Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Hitting the right market

Breeding Angus bulls specifically for the dairy market is paying off in the Bay of Plenty where the traditional beef market has slowly slipped away. Roger Matthews and his son Richard run Matapara Farm, a 300ha sheep and beef unit just outside Te Puke. Roger decided 25 years ago to breed their Matapara Angus cattle specifically towards bulls to suit the dairy market because the number of finishing farms nearby was dwindling. At that stage, kiwifruit was becoming a popular industry to be involved with and land was being cut up into orchards while traditional sheep and beef country was going into dairy grazing.

Matapara Farm is now surrounded by kiwifruit orchards and dairy farms so Roger’s decision has been vindicated.

“There is really no beef market here. It’s more lifestylers, kiwifruit and dairying and back in the hills is dairy grazing,” Roger says.

“We’d have to sell out of the area to be in the beef market.”

Matapara farm has been in the Matthews family since 1902 and was named after a Maori Pa site on the original 700ha. 

Better season

It was farmed as a dairy farm until converted to sheep and beef in 1939 and started registering Angus cattle under the name Matapara Angus in 1963. Matapara Angus cattle will have been registered for 50 years this year.

When Roger took over the farm he scaled back the sheep numbers, planted kiwifruit and bred Angus bulls for the dairy market and has taken on dairy grazing.

Gary says wintering the bulls works well as they become familiar with him and Debra and with the farm and are even quieter to handle.

The Angus line goes well over dairy cows and it works for them Gary says. The crossbred yearlings come back in May at about 420kg and the herd average is 460kg, so they are not huge cows and they manage well with the Angus calves which range between 30-35kg.

“I didn’t have to calve any cows last year.

“The heifers would always come first – if the Angus weren’t so easy calving I would change it. At the end of the day we are dairy farmers, not beef farmers.”

Breeding for the dairy market is working well for them but they want to keep their options open, Rogers says.

The Angus beef market is excelling in New Zealand and they want to keep in touch with that.

Breeding for calving ease and smaller birthweights has cost them some carcase growth, which is something they are trying to pick up now, Roger says.

“We are slowly realigning the carcase side of the animals. There is nothing wrong with them at the moment but we are going to target some other attributes.

“We are scanning heifers for carcase attributes – fat cover, eye muscle area and intramuscular fat so we’re interested in seeing how that goes.”

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