A healthy dose of Canadian genetics combined with home-grown talent is the engine room driving growth at the Black Diamond Speckle Park stud.
Based in Victoria's Goulburn Valley at Macorna, with a smaller property at Camperdown, the operation also includes the Macorna Limousin stud and a large commercial cattle breeding operation.
Murray Van der Drift and parents, Andrew and Melissa, run around 900 breeders across the three herds which includes nearly 200 registered Limousin cows and 160 registered Speckle Park cows.
Mr Van der Drift said his dad had run Limousin cattle for a long time with success, but wanted something with "a bit more softness and fat cover" for carcase competitions.
A trip to Canada in 2016 resulted in the purchase of embryos and the start of a growth program with a gradual increase in embryo transfer to nearly 550 (mostly Speckle Park) in the 2020-21 breeding season.
"We thought we'd give Speckles a try," he said.
"They obviously have eye appeal as well as carcase abilities.
"We've seen since what they can do in their carcases."
In 2020 the stud entered two teams of Speckle Park/Angus-cross steers in the Jindalee Feedlot trial finishing eighth and 14th.
They also entered a team of Limousin steers that achieved a dressing percentage of more than 60 per cent.
"We've won Swan Hill's carcase competition numerous times," he said.
"[Speckle Parks] do it so easy, they lay down fat easily and they still have plenty of yield."
He said the Speckle Park breed was a great terminal cross and the Speckle Park/Angus-cross were "great cows" for commercial herds.
He said the data provided real detail.
Performance recording and data was important and all the stud's bulls and heifers were scanned for BreedPlan.
He said this was only the second year collecting data for BreedPlan and while they used the figures and genetic testing in breeding, "we are still breeding for phenotype to a large extent".
"We are trying to breed a good cow herd while also trying to put the numbers behind those cattle when we can," he said.
While he said showing cattle was "not the be all and end all", showing was a real social outlet and it enabled them to see other genetics and how they were working in other herds.
This year, with no shows running, it was an opportunity to run the bulls as a contemporary group right through, providing the best available data to BreedPlan.
Mr Van der Drift said they aimed to work with bulls that could lift the quality of carcase traits of their cattle.
"The cows we own in Canada and the embryos coming here let us diversify our genetics using proven bulls," he said.
Sires like Poster Boy and Marcho Man, with performance records behind them, were used on Canadian cows along with Canadian bull, River Hill Farr-Out.
The stud will this year hold two sales including an inaugural on-property sale in May comprising 18 bulls and around 25 females as well as a sale in Emerald, Queensland, in September of 30-35 bulls.
He said the bulls for Emerald would be sent to Queensland for 120 days to acclimatise to the heat and humidity.
"We have the heat down here but not the humidity," he said.
Around 160 of the commercial herd were Speckle/Angus-cross cows or second cross with the second cross sold to other breeders seeking that level of Speckle.
"We got into this wanting to breed good cattle for ourselves and eventually sell quality bulls for stud and commercial purposes for both Speckle and Limousins," he said.
Mr Van der Drift said the stud had a number of top cow families including Three Way Stands With Grace which had a lot of progeny coming through that "we are really impressed with".
Another was Black Diamond Marry Me and Waratah Pho-Finish.
"Those three cow families are our strongest and will have a lot of calves on display at Beef Week," he said.
"A few of our Canadian cows were starting to come through and really shine and get proven."
Mr Van der Drift said crops were grown under irrigation included sorghum and millet for bulls and weaners to graze.
He said he planned to introduce containment pens to feed weaned calves during summer on a total mixed ration.
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