It's been a great season to own cattle says Glen Anthony Simmental breeder Tony Thompson.
"We have witnessed the longest, most productive growing season since we came to Central Hawke's Bay."
Tony and Glennis first set eyes on the Simmental breed while travelling in Switzerland, Austria and Bavaria in the late 1960's.
On returning to New Zealand the Thompsons settled initially in the Waikato where Tony began his professional career as a veterinarian in Matamata.
There they farmed a small property and first registered the Glen Anthony Simmental herd No 299 in 1973, with a handful of crossbred cows and one imported purebred cow "Woolston's Fasan".
In 1974 Tony and Glennis relocated to 230 acres in Central Hawke's Bay where Tony joined the local veterinary practice, while Glennis set about replacing the crossbred herd with purebred Simmental cows.
With the purchase of 270 acres of river flats near Onga Onga in 1988, the herd was expanded to 150 breeding cows. In 2008, after 20 years of farming 500 aces the breeding herd was downsized following the sale of the Onga Onga property to dairy interests.
The property had provided ideal conditions for winter grazing but when the offer came, it was too good to turn down.
As a result, the stud has done away with any animals that weren't up to the highest standard, leaving a nucleus of only 60 breeding cows. "We got rid of the chaff and we just have the best of the best now."
Tony believes that the biggest outside influence on Glen Anthony Stud over the last 20 years has been the "giant" dairy industry. Not only the exceptional sale of the Onga property, but also the impact on commercial beef farming made by the introduction of Fresian or dairy bull farming, the establishment of long term dairy heifer grazing contracts and the winter grazing of thousands of dairy cows.
"Glen Anthony has lost a large number of bull buying clients to this conversion of commercial beef breeding farms to dairy support.
"This move away from farming beef breeding cows has been forced upon many Hawke's Bay farmers by the three years of drought."
The years of no grass growth over the summer and early autumn impacted heavily on Glen Anthony with the whole herd being sent away to off farm grazing.
Keeping the herd on the plentiful grass at Farm Road this year has been a bonus for Tony and Glennis, with the bulls being in top condition for sale on June 8th.
"The bulls have been scanned and are showing remarkable soft muscling and good fat covers."
Tony says the drought years have confirmed the observation of many farmers, that the big framed American style cattle, of 20 years ago "take too much feeding to maintain body condition."
"Like in many studs across all breeds of cattle, Glen Anthony has recognised the need to moderate the frame size."
The importation of the champion Australian stud bull Monreid Yardstick in 2005 was the masterstroke in this plan. "Yardstick introduced a moderate frame, smooth, thick deep musculature and an excellent temperament."
His heifers, displaying his award winning traits are now the backbone of the stud.
In 2006 Haylands Rupert, the Junior Champion at the Royal Show, was purchased to specifically mate to the Yardstick heifers. The majority of this year's bull sale represent this Yardstick-Rupert cross.
"They are all powerful bulls with exceptional carcass qualities."
The next herd sire will be Waiata, born in 2010. Waiata was the result of embryo transplant technology being bought as a foetus in a pregnant recipient cow. The risk of buying an animal "sight unseen" has proven well worthwhile, with Waiata showing many traits that will enhance the herd, "polled, beautiful temperament, great libido, good lover and a body to die for." (Tony hopes his cows will get to read this article!)
Glen Anthony has built up a reputation for having "the guts" to breed good framed cattle with plenty of fleshing. "Calving ease" is one of the main selection criteria - not low birth weight. This is achieved through a policy of only breeding from the good framed yearling heifers, over 450 kg live weight and selecting for good clean shoulders, good neck extension and broad hips.
"Proof of this policy is the ability of Glen Anthony females to easily deliver calves up to 50 kg birth weight." Tony is convinced that even after 20 years of recording the Breedplan model, he has not been able to accurately predict actual measurable performance of animals, directly related to EBV differences.
"In my experience, we have to fall back on the slow process of progeny testing in order to see how they actually perform."
Glen Anthony is well known for its champion show team, often amounting to over 20 cattle at any one A & P Show. The stud has won the Hawke's Bay A & P Show Meat and Wool Cup on 10 occasions. "It's my hobby and a great way to get out and about display my cattle to the public."
Over the years, clients buying Glen Anthony Simmental bulls have topped the weaner fairs and yearling sales with Simmental-crossbred stock.
"They have built an enviable record in the commercial scene"
This was well illustrated by the success of Andrew and Max Tweedie's Simmental crossbred steers in the 2011 Future Beef Hoof and Hook competition.
"Andrew Tweedie is a long time bull buyer at the annual Glen Anthony bull sales and to have one of his crossbred steers win the overall supreme grand champion prize, against steers of many breeds, entered from all over New Zealand, was a great achievement.
"Glen Anthony hopes that Tom Dever's entry of a similarly bred Simmental crossbred steer from his father's Poko Poko station near Wairoa, will continue this success in 2012."