WHEN it comes to breeding cattle, Livestock Producer of the Year finalist Ian Milne approaches it in a way that might be expected from a pharmacist.
"The most profitable cow is a smaller cow that eats less, that you can use a larger bull over to produce a larger calf – the cost is $100 to $150 less a year," Mr Milne said.
This was the foundation theory behind Mr Milne's new Speckleline stud: a Speckle Park-Lowline cross.
Having bred Lowline cattle since 1997, he decided about 10 years ago to look at how the breed could be made more commercial.
"They are easy to manage and when they were new, restaurants were interested in them because of the size of their cuts, but the expansion within the breed hasn't been there," he said.
Two articles in the Lowline Journal – 'Moderating frame size for profit gain' and 'The half-blood Lowline cow is diamond in the rough' – spurred Mr Milne on in his quest for increased profitability in beef.
Mr Milne said this research showed the key to profitability was a moderate-sized cow crossed with a bigger bull, leading to decreased feed consumption and a larger calf size.
"US research shows the most profitable cow size is 500 kilograms, which is between a Lowline and an Angus," Mr Milne said.
"How do you get a cow that size?
"Lowline over Angus would mean a big cow and small calf, when what was needed was a big bull over a small cow for feed consumption.
"Lowlines have a huge pelvic region and no trouble having a 30kg calf, and the most profitable cow is one you can use a larger bull over, with smaller cows eating less and producing a larger calf – the cost is $100-$150 less a year."
Already running 70 Lowline breeders, Mr Milne was looking for the right sized cow to accommodate a larger bull with no calving problems.
"So I decided to investigate the birthweight of bulls all over the world and the Speckle Park was the best match, producing a 35-40kg pure-bred calf."
Mr Milne said this meant each animal already achieved a premium before sale, by costing less to produce.
Meat characteristics and temperament were the other deciding factors in establishing the new breed.
"The beauty of the Lowline was that the temperament was very calm and placid, with the Speckleline being similar," Mr Milne said.
"Speckle Park also have good meat characteristics.
"At the Calgary Stampede in 2010, Speckle Park held all top four positions as well as being seventh and 10th in the carcase competition.
"That sealed the deal.
"That type of carcase result combined with the fine-grain meat of a Lowline seemed a perfect combination for the consumer."
A 2013 Livestock Producer of the Year finalist for his work on the new breed, Mr Milne has also considered how the Speckleline product could best be used in commercial operations.
"Joining a Speckleline cow to a bigger bull to produce a bigger calf provides a number of options," he said.
"The bull can be used as a terminal bull, giving breeders the option of using the same bull each year.
"If the F1 heifers are retained, they can be joined to an F1 bull for their first calf.
"Then the F1 heifers, now 500kg cows, can be joined to F2, F3 or full-blood low-birthweight terminal bulls to again produce a bigger-than-normal calf.
"All these bigger-than-normal calves would be sold when they meet market specificiations."
- Full story and 24-page preview in the Stock & Land January 16 edition