Praises sung for South Devon breed

PHOTOS: SHAWN MCAVINUE
PHOTOS: SHAWN MCAVINUE
Nearly 40 South Devon cattle enthusiasts from around the world are in New Zealand for a conference and national tour, which included a stop on the Taieri last week. South Devon World Association president Mervyn Rowe and his wife Stephanie talk to Shawn McAvinue about why they believe the burly British beef breed deserved a greater global prevalence.

A big British beef breed deserves to be more popular, South Devon World Association president Mervyn Rowe says.

"It is a quiet breed and easy to handle and I don’t know why more people don’t keep South Devons, because they have the ability to convert grass into meat."

Mr Rowe spoke to Southern Rural Life in a paddock of South Devon cattle at Loch Lomond stud on the Taieri, during a stop on a New Zealand tour as part of a world congress.

"This is a fine example of South Devons."

Nearly 40 delegates from six countries, who were "all passionate about South Devons", were on the tour.

The tour stops included the Canterbury A&P Show and a conference in Wellington.

Sampson McGregor Stock Farm owners Ralph and Betty McGregor, of Bonnyville in Canada, were on a...
Sampson McGregor Stock Farm owners Ralph and Betty McGregor, of Bonnyville in Canada, were on a South Devon World Association tour including a visit to Loch Lomond stud.
Mr Rowe and his wife Stephanie run 80 pedigree South Devon cows on their 80ha sheep and beef farm Tregondale in Cornwall village Menheniot, on the southwestern tip of England.

His father started Tregondale in 1947, making it one of the oldest South Devon studs in the United Kingdom.

The South Devon cattle breed was more popular in England than in New Zealand, but the breed should feature more on farm in both countries, he said.

He never understood why the breed was not more popular.

"It is difficult to know why, we should be expanding our breed more."

Reasons for farmers bypassing the South Devon breed could be due to profit margins.

"There is an incredible amount of investment with these cows and they only rear one calf and there isn’t a big margin in it."

South Devon cattle on show at Loch Lomond stud in Allanton.
South Devon cattle on show at Loch Lomond stud in Allanton.
A world congress was held every three years since launching in New Zealand in 1985.

Delegates come from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, United Kingdom and the United States.

A congress in New Zealand in 2020 was postponed to this year due to Covid-19 disruptions.

"We should have come here three year ago," he said.

He was impressed by the quality of South Devon cattle in New Zealand.

"They’ve have done particularly well out here breeding these South Devon cows."

New Zealand breeders had used British genetics to produce top-performing South Devon cattle.

South Devon World Association president Mervyn Rowe and his wife Stephanie were on the tour last...
South Devon World Association president Mervyn Rowe and his wife Stephanie were on the tour last week.
Now some of those earlier bloodlines were sought after in the United Kingdom, and he expected New Zealand breeders would be able to sell genetics to meet the growing demand.

"In the UK, they are going back to the more traditional type of South Devon."

Mrs Rowe said a highlight of the trip was a boat trip in Milford Sound.

"New Zealand is very pretty and has a lot of ‘wow’ factors."

Other delegates on the tour included Canadian ranchers Ralph and Betty McGregor, who have been breeding South Devon for more than 30 years.

"This is our first time on the tour and we are thoroughly enjoying it," Mrs McGregor said.

Mr McGregor agreed.

"You have to be proud of your New Zealand breeders, they’ve done a really good job — I haven’t seen a bad cow yet."

A pen of cattle at Loch Lomond stud watch the arrival of South Devon World Association delegates.
A pen of cattle at Loch Lomond stud watch the arrival of South Devon World Association delegates.
The couple finish calves on their more than 800ha property, Sampson McGregor Stock Farm, about 300km northeast of Edmonton in Alberta.

In partnership with another stud in Alberta, they run 50 purebred South Devon cows and sold up to 15 bulls a year.

Semen from their herd had been exported to New Zealand and Australia.

The congress was an opportunity to market their genetics and see how they performed, including in two heifers in New Zealand.

On the way home they would visit Australia to see some of the calves produced using straws of semen from their South Devon bull.

On the tour, they were searching for up to 20 straws of South Devon semen to take home.

Some of the traits which were important to their breeding programme were good feet, body length and depth and good udder development, he said. South Devon cattle were bigger in New Zealand than in Canada so they were searching for genetics of similar sized cattle to their own to maintain calving ease in their breeding programme, he said.

"That’s our objective from this trip, to meet these good people and exchange genetics."

 

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