Faith in Angus favours breeders in gene game

By Patrick O'Sullivan


Sticking to New Zealand Angus blood lines is the secret to success for Wairoa breeders whose family has been breeding Angus since 1944, on land they have farmed since 1856.

"It gives us predictability in our genetics," says Andrew Powdrell of Turiroa Angus Stud.

"We haven't used a lot of American genetics. They are not necessarily the sort of cattle that work out here - they don't particularly suit our breeding programme.

"In the 1980s a lot of people wanted size so they went straight to America and brought in the big bulls. They don't always work out here - bulls here have to climb the hills.

"I am lucky Dad stuck to predominantly New Zealand blood lines and it is really paying off," he says.

A stud bull recently sold for $72,000 at their on-farm sale, which was believed to be one of the highest prices ever paid. Two more bulls sold for more than $30,000.

He says talk of beef farmers being paid on carcass data is on the horizon and the breeders carcass-scan their bulls as yearlings. "We haven't been paid on carcass data so we haven't bred much for it yet," he says.

"We have a certain criteria when we buy sires - they have to be meaty, sound and fertile. We pay big dollars for sires and travel the country looking for that sire that will make his mark."

He says there have been some good decisions made by industry association Angus New Zealand.

"Angus has always been the dominant breed but they have driven home its advantages, such as the marbling of the meat.

"McDonald's has come on board and taken some of the cuts for their burgers. I think in the last couple of years they have used 2 million tonnes of Angus meat."

The Powdrell family farm is 610ha of hill country, "with some good flats that help to bring the bulls out". It has 200 stud cows, 120 commercial cows and more than 2000 ewes.

"We try not to have all our eggs in one basket because the stud game is pretty fickle. We have run a high stocking rate and it certainly sorts out the rats from the mice.

"It gives us a strong female base that drives the stud - unless you put pressure on something you don't know how good it is." Powdrell says Angus are renowned for their toughness and durability.

"That's one of the reasons why they are at the forefront of the New Zealand beef industry - they tick all the boxes.

"If you go to any sale you will see about 85 per cent are predominantly Angus-bred."

He says running a stud is very different from normal farming - they have a constant stream of visitors and enquiries - plus the animals need plenty of care.

"We are with them every day, making sure they are not fighting, making sure there's lots of water - you get all sorts of things that can go wrong."

He says Turiroa is very much a family business.

"My mother and my wife, Tracey, handle the book work which enables Dad and I to get out of the office."

He says his wife is coming around to the main topic of conversation at home.

"You have to be passionate about it - we are talking cattle all the time."

- Hamilton News

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