Young farmer making his mark
BONALBO'S Ben Cooper has taken the first big step to starting his own cattle breeding business, Peacock Ranges Speckle Park Stud, at the ripe-old age of 14.
The young farmer, who got his first cow at the age of three, runs a herd of about 90 on the family property Bondale, just outside Bonalbo.
After seeing Canadian Speckle Park cattle at the Dubbo Spectacular in February last year, Ben researched the breed, found suppliers of embryos, contacted the people necessary to arrange importation into Australia and found a veterinarian, Kyogle mayor Ross Brown, who could implant the imported eggs.
Ben financed the entire $12,000 project himself – the purchase, importation, insured transport from Canada and the veterinary fees for implantation – through the sale of some of his own herd and a $6000 inheritance from his grandfather.
From 10 eggs implanted, he now has six pure-bred Speckle Park animals from two bulls and four cows.
Ben has kept records of each implantation and through these records knows which of his calves he can breed with each other, as his eggs were from different bloodlines.
He plans to start showing these when they are ready and then begin his breeding program, as well asoffering the embryos of his animals for sale to other interested Australian farmers.
The Speckle Park breed began in Saskatchewan, Canada, in 1959 and quickly became a highly desirable animal for breeders all over the world.
With a calm disposition, medium proportions, highly developed maternal instincts and few aggressive bulls, farmers loved the ease of hand-ling of the animals. The consistently high quality of the meat also brought accolades from butchers.
Winning the best meat prize at Canada's major meat award, the Hoof and Hook Competition, five times, and at the Calvary Stampede for eight consecutive years, increased the desirability of these cattle even more.
Among the calves there are some with distinctive speckled colouring and one black one, only produced at odds of 12 in 100.
Ben said while he had not decided if he would make a career of cattle breeding, he did say he would always be at least a weekend farmer. In the long term he wants to get a trade qualification in either metalwork or building before he makes a final decision.
Once his breeding program starts he may be busier than he imagines as these cattle are rare in Australia and there is a growing demand for their meat.
Ben's father, Tom, said he was really proud of the initiative Ben had shown. He thought the Speckle Park breed had a very big future and was enthusiastic that Ben wanted to embark on a breeding program for his pure-bred animals.
SPECKLE PARK FACTS
A pure British breed. Not a composite.
Moderate birth weights.
Sleek and slick in summer with soft skin and hair. They are early to shed their winter coats.
Highly fertile, with magnificent udders and high milk flow.
Breed renowned fault-free structures. Polled bred.
Docile and quiet-natured in the working yard environment.
High marbling, yet perfect fat covering, off grass or grain.
Incredible yielding carcasses and impressive quality fine tender eating meat.
Hardy and tough with dark pigmented skin.
Fewer health problems than many other breeds. Eye cancer, pink eye, dystocia and hoof problems are virtually unheard of in the breed.