Speckles make their mark

THEIR unique colour always draws attention, but one Tasmanian Speckle Park enthusiast says the breed also has a lot to offer when it comes to beef production.

Denis Johnson started breeding Speckle Park cattle in 2015.

Since then, he has established a commercial breeding operation at South Riana selling bulls to farmers including a number of dairy producers.

“A lot of people will say they’re a hobby, but I’ll admit they’re more of an addiction,” he said.

Mr Denis is using a base herd of Friesian cross cows in his operation, which he then puts Speckle Park bulls over.

The results of that cross are cattle with excellent carcass qualities and plenty of milk.

“Unless you’ve got a cow with enough milk, you won’t get a good calf out of her,” he said.

“You really want that elite meat at 10 months and with these cows that’s what you get.”

Mr Johnson is now also keeping some of his homebred heifers and using specially selected Speckle Park bulls over them to continue his breeding program.

He now has about 40 cows, which calve in March.

“I calve them at that time of the year because you want them as big as possible at weaning time,” he said.

While the Speckle Parks generally have low birth weights, he said their early growth and excellent carcass dressing percentages makes them ideal for the trade cattle market.

Mr Johnson runs his cattle under a typical grass-fed system and supplements them with silage when needed in winter.

“I’m pretty tough on them, they don’t do it easy, but that’s because you need cattle that can do well in commercial conditions,” he said.

Mr Johnson sells a number of bulls each year and many of them are being purchased by dairy farmers.

“The dairy farmers like them because they have fairly small calves, but then they grow well,” he said.

“A lot of people want to buy them as well, so they can sell the calves if they want to.”

Mr Johnson generally sells his bulls at between 15-18 months old.

He sources his Speckle Park genetics from some of the country’s biggest producers and prefers bulls with Canadian and New Zealand bloodlines.

Mr Johnson said the breed’s excellent temperaments are another bonus.

“A lot of it is in how you handle them, but they do have very good temperaments which I like,” he said.