ANGUS cattle are producing top quality grass-fed beef for the Attkins-Piper family on the Mid North Coast of NSW.
Steve Attkins and Robyn Piper made the tree change to Wootton 18 years ago, purchasing a 130-hectare property to create Great Lakes Paddocks, which includes wine, local produce, events and Angus beef.
“From our perspective, it’s quite a fertile and rich area and we get good rain so the British breeds do really well for us,” Steve Attkins said.
“I’ve always felt that Angus cattle eat well and I had done my research on them. We were always heading down the path of supplying beef and in terms of yield and natural marbling, the Angus breed had the characteristics we were looking for.”
The Attkins run about 40 breeders, using genetics from Greswick Angus at Seaham, and aiming for good growth rates, eye muscle area and temperament.
Steers and heifers are grown out to 320 kilograms, at 12 to 14 months, for a carcase weight of 160kg to 180kg.
The cattle are processed at Kurri Kurri or Frederickton and butchered locally. The carcases are dry aged for up to 14 days to enhance the tenderisation process.
We were always heading down the path of providing beef and in terms of yield and natural marbling, the Angus breed had the characteristics to lend itself to that.
The couple supplies beef to selected local restaurants, online and to customers coming through Great Lakes Paddocks tasting room.
They deliver to the Mid North Coast, Newcastle, Central Coast and Sydney. The business has had some regular customers for a decade, and they’re happy to wait for their beef packs.
”Our customers understand with grass-fed beef there may be a bit of a wait until the beef reaches the weight we are looking for, so there can be a bit of a waiting list,” Mr Attkins said.
“We use every part of the beast, so the beef packs include primary and secondary cuts. For customers unfamiliar with these cuts we provide recipes and cooking tips.
“Secondary cuts are our favourite and we have a few favourite recipes which confound people when we tell them that they are eating chuck for example. We are educating our customers. When they come to the property they become part of the process – that’s how it should be as opposed to being completely removed from understanding where your food comes from.”
After moving from Sydney, Mr Attkins undertook research to make the farm’s management effective and sustainable.
“I’ve done a lot of research and farm management courses, like Prograze, that extra knowledge has been extremely helpful,” he said.
All 35 paddocks are improved with ryegrasses, clovers, paspalum and kikuyu, and cattle are regularly rotated.
“The rotational grazing gives the pasture a break, but we’ve also got cattle on the best pastures at any time,” Mr Attkins said.
“The paddocks are all about eight to 10 acres (3ha to 4ha) and they’re moved between three and five days depending on the time of year and available feed.”
The paddock rotation, along with regular mulching, helps with weed issues.
“The property is run under organic principles,” Mr Atkins said.
“This last season we’ve put out 54 tonnes of lime and organic fertiliser. We’ve done nine environmental projects on the property, and fenced all creeks and rivers. I also highly recommend soil testing to get the best production from pastures.
“We’re trying to provide the best quality feed, cleanest water and best pasture we can for our animals, so come winter, they’re not going backwards and they hit the ground running in spring because the breeders haven’t lost condition.”
Mr Attkins uses low-stress stock handling methods, which pays off with the end product, he said.
“We end up with a really soft eating animal. When they’re processed we don’t send one away – we always send two to limit stress.”