Drew Dundass reckons the Charolais breed of cattle is a
Mr Dundass, who jokes that he married into the breed, and his
wife Carolyn (nee Aitken), manage Glen Ayr, a 1577ha property
in the Paerau Valley, home to the Taiaroa Charolais stud.
Glen Ayr Ltd comprises two properties - Glen Ayr, and
Glenfield, a 600ha finishing property on the Maniototo Plain
which has a 343ha run block in the White Sow Valley, managed
by Mrs Dundass' sister, Dawn Sangster, and her husband David.
Mr and Mrs Dundass hosted a field day at Glen Ayr last week,
which included a farm tour with spectacular views over the
Maniototo and an opportunity to view their cattle.
The Charolais breed was developed and established in the
Charolles district in central France.
The first Charolais semen was imported to New Zealand from
Britain in 1965 for trials at Lincoln and Ruakura.
The following year, commercial semen was brought in by the
Sutherland family of Centrewood, Waimate, while the New
Zealand Charolais Cattle Society was formed at a meeting in
Oamaru in 1968.
The Taiaroa stud was founded by Tom Aitken, who ran shorthorn
cattle prior to 1966.
After viewing some Charolais cattle at Waimate, he decided to
artificially inseminate six cows. Delighted with the result,
his next aim was to breed a purebred herd.
Artificial insemination was time-consuming, so he bought two
purebred bulls, including the first New Zealand-bred
purebred, and imported a heifer from England. Using embryo
transfer, he got five bulls and one heifer.
Forty-seven years later, the Taiaroa stud continues,
concentrating on American polled bulls which left
easier-calving stock, with less bone, but still good weight
In March last year, Mr and Mrs Dundass became involved in a
share-farming agreement with long-time Napier Charolais
breeders Don and Val Organ.
They now had 61 mixed-age cattle and 12 bulls from the
Organs' Cotswold stud.
Speaking at the field day, Mr Organ, who first used Charolais
bulls when they were introduced into New Zealand, said he was
excited to be involved in the joint venture.
The aim was to provide both commercial and stud breeders with
a much better selection of better-performing bulls for
Over the years, he had been passionate about improving the
Charolais breed, focusing on traits such as temperament, ease
of calving, and achieving excellent growth rates.
The objective of the partnership was to work together to
continually raise the standard of the breed and he was
confident the bulls available to purchase would shift
anywhere in New Zealand.
The condition of the stock at Glen Ayr was testament to the
dedication, efforts and animal husbandry skills of Mr and Mrs
Dundass, Mr Organ said.
He also acknowledged the efforts of Mr Aitken over many
Glen Ayr was now running 82 mixed-age Taiaroa cows, 21
rising-three heifers, 50 rising-two heifers, 48 rising-two
bulls and four mixed-age herd sires, plus the Cotswold
cattle, along with 2650 mixed-age ewes and 620 ewe hoggets.
Mr Dundass was impressed with both the quiet nature of the
Charolais and also the hardiness of the breed.
Farming in the Paerau environment was demanding, with hot
summer temperatures and frequent snow and heavy frosts during
There was now 130ha under K-line irrigation, with the
capacity to add a further 45ha. That irrigation was also
essential for lamb finishing, baleage crops and striking
At this year's annual Taiaroa bull sale in May, Mr and Mrs
Dundass were changing to a live auction, and were in the
process of building a sale ring, instead of selling by
It was expected to offer nine Cotswold bulls, while Mr
Dundass hoped to offer between 20 and 23 Taiaroa bulls.
He would like to sell more bulls in the future, saying with
the addition of the Cotswold cows, they had culled out some
poorer cattle and had a better base to select from, so they
should be able to select more bulls for sale.
Bulls were sold as far afield as Hawkes Bay, with many sold
throughout Central Otago.
Temperament was a key factor in the operation.
''It doesn't matter what an animal's like; if the
temperament's no good, it's gone,'' he said.
Mr Dundass was ''fairly optimistic'' about the future for
sheep and beef producers, citing the quality of the product
and the demand for grass-fed beef.
Alliance Group's yield grading sounded exciting and ''if we
hang in there, we might be just turning the corner'', he
Nick Beeby, from Beef and Lamb New Zealand, who is the
manager for emerging markets in the market development team,
said while New Zealand had a small beef herd by international
standards, it was on the ''world stage'' in terms of exports.
For a long time, the main market for New Zealand beef had
been the United States and he could not see that changing in
the short term.
The growth that had come recently from China had been
''pretty phenomenal''. In 2006-07, China was not on the list
of New Zealand's top 15 beef markets. A couple of years ago,
it was 12th-largest and and it moved up to third-largest last
In terms of production, until 2020, 34% of the world's growth
in beef production was forecast to come out of South America,
while 37% of the world's forecast growth in consumption was
going to come out of Asia, due to a combination of growing
population and growing wealth.
Carl Alsweiller, Alliance Group's marketing manager for beef
and general products, said food was a ''great business to be
in'', with a growing global population, increasing
consumption and a need for more protein.
Those who continued to produce lamb, mutton and beef would
eventually get better pricing. Prime stock was decreasing as
farmers moved out of sheep and beef.
Due to the growth of the dairy industry, dairy cows were now
about 34% of Alliance Group's beef kill, compared with about
16% in 2007-08.
China was a ''shining light'' with insatiable demand. It had
expanded to buying a full range of cuts and had become
''quite a dominant force'' with a growing affluent
population, Mr Alsweiller said.
There were opportunities for quarter beef - China wanted to
import more and Alliance Group was investigating how to
modify its Mataura plant to handle quarter beef.
The United States beef kill this year was predicted to be the
lowest in 25 years.
Food and supply security was important and New Zealand had an
ability to capitalise on that, while free trade was a
priority, he said.
Alliance Group procurement manager Murray Behrent said it was
planned have a payment structure by October for the company's
VIAscan yield-grading system for beef.
It was not about breed but about identifying the best sires
in each breed. That was what happened in the sheep industry
and it would be replicated in beef, Mr Behrent said.