Bred for the tropics

Stock and Land Beef

TWO iconic Australian cattle companies have gone into business to produce lighter cattle, better suited to tough northern conditions with improved carcase attributes.

TWO iconic Australian cattle companies have gone into business to produce lighter cattle, better suited to tough northern conditions with improved carcase attributes.


Grazing giant S Kidman and Co, with properties spanning 120,000 square kilometres over four states and Northern Territory, will incorporate the 33 years of experience provided by South Australian stud, Willalooka, in breeding performance recorded Murray Greys.

Now Willalooka Basin Beef Genetics, the McGregor family, with managers Malcolm and Alison McDonald, have bred the first 50 Murray Grey-Tuli bulls to be used over the predominantly Charolais-Brahman Kidman herd.

The Tuli, a Bos Taurus breed originating from Zimbabwe, is medium-sized, has a small thoraco-cervical hump and performs well in harsh climates.

Tuli cattle can be yellow, golden-brown or red, but only lighter coloured bulls have been used with some of Willalooka’s 300 registered Murray Grey cows to produce the first drop of light, even coloured, smooth-skinned offspring with 50 per cent tropical adaptation.

The first of the yearling Murray Grey-Tuli bulls will leave Willalooka for S Kidman and Co’s northernmost properties, Ruby Plains near Halls Creek and Helen Springs near Tennant Creek, in June.

These 50 bulls will cover 400 to 600 selected Brahman/ Charolais cross heifers on each property for calving next autumn.

The resulting progeny will have more than 50pc tropical adaptation and retain tick resistance with only just over one quarter Brahman blood.

“The goal is to produce a tropically adapted animal that’s light in colour, polled and smooth-coated with added carcase benefits and fertility,” said Will Abel Smith, S Kidman and Co’s livestock marketing manager.

Mr Abel Smith said the doing ability, calving ease and mothering ability of the Murray Grey, combined with the size of the Tuli would also help produce more live calves.

“We would like our calving percentage to be at least 80pc. We are aiming for 85pc, but with our current Brahman mix, we don’t see ourselves getting there.”

The resulting Murray Grey/Tuli composite cattle will be run along side the existing Charbray cow herd, to compare the performance. If they out-perform the existing cattle, the bloodlines will be integrated across the entire Kidman northern herd.

“We think of the Murray Grey as a light Angus. Their colour fits out program best and we want all the benefits of the breeding that comes with top, high performance recorded Murray Grey and Angus herds,” Mr Abel Smith said.

S Kidman and Co runs the biggest percentage of their breeders on their northern properties and send steers to its south-west Queensland properties to be fattened to Jap bullocks.

“But we like to have options, especially when there is no floods in the channels; a slick- coated and adaptable animal that can also sell well into the live export trade is what we need,” Mr Abel Smith said.

“Hopefully, we will also see some carcase benefits in terms of added intramuscular fat and eye muscle area from the Murray Grey come through.”

The added British blood to the Bos Indicus base may also allow S Kidman and Co to deeper penetrate in its high end export destinations; Japan, the US and South-East Asia.

The composite cattle should also be ideally suited to live export trade, where Indonesian markets, when given a choice, prefer lighter coloured, smooth skinned, tropically adapted cattle.

For now Tuli genetics are limited in Australia – the first were imported from Africa by the CSIRO in the 1970s – but S Kidman and Co hopes to import more genetics by way of semen or embryos, providing a long-term demand for high performance Murray Grey cows.

“After more than 30 years of building up high performance Murray Grey bloodlines, it’s great to see those genetics used in bigger operations,” said Willalooka marketing manager, Thyne McGregor.


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