THE rise and rise of Speckle Park cattle have attracted graziers Helen and Richard Thompson, recently of the Clarence Valley, who paid an Australian record price for heifers PTIC of any type at the recent Wattle Grove sale at Oberon.
Their determined bidding has helped place the attractive Canadian breed yet another notch higher on the ladder of respect.
For the Thompsons, both born on Singleton dairy farms and who started married life with nothing but desire, this sale wasn’t about buying respect – it was about kick-starting another project in beef breeding, just as they thought they would put their feet up in retirement.
True, the price paid was a bit high – about double what they expected to pay – but the opportunity to purchase spectacular genetics was too good to let go.
The couple, who have property at Palmers Island via Yamba with an eye on red soil country at Dorrigo, bought three Wattle Grove bulls, with the top price of $20,000 paid for 24 months old Tuxedo by Codiak Putnam.
From guest vendors Justin and Amy Dickins, Yeoval, the Thompsons bought 28 F1 Speckle/Angus heifers, 16-18 months old and pregnant with 16 of them to Wattle Grove Thunderstruck, by Codiak Eagle, with a pen of eight topping at $5800 per head. They are due to calve next April.
A third pen of older heifers, 20-22 months and due to calve at the end of November, have been joined with Minnamurra bulls and were bought after the sale when another purchaser pulled out.
“If we didn’t buy these cattle last week we would have been saying we should have,” said Mr Thompson.
So much for retirement.
They will put their new bulls to their F1 Speckle Park breeders and plan to retain their upcoming F2 heifers, although they have some concerns about how young the heifers were joined.
“They say Speckle Park have low-birth weight calves but we will be putting them in the house paddock just in case,” said Mrs Thompson.
The couple are equally keen to experiment with pure speckle bulls over their existing Brangus females, descendants of their Nundle and Quirindi herd, as well as over a recent opportunity purchase of North Queensland Brahman cows and calves.
“We are expecting the Speckle Park to put width and muscle into those slab-sided Brahmans,” Mr Thompson said. “And the Brahman suits the country here on the coast.
“That’s what attracted us to the breed – their shape and their marbling ability.”
Red hot go in black and white
From humble beginnings to recent record-breaking purchases Richard and Helen Thompson never fear taking on a daunting venture. After all, the risk has paid off in the past.
The couple, born to dairying at a time when that industry was consolidating, returned to farming later in life after a career in earthmoving and when their four daughters had grown.
They began by buying their cattle first – an opportunity purchase consisting of three double deckers of Droughtmaster breeders that had walked to Dubbo from Queensland to escape drought before running out of feed in New South Wales. The Thompsons agisted them on leased country at Chichester via Dungog and used the profits to put a down payment on 200 acres at Muswellbrook.
The couple upgraded later to land near Scone, eventually running 700 Brangus breeders at Nundle and Quirindi but struggled against drought and debt, downsizing to retain Quirindi which they sold to ‘retire’ three months ago, to their coastal acreage on the Clarence.
And then the opportunity to get into Speckle Park rose its head
“We’ve tried a lot of breeds over the years but when we first saw Speckle Park we thought ‘that’s what we wanted to breed all our life – nice and round’.
Choosing their recent purchase by visually assessing for structure and soundness, rather than figures, the Thompsons have managed to purchase some of the best F1 Speckle breeders in Australia.