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Cheque books out for speckle park heifers

Cheque books out for speckle park heifers

Speckle park cattle are making their mark in New Zealand, with some farmers prepared to pay top dollar for the genetic and physical traits offered by the breed.

Premier Cattle Company owners Derek and Catherine Hayward are among those who have become champions of the breed since it became part of their sharemilking and beef operation near Cambridge four years ago.

The couple have been developing a small stud and using speckle park over their dairy herd since 2014.

They were attracted to the breed by its good carcass, calving ease, ability to convert grass, and its impressive-quality, fine, tender eating meat with high marbling yet perfect fat covering. Derek places this marbling ability between an all grass-fed angus and a wagyu.

The quality of eight speckle park heifers offered at Maungahina Stud’s annual sale in June convinced buyers to pull out their cheque books to pay an average of $21,750 each; four were reared by Premier Cattle and four by Maungahina.

“We had international interest in those heifers, but they were sold to New Zealand breeders. That will back up the belief I suppose and the strength in the breed.”

Speckle Park were first registered as a pure breed in Canada in July 2006 and introduced to New Zealand about 10 years ago.

While industry acceptance has been good, the New Zealand market is still being educated about the benefits of the breed, Derek says.

“Interest has been very good. I guess the breed has a lot to offer and it’s relatively new to the market, but it is backed by good results around the world.”

Derek is a director for Speckle Park International, the Australasian organisation for the breed and works closely with Mark Mackenzie from Maungahina Stud who is another champion of the breed in New Zealand.

“Mark and I have been to Canada twice in the last couple of years and have had numerous trips to Australia.”

“In the last 12 months we’ve sold semen from one of our bulls to some Canadians. They market the bulls through North and South America as well as the EU and the UK.”

Derek aims to increase his speckle park cow numbers and to upscale the on-farm bull sale to cater for both beef and dairy farmers; this year a bull sale was held on the farm for the first time on October 3.

In 2008 he and Catherine came to their present sharemilking job on the farm owned by Paddy Lockett and have been there 11 years. There has been a lot of change in the farm operation in recent years.

Last season 370 cows were peak milked in the split calving system which takes advantage of the winter milk premium paid by the farm’s processor Open Country. In June a neighbouring 30ha block was added to boost overall production. “Our aim now with the new land is to go to 450460 cows.”

A 49ha property across the road from the dairy farm provides grazing for heifers and two lease blocks totalling 34ha support the Hayward’s speckle park operation.

The focus on self-containment aims to reduce feed costs and includes rearing the farm’s own bulls, partly to manage any M. Bovis risk. “On the dairy platform we grow all our own maize and lucerne as well.”

Four years ago Paddy built the first DeLaval parallel parlour in New Zealand. With 18 sets of cups on each side, it replaced a 36-a-side herringbone shed. The shed enables high throughput, fast milking processes and quick changes from one group to the next.

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