First show feature for Highland cattle

First show feature for Highland cattle


Glen Hastie and daughter Laine, 10, with four-year-old cow Bairnsley Isla and three-week-old calf affectionately known as Heather.

Glen Hastie and daughter Laine, 10, with four-year-old cow Bairnsley Isla and three-week-old calf affectionately known as Heather.

Aa

GISBORNE South Highland breeder Glen Hastie is excited to showcase the distinctive Scottish cattle as this year's Royal Melbourne Show's (RMS) feature breed.

Aa

GISBORNE South Highland breeder Glen Hastie is excited to showcase the distinctive Scottish cattle as this year's Royal Melbourne Show's (RMS) feature breed.

Mr Hastie, who is also the Victorian Highland Breeders Group president, said it was the first time Highlands had been the feature breed.

About 14 breeders will show Highlands at the RMS, and the Queen's Herdsman at Balmoral Castle, Cameron "Dochy" Ormiston (who heralds from Scotland from generations of Highland farming) will judge the feature show.

The Hastie family plan to take a team of three bulls, two cows and calves, and three heifers to the RMS, where their Bairnsley Highland stud has won eight of the last 11 supreme champions of the breed.

The breed's distinctive appearance of long hair and horns initially catches people's eyes, Mr Hastie says, but those who go on to breed them also appreciate their temperaments and marbled, tender meat.

The Hasties began breeding Highland cattle in 1996 in recognition of Mr Hastie's Scottish heritage and because it was well-known for low maintenance and meat quality.

They started showing two years later.

They gradually bought full-blood, foundation females from selected herds around the country and have since used artificial insemination with material from Scotland and more recently embryo transfer from the Canada and the US, which enables them to broaden the genetic pool.

The family moved to the 51-hectare Ballybrook Farm in 2012 that has an average annual rainfall of 550 millimetres and rich soils, on which they run about 20 to 25 breeding females with a total of about 60 animals. This stocking rate means they are less reliant on fodder in tough times.

It is a mostly spring-calving herd, with a few animals calving in autumn so stock of different ages can be taken to shows.

Mr Hastie sells the grass-fed beef under a private label.

Because Highland cattle mature a bit later than other breeds, Mr Hastie has them processed when there are a bit older and says the meat is more flavoursome.

"The marbling is excellent," he said.

"The Highland Society in America is running tests at the moment and comparing Highlands to other breeds, and the interim results show excellent tenderness."

He has the cattle processed at the local abattoir, then delivered to a butcher, who prepares the beef ready to be picked up by customers.

Selling the meat this way commanded a premium over selling them at saleyards, where people were unfamiliar with the breed.

Mr Hastie sends hides to Greenhalgh Tannery, Ballarat.

"We kill our steers in July-August when the hair is 4-6 inches (10-15 centimetres) long and very tightly bound to the skins."

Aa

From the front page

Sponsored by