A rising four-year-old bull described by the judge as a "meat machine" has taken out the top tartan ribbon at the 30th National Highland Cattle Show held in Mount Gambier on the weekend.
Under the astute eye of Fiona Sanderson, Murralong Angus stud, Boonah, Qld, Gryphon of Glenstrae, became the grand champion bull and supreme exhibit from more than 30 head from nine SA and Vic studs.
"You get behind him and he has some lovely thickness there right down to his lower thigh and a good strong top, so you have great length and great width, that brings you extra red meat," she said.
"He has got some beautiful power and I can see him leaving some lovely big long females and some very strong males."
Mrs Sanderson had the honour of being the first female to officiate at a Highland National Show.
She came with extensive judging experience, including multiple judging appointments at all the Royal Shows across Australia, except Darwin.
Gryphon's owner Erica Smith, Traralgon, Vic, was thrilled her AI-bred bull was able to continue his showring success.
For the past two years he had won the grand champion Highland bull title at the Canberra Royal Show and before he was 12 months of age he had won the SA and Vic Highland state titles.
"In 2019 (at the last National) he was seven days too young so I had to halter train his Mum as a 10 year old cow and took him as a calf at foot just so I could show him off," she said.
"His temperament is amazing, we have used him over what cows we can and have been really pleased with what he has bred."
The bull just edged out the senior and grand champion female, a nearly 11 year old cow, Charlotte of Amrabull Park 7688, for supreme.
Charlotte was exhibited by Scott and Leanne Carter, Amrabull Park, Nuriootpa.
Mrs Sanderson also had high praise for the "veteran" cow and how her udder had held up after so many calves, including the one month calf by her side.
"When you look at an animal your eyes are often draw to a particular area and you start to think why and what the fault is but this cow is the complete picture, a beautiful beef female with great length, great structure and still producing a beautiful calf," she said.
Mr Carter said it was tremendous to win a broad ribbon when the national show was in his home state.
"Her movement is one of the best in our herd, the way she glides over the ground," he said.
"She is doing the job and has bred our best animal yet, Caleb of Amarabull Park (the 2018 Highland National supreme exhibit, so she is going to keep breeding as long as she wants to."
Mrs Sanderson gave the nod for junior champion to Dawson Arrow of MacAnLeister for its "great sire power and masculinity".
"He has got a great lot of eye muscle and I think he will be a great bull for the industry," she said.
His owner Melissa Kramer, MacAnLeister fold, Mil Lel, also exhibited the reserve junior champion bull, an eight month old calf with plenty of potential.
Vic breeder Melissa Adams, Serenity, Yarragon, Vic, took home the junior champion female title.
The event drew a big crowd with more than 900 spectators through the gates over the two days.
They were asked to give a gold coin donation which proved a great fundraiser for the Compton CFS cadets, raising more than $1800.
Mr Carter- who was the show's convenor- said last year's online national show had been a great success attracting viewers from around the globe but said it was great to be able to again catch up with fellow breeders in person.
"Nothing beats a physical show, we all love showing cattle and having a national show in person we got to see some fellow breeders we hadn't seen for at least two years," he said.
Mr Carter said entry numbers were down slightly on previous national shows which was to be expected with the current climate, but the high quality made up for this.
"We had three first time exhibitors too who were all really keen, sometimes we have one or two but three is a lot," he said.
He said the breed was experienced a surge in popularity, largely from those looking for "pets or paddock ornaments" due to their unique look.
Breeders were struggling to keep up with the strong demand and receiving high prices for stud and commercial animals.
"When I started 15 or 16 years ago prices might have been $1500-$1600 for a stud heifer at weaning now that is more like $6000-$10,000," he said.
He said Highland beef was highly sought after too, being low in cholestrol, high in marbling and could be rich in omega-three fatty acids if animals grazed omega three rich pastures.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.