimated breeding values of low birthweight and it's proving - he's throwing these tiny calves," Mr Armstrong said.

"From the first crop of first-cross, we're looking to keep 30 heifers.

"We'll still run F1 and Angus cows commercially. We'll continue to buy Angus females, but we're noticing the hybrid vigour is best in the F1s.

"Most of their progeny is a terminal drop."

They will also continue to flush their own cows and heifers from their registered herd and rely on ET in recipient commercial cows to fast-track growth in stud female numbers.

Yard weaned, the calves are regularly handled during that period.

"They're literally the quietest cattle I've ever seen, with excellent temperament," Mr Armstrong said.

"They muster easily into and out of the stockyards. They just walk in and out, never any kicking or running or fussy behaviour."

Weaning weights this year, two months early, were averaging 240kg for steers and 224kg for heifers. The steers are currently putting on 2kg/day, managing an average 300kg at the time of interview.

"Depending on the season, markets and related factors, we're aiming to turn the steers off at 380-400kg in September," Mr Armstrong said.

Mr and Mrs Armstrong have a philosophy of buying hay when there's a surplus on the market and storing it for lean times.

They have embarked on a pasture improvement program for their farm's heavy basalt and steep country.

Average paddock size is approximately 60 acres - one paddock is renovated each year.

"We sow an annual ryegrass as a clean up crop, followed by fescue, perennial ryegrass, clovers and prairie grass," Mr Armstrong said.

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