ONE look at Rupari Generale d'Poll – a very thick Blonde bull with muscle rippling from shoulder to rump – could cast doubt on the negative myths around polled cattle.
The bull can be found on the Yarrawonga property of Greg and Linden Roberts, and is the showpiece of their Rupari polled Blonde d'Aquitane stud.
The three-year-old is by Canadian bull West Winds Gershwin, and most importantly possesses the homozygous – or double-polled – gene.
This means he can be used to breed double polled offspring, which is the stud's foremost aim.
From his experience in the sheep and cattle industry, Mr Roberts concurred several years ago that the handling benefits of polled animals meant people would soon want quality polled bulls to crossbreed with.
"When we started out with the polls everyone said we were mad and we searched everywhere for polled semen," he said.
"But I was totally focused. And the more people said 'you shouldn't do this', the more determined I was to do it and show that we could do it well."
After running Red Angus since the mid 1970s, the Riverina producers found they weren't making enough through the saleyards on their weaners, and started experimenting with crossbreeding.
But with limited success using South Devons, Gelbveihs and Limousins, and in the middle of a 10-year drought from 2000-2009, they decided to offload all but a dozen of their herd and take a new direction.
"We had no grass, nothing, so we decided to have a lot less, but higher-value cattle, and that's what we did," Mr Roberts said.
They took a trip to Queensland and purchased a dozen Blonde cows, a few of which were polled, at the Banya Blondes dispersal.
"Then with those dozen we said OK, we're going to focus on breeding polled Blondes because horned cattle do not have a long-term future," Mr Roberts said.
In Australia, polled Blonde bulls were tough to find, so online research took the pair to Canada, where they have now purchased double-polled genetics from several studs.
One of those studs was West Winds, where they hold exclusive semen rights in Australia for West Winds Workman.
The bull is in the top five per cent of Canadian sires for weaning weight and milk production, and the top 11pc for yearling weight gain.
But the Blonde trailblazers haven't been without their naysayers.
"Even when I had calves on the ground I had people saying 'You won't make that mistake again'," Mr Roberts said,
"Well we had some average ones and we had some good ones, so it was a matter of working with the good ones.
"Since then we've bought other semen from different parts of Canada and we're at the stage now where we've got quite a lot of homozygous polled females and we're filtering back in some of the better horned bulls we can find.
"So now we're producing more single polls and that gives us our genetic diversity in the polls."
But continuing to grow the gene pool of double-polled Blondes in order to increase selection pressure means introducing horned genes back into the stud.
"If you're trying to breed good polled cattle you have to bring in outside genetics from quality horned animals," Mr Roberts said.
"If you focused on polls it would be easy to keep putting the polls back to polls.
"It takes a certain amount of courage to put horns back into your polls to build the diversity so you are always able to keep providing a broader range of genetics."