Santa Gertrudis breed cattle display strong hybrid vigour

Liz and Anton Gibson are only one of two Santa Gertrudis breeders in the South Island and breed their animals for New 
Zealand conditions. Photo by Yvonne O'Hara
Liz and Anton Gibson are only one of two Santa Gertrudis breeders in the South Island and breed their animals for New Zealand conditions. Photo by Yvonne O'Hara

The Santa Gertrudis breed has a place as a terminal sire in the New Zealand beef industry, says stud breeder Anton Gibson.

He and wife Liz have a Bluestone Santa Gertrudis stud on their 480ha property in the Moonlight Valley, near Middlemarch.

''It is a very high-yielding animal and that is what has driven us,'' Mrs Gibson said.

In addition to their 70 female Santa Gertrudis, they run a commercial ultra-fine merino flock, as well as 200 dairy grazers, the Foulden Hill Hereford stud, (owned by son Will), a commercial Hereford herd, and a Dry Creek Suffolk stud, which is owned by daughter Jodie.

Will also has the Bluestone Coloured Merino Stud, which supplies wool to a Christchurch designer.

Mrs Gibson said while they had the commercial animals, they were primarily a stud operation, and the family recently changed its business structure to become a company. All operations under the breed were established as a result of crossing Brahman bulls with beef shorthorn cows in the 1930s in Texas, and these animals were recognised as a breed in 1950.

The breed was introduced to Australia in 1954 and into New Zealand in 1969.

The Santa Gertrudis was a Bos indicus species of cattle, rather than the Bos taurus, which are more commonly seen in New Zealand.

''First cross animals are always good animals for hybrid vigour but by using a Santa Gertrudis, the maximum potential for hybrid vigour can be gained,'' she said.

''The potential for the most hybrid vigour is from a Santa Gertrudis cross with a British breed.''

They have big ears, with more skin around the neck - a dewlap - and a slight hump, which contains stored fat.

While they were bred for hot areas because they had more skin, therefore more surface area to keep cooler, the couple were breeding a type specifically for New Zealand conditions.

The meat is tender and they are bloat tolerant, which will appeal to people with irrigation.

The calves are born smaller than Herefords and are easier calving, but will eventually match the Herefords for weight gain.

''At three weeks to a month, they muscle up a bit more and they gain weight faster,'' she said.

Mr Gibson said their steers were early maturing, at between 16 to 18 months, reaching about 600kg on the hoof and about 320kg to 350kg on the hook.

''They put on about 2kg a day,'' he said.

''They have good growth rates, have good mothering and milking abilities, are great on the hills and are good foragers.''

They were generally easy to handle, survived well in the dry and thrived on feed. Each of their Santa Gertrudis cattle is classified by Australian inspectors, who come to the property each year, to ensure uniformity and quality within the breed.

While the animal is a beef breed the Gibsons had heard of someone who was exploring using them for milking.

Their cattle have won numerous supreme champions and champions at A&P shows throughout the South Island and were runner-up for the 2013 Meat and Wool Cup at the Canterbury A&P Show.

In addition, the Gibsons have invested in importing Australian genetics.

They are only one of two breeders in the South Island.

They intend to hold an open day next year and on-farm sale the following year.-

yvonne.ohara@ alliedpress.co.nz