An eye for well-bred, docile cattle has helped Robe producers David and Penny Bayly claim top honours in Australia's largest grassfed carcase competition.
In December 2018, Stonehut Pastoral bought two pens of 328-kilogram Angus-Hereford steers from WV James & Sons, Cooranga, Lucindale, at the Naracoorte weaner sale.
They were processed at Teys Australia's Naracoorte abattoir 10 months later.
One of the animals been named the 2019-20 Southern Grassfed Carcase Classic grand champion carcase from nearly 1350 head, during a webinar held this week.
"The Cooranga cattle have good eye muscles and that was what I liked about the two pens," Mr Bayly said.
"There was one very quiet, well-conformed steer that was a pleasure to handle and when I found out the results, I thought that was probably the one."
The 352.4kg carcase scored 90.92 points from a possible 100 for market specifications, saleable meat yield and eating quality, excelling with an eye muscle area of 106 square centimetres and 8 millimetres of rib fat.
The carcase had a Meat Standards Australia marble score of 300.
For many years, the Baylys bred cattle in the NT and at Fairbanks at Keith. But in the past few years, they have been buying weaners and finishing them on leased land across the South East.
The majority are sold on-hook into Teys' Grasslands program.
It is good to know that we are on the right track with our cattle.
For the past four years, they have entered about 70 head a year into the competition, keen to receive feedback and also to support the Royal Flying Doctor Service, with 1 per cent of the total proceeds in the competition donated to the cause.
More than $170,000 has been raised across the 12 years.
Mr Bayly said it was a huge honour to win.
"It is good to know that we are on the right track with our cattle," he said.
"We have done well in the past with some bullocks but to have the overall winner is a big thrill."
Mr Bayly said the 200-hectare Mount Benson property, where the winning steer was run, was productive country, but they also supplementary feed hay for about six weeks during winter when pasture growth slows.
From mid-August, they provide ad-lib access to powder mineral lick Grazemax.
They also aim to minimise pre-slaughter stress, by only transporting cattle to the works in single deck loads, rather than double decks.
Using Cattle Trans electrolytes for a week to 10 days prior to leaving the property has helped them eliminate dark-cutting carcases.
The Baylys say it has been interesting to compare how consignments grade at different times of the year, with their 69 head entered across two loads in October and one in late January.
"The earlier they go, the better they hang up - the later cattle never seem to grade as well," he said.
More consistent carcases in 2019-2020 competition
The enhanced feedback given to entrants in the Southern Grassfed Carcase Classic is enabling them to raise the bar in their production systems and produce more top quality carcases, according to chairman Ben Glatz.
Across the competition's 11-year history, he said the gap between the highest and lowest scoring carcases had typically been large, but this had narrowed considerably for the 2019-20 competition.
"It was pleasing to see that the competition entries expressed very low ossification and good weight-for-age in relation to all grassfed Meat Standards Australia cattle in SA and Vic," he said.
According to data collated by Meat & Livestock Australia, the average MSA index of the 1349 entries delivered to Teys Australia's Naracoorte abattoir between October 2019 and late February was 60.44 - well above the national average of 57.86 and 60.16 for SA and Vic carcases.
The entries were heavier and had more marbling, with an average marble score of 360, compared to 340 for all SA and Vic carcases.
"The educational outcomes of the SGCC can potentially have a positive influence on every aspect of your beef business," Mr Glatz said.
Long-time entrants, RM Wilson & Sons, Brentwood, won both the top team of 10 class and top team of three with their Red Poll steers.
One of these steers, processed in January in their consignment of 39 head, was also the reserve champion, scoring 89.63 points from a possible 100.
The 315-kilogram carcase had an eye muscle area of 90 square centimetres and 10-millimetre rib fat.
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