Lay of the land

The South Devon Cattle Society World Conference visited Loch Lomond stud, south of Dunedin on the Taieri last week. Shawn McAvinue asked delegates what the appeal of the breed is.

Colcharton farm owner Colin Edwards, of Devon in England ... "They have good weaning weights on grass. South Devon convert grass better than other breeds and put more weight on and they are easier and cheaper to keep for their size. I’ve come over to look at the polling genes. We have polling genes at home but we wanted to see what they are like here to see if we can take some fresh genes home. It is a once-in-a-lifetime trip so I hope we can do a bit of business."

Rugwell herd owner Graham Hocking, of South Devon in England ... "They are quiet, easy to handle and they grow fast so you’ll get good carcasses without feeding too much grain. That’s the main things — size, growth, grass and very easy to deal with. When people go with Limousins and breeds like that, they are completely off their heads and you wonder why they bother because they’re dangerous. There is less labour on farms in the United Kingdom, so they are on their own and why would you want something that is going to turn on you?"

Winston South Devon stud owner John Miller, of East London in South Africa ... "They do very well as a maternal breed for us. My dad started farming them in 1968 and we’ve never had anything else. I’ve looked at other breeds but there is nothing that comes close to them, that works on our property. There are 1200 South Devon cows in South Africa and only four breeders left but we sell all the bulls we produce. The attributes of the breed are the disposition — the temperament in other breeds doesn’t come close — they are easy to work with, with good growth and the milk are the main things for me. If you’ve got a mixed bag and you want to get it in line again, it is the breed to use."

Loch Lomond stud owner Brian Thomson, of Allanton on the Taieri ... "I find the docility and the growth rates of the South Devon are very amenable to farming. If you cross them with any other breed, the extra growth you are going to get out of it is tremendous."

Watinga South Devon stud owner Neil Hagger, of Willalooka in South Australia ... "Their doing ability, their temperament, their marbling factor, muscling and milking ability. We are in the driest state in the driest continent on earth. We started off crossbreeding Friesian-Angus bobby calves with a Charolais bull for the vealer market. We got a fall in the vealer market, so we carried them through and tried hooking them at the local processor and found we were lacking fat cover. Our meat buyer suggested some British breeds, so we went for the fattest Angus and Hereford we could find and once we got our fat cover, we thought how do we hold it and we got a South Devon bull."

Horsehill farm owner Richard Camp, of Ashburton in Devon, England ... "My family has always farmed them. My dad had them and my granddad had them and although we dabbled in one or two other breeds, we’ve never found anything that has made us want to change. The main thing if you are farming on your own is their docility. In the United Kingdom, continental breeds have come in — Limousin, Simmental, Charolais — and there is a tendency for them to disappear over the horizon from time to time, where a South Devon is more likely to stay in a field and look at you and even come up to greet you and if you are on your own that is an important characteristic. Quiet cattle feed better and they kill out better because they don’t get as stressed. We don’t seem to have made the headway worldwide that we feel our product should have ... "


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