Biddles' hold Northland steak hopes

By Mike Barrington

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LAST TWO: Te Kopuru beef farmers Karren and Chris Biddles are the lone Northland representatives in the Steak of Origin contest semifinal this year. PHOTO/FILE
LAST TWO: Te Kopuru beef farmers Karren and Chris Biddles are the lone Northland representatives in the Steak of Origin contest semifinal this year. PHOTO/FILE

Chris and Karren Biddles will be the only Northland entrants assessed in the Beef + Lamb New Zealand Steak of Origin competition semifinal on Friday to determine which 20 steaks will go on to the grand final.

The Te Kopuru couple, who farm 1550 cattle, including 300 stud Angus breeding cows and 200 commercial breeding cows, on 1000ha of coastal land hard-hit by drought, were the only ones left from five Northland entries after the 340 entries received nationally for this year's competition were culled to find the 20 per cent proceeding to next week's semifinal in Auckland.

The Biddles have three Angus entries in the Best of British section of the contest, where they face 16 semifinal rivals, and two Angus-Jersey entries in the Best of Crossbreed section, where they have a dozen rivals.

Should the Northland steaks make the top 20, they will be judged in the grand final at AgInnovation - formerly Beef Expo - at Feilding on May 12.

The Biddles won the inaugural Beef Producers of the Decade category against nine finalists - including three other Northland entrants - in the Beef + Lamb New Zealand Steak of Origin competition in 2012.

The other Northland finalists in the Producers of the Decade category were Kevin McConnell, of Whangarei; David McKenzie, of Waipu; and Dannie and Bethley O'Shea, of Maungatapere.

Alex Macmillan, of Pipiwai, took grand champion honours in the contest that year. And last year, when the Biddles were named grand champions for the second time in six years, John and Joss Bayly from Paihia won the Best of British Breed section

Mr Biddles said yesterday he believed it was the first time since Steak of Origin was launched 12 years ago that only one Northland beef producer had made the semifinal.

"And I'm surprised we're there - I wasn't holding high hopes because of the drought," he said.

He usually killed his competition entries at the last moment to reduce their freezer time before judging, but lack of feed this year had forced him to kill his 10 entries early.

Mr Biddles said he was "really nervous" because the farm had received 15mm of rain on April 16 and an 11mm "real bonus" over the the weekend.

- NORTHERN ADVOCATE

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