SPECKLE Park bulls have provided Central Queensland producers Ben and Hayley Hutton with the perfect cross to handle tough conditions while increasing meat yield.
The Huttons run a 200-head herd of Droughtmaster and Brangus breeders over two properties - Waratah, south of Clermont and Paradise Lagoons, near Rockhampton.
Speckle Park bulls have been part of the breeding program for three years, and Mr Hutton did his research before going into the breed, which is well-suited to colder climates having been developed in Canada.
"I'd seen them at Ekka and Beef at Rocky, and there was nothing about them I didn't like, from the performance of the animals, to the meat quality with the marbling and their yield," Mr Hutton said.
The Huttons have sourced bulls from Oberon, NSW-based stud Wattle Grove, and following improved calving and weight gains with their initial trial, they're now keeping first-cross heifers to join in a separate herd.
"I wasn't planning to keep any of the first-cross heifers but they're really nice cows," Mr Hutton said.
Carcase quality and on-farm performance are some of the traits Mr Hutton was looking for in a sire, along with low birthweight, which allows him to join maiden heifers to the Speckle Park bulls.
"They're born very small but they explode on the milk and grass," he said.
The Speckle Park bulls complement the hardy breeder herd, while adding value with improved weight gain and carcase quality, something Mrs Hutton's father, the late Graeme Acton, was passionate about.
"He was such a strong figure in the beef industry and was always pushing for a higher quality product which is what we're doing with the Speckles," Mr Hutton said.
"We've had a lot of different crosses, and for our climate we need the slicker-coated cow, but the bulls need to add hybrid vigour and meat quality."
They're easy to manage with the low birthweight, they'll finish on grass and grain, and a lot of them are dressing close to 60 per cent.- Ben Hutton, Waratah, Clermont, Qld
The purebred bulls haven't had any issues managing the Queensland climate.
"I've been getting a lot of calls from people looking for a crossbred bull to trial because they think they'd be tougher, but the bulls we've got from Dale (Humphries, Wattle Grove) are handling it fine. They're proving that they can live in this environment."
The Huttons are flexible with markets, with the most recent group sold as six-month-old weaners through the Gracemere saleyards. The steers made 842 cents a kilogram to return $2315.50 per head, and the heifers, which were slightly lighter at 265kg, made 722/kg.
"I'd like to keep them longer but you can't beat that money straight off the cow," Mr Hutton said .
"We're aiming in the future to target feedlots.
"Because of their meat quality, dressing and yield there's already a premium for them so the feedlots will be looking for them.
"When we get bigger and expand more we might even look at our own beef brand.
"And we would like to trial them over a Santa as well, because they do so well in the feedlots."
Feed conversion is a big benefit of the breed, on grain and grass.
The cattle are mainly on buffel and Mitchell grass, but the breeders also had access to leucaena.
"We also plant a bit of forage sorghum, which the first-cross weaner heifers are on at the moment. They don't get too much special treatment, apart from a lick block when it dries off.
"I prefer grassfed beef because there are less inputs and they're still getting to good weights off grass.
"They could have stayed on the cows for another month, but the prices through the saleyards were too good to miss."
Mr Hutton said the breed was slowly being recognised in Queensland for its benefits along the whole supply chain.
"They're easy to manage with the low birthweight, they'll finish on grass and grain, and a lot of them are dressing close to 60 per cent.
"A lot of people thought they were a fad, but they're winning taste test awards and carcase competitions - that proves they're here to stay."
Meat characteristics such as eye muscle area and intramuscular fat are big priorities when selecting bulls, along with birthweight, type and temperament.
"I like that the Wattle Grove bulls are graded on temperament," Mr Hutton said.
"We have three kids and we want them to be in the yards with them. And temperament plays a big role in the meat quality and weight gain - if they won't settle, they're walking off kilos."
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