Speckle Park infiltrates Wilsons' herd

Speckle Park infiltrates Wilsons' herd

Beef
BREED SWITCH: Jackie Wilson, Western Flat, with some of the Speckle Park-cross weaner heifers.

BREED SWITCH: Jackie Wilson, Western Flat, with some of the Speckle Park-cross weaner heifers.

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Speckle Parks have begun to make their mark on the Wilson family's herd at Western Flat, four years after they moved from Bourke in NSW.

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WHILE there are quite a few differences to the Wilson family's operation since they moved from Bourke, NSW, to the South East, there are some elements that have stayed the same.

Greg and Kathy Wilson, along with daughter Jackie, moved south to Western Flat about four years ago, from Bourke, after years of living in Casterton, Vic.

In all that time their cattle operation has targeted the weaner market.

Mr Wilson said this was partly driven by convenience, with the Naracoorte weaner sales nearby.

When the Wilsons moved to Western Flat, they bought their first Speckle Park bull, which has begun a gradual process to change the breed at the core of their herd.

In Bourke, they ran Santa Gertrudis cattle, and still have a few older Santa cows in their small, self-replacing herd, as well as Simmental and Red Angus-cross.

Related reading:Speckle Parks top Naracoorte market at $1640

"Give us five years and they will all be Speckle Park or Speckle Park-cross cows, the way things are going," Mr Wilson said.

As they build the herd numbers, they are retaining all heifers, while the steers are raised to 10 months old, or 300 kilograms to 400kg liveweight, for the weaner market.

This year, they will only have a small offering in the market, with the majority of this season's calves heifers.

Jackie said they wanted to try Speckle Park genetics to "soften the Euros", and improve the marbling on their cattle.

They were also seeking good growth rates, muscle definition and fat cover, to help females through drier seasons.

They have bought two young bulls in the past four years - one at a time - keeping them for two or three years, until their offspring are old enough to join, before bringing in a replacement and onselling the bull.

Mr Wilson said the Speckle Parks were performing as he had hoped so far.

"The Speckle Parks breed pretty true," he said.

They are also changing their calving time.

Related reading:Clean ethos behind Carnivore' success

"We used to calve in June and July, but we're trying to get to a March/April calving," he said.

Jackie said this would mean the cattle were a little older, and heavier, at the weaner sales.

Another legacy from their Bourke years is Dorper sheep.

They still run a small flock, which they say is very low maintenance.

Despite a drier season this year, they have not given any supplementary feed to the sheep.

"They're just like little cows really," Jackie said. "They've lived on not much, really, and are pretty cruisy."

A ram runs with the flock year-round, with easy lambing, and then the offspring is sold twice a year, also through the Naracoorte market.

Tagasaste helpful through dry winter

After a short stint at Bourke in the pastoral country of western NSW, the Wilson family sensed conditions were turning and put their station on the market.

"We could see if was getting a bit dry and thought it might be time to get out," Greg Wilson said.

They had expected the property to stay on the market for an extended period of time, but instead it was snapped up within weeks, and they made the move to the South East.

While Mr Wilson said their new region was not prone to "out and out drought", they had still experienced a difficult season.

While there are plans to roll out pasture renovation along the property, planting some more dryland lucerne stands, it was an existing tree that got them out of trouble during a dry winter.

Mr Wilson said there had been little rain at the start of the year, which took away the bulk of feed on the property.

By making use of the tagasaste - lucerne trees - on the property, they were able to reduce the supplementary feed. They rotationally graze, giving the herd a week in each paddock, with a longer period with the tagasaste trees, giving the pastures longer to recover.

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