All about the breed at Black Diamond

The Southern Farmer
EYES ON THE PRIZE: Murray Van der Drift from Black Diamond Speckle Parks cleaned up at the Royal Geelong Show, taking not only Junior Champion Speckle Park Bull but also Junior Interbreed Champion. With ribbons presented by Jasmine Green and Hayden Green, these accolades are just confirmation that Speckle Parks are a breed for the future. This Beef Week, Murray is encouraging any who are interested in the breed to make the journey to the family farm in Macorna and learn what makes the Speckle Park a great addition to any commercial herd.

“I’M farming through and through,” Murray Van der Drift of Black Diamond Speckle Parks and Macorna Limousins said with a laugh.

“I can talk cows all day,” he added, his passion evident for Speckle Parks and Limousins which the family specialise in.

Murray Van der Drift is third generation farming, working the land of his grandfather in the tiny town of Macorna, 100 kilometres west of Echuca.

His grandfather ran a commercial beef operation, however, it was Murray’s father who at 18 bought the first French Limousins as stud stock and embarked on a new enterprise, building up a stud.

It was 25 years later in 2014, that the Speckle Parks were added to the portfolio as the Van der Drifts were looking to add another pure breed to their commercial herd to balance out the muscle in the Limousins.

“It’s hard to put fat on a French Limousin,” Murray said.

“They’re designed for muscle, and so initially we were putting the Limos over a British bred cow to give the softness, but ultimately we wanted a breed that had the performance in muscle but did not compromise on fat cover.

“We did our research and were intrigued by the Speckles which were relatively new to Australia but kept winning the carcass competitions in Canada where they were developed, so we gave them a go.

“And we’ve been impressed ever since.

“Initially it was four cows and two bulls and we thought we wanted to try them in the commercial herd with the Angus, which were usually covered by Limos.

“Can I say that we were so pleased with the results, that we started Black Diamond Speckle Parks so we could breed our own stud quality bulls.”

A multi-purpose breed with a moderate frame, Speckle Parks can meet so many commercial markets with their doing ability on grass and in feed lots.

“They have a consistent high quality carcass across the board,” Murray said.

“It’s just the breed.

“And they’re tough – real tough, surviving in 40 degrees below in Canada and 40 degrees above in Australia.

“Adapting to harsh climatic situations they can pretty much survive on the smell of an oily rag.

“And then they have that beautiful hide that everyone loves.

“They look pretty in a paddock, they just tick so many boxes.”

The Van der Drifts have been to Canada three times now, intent on championing this amazing breed down under.

“We source our genetics straight from the heartland,” Murray said.

“We are going back to the roots of the breed, and striving to find the best genetics the breed has to offer.

“Our goal has been to increase the genetic diversity of the Speckle Parks in our herd.”

And this approach appears to be paying the big dividends, with the Black Diamond progeny enjoying success at local and interstate shows.

“We show like crazy,” Murray said, with obvious enjoyment.

“Sydney, Adelaide, Melbourne, we do the three royal shows and then plenty of others in between.

“Three years ago we won Supreme Speckle Park in Adelaide’s Speckle Park Feature Show, and only just recently we won Junior Champion Interbreed Bull at Geelong from an embryo that we had imported.”

These are just two of many notable accolades and awards won by a stud that at only five years old is already kicking significant goals.

“The shows are important as we get to gauge how our cattle are performing against others, and as the breed is relatively new not only in Australia but world-wide, we can benchmark our programs against our peers, and use this knowledge to learn and adapt,” Murray said.

“And as every show is different, we never take any two teams the same.

“In fact there is little to no cross-over between our autumn and spring show season transition, with our objective being to always showcase our new cattle and what we’re achieving.

“The spring shows we broke in 39 head of cattle, and then we turned around and broke in another 31 for the autumn shows, which included calves, steers, heifers, bulls.

“It’s important for us to showcase our herd across the board, so that clients see many aspects of our breeding program.”

This also applies to the Limousins which the Van der Drifts also show, with the highest accolade they’ve achieved scoring them the title of Grand Champion Female at the 2019 National Show and Sale.

With such an impressive line-up of sires and progeny, Beef Week at Black Diamond Speckle Park and Macorna Limousins should not be missed.

With over 100 heifers, bulls and upcoming calves on display, in both Speckle Park and Limousin, any prospective clients regardless of their location should make the road-trip as Murray guarantees they won’t be disappointed.

“We’re all for the breeds and showcasing them, I may only be 23 but I already know that I’m going to be in this for a while, and the Speckle Parks have already won me over,” he said.

More farming news and stories can be read in the January, 2020 print edition of The Southern Farmer or click here to access digital editions.