Young Hereford breeder James Robbie is keen to shout the environmental and ethical benefits of the breed from the hilltops of New Zealand.
He was among a small New Zealand contingent to take part in the 2022 Herefords Australia National Youth Heifer Show at Wodonga on July 6-9.
A member of NZ Hereford Youth, James was encouraged to attend the expo by his father and stud master Stuart Robbie to gain exposure to the Australian stud beef industry.
“For me it’s not about competing here but making connections, networking and talking and meeting people in the Australian Hereford scene,” James said.
“Australians do an amazing job of showing cattle in the stud scene – cattle showing has declined in New Zealand so coming over here is nostalgic for me, it is amazing to be part of this again.
“This is my fourth time in Australia and every time I come back, I love it more and more.”
He hails from Otapawa Poll Herefords at Tiraumea on the North Island, a herd of 350 registered cows and selling 40-50 stud bulls a year.
The enterprise is also a 3500 hectare sheep and beef station running 1500 commercial Hereford and Hereford cross cattle and 12,000 ewes.
“It is highly productive country, and we are blessed with good clay loam soil resulting in good grass growth and that transfers into great sheep and beef country,” James said.
“The dairy market is big for the Hereford breed in New Zealand with the price of milk going up, and we do supply a few Hereford bulls to dairy farms in our area, and they are rapt with the product they get.
“Otapawa genetics are primarily sold into the commercial beef market although this year we have had eight stud transfers.
“We are proud to export genetics to most continents, including North and South America, Europe and Australasia, with a lot of semen from Otapawa Spark 3060 exported to Australia.
“I get the privilege of travelling to these places in Australia to see the progeny and grand progeny of our sires back home.”
James said the Otapawa commercial herd supplies 600-700kg liveweight grass fed steers averaging a 60 per cent red meat yield to processor Silver Fern Farms.
Otapawa has also joined Alliance Group’s hand-picked beef brand which combines the art of individual selection with the science of ageing.
Master graders select from the finest grass fed sustainably raised beef using quality attributes including a high marbling factor of four or above, pH and colour.
“We are happy to say a lot of our cattle are meeting the upper echelon of Alliance specifications resulting in a higher premium,” James said.
“That is made possible through great Hereford breeding, achieving the fat targets Alliance require.
“The commercial beef industry in New Zealand is doing well with good prices despite a lot of regulation on the farming sector.
“As grass fed operators, we tend to be environmentally and animal welfare focused, and progressive in the way we farm to achieve high red meat yields off the grass produced.
“I believe we need to market the great things as New Zealand farmers we do – we are strict on our water and environmental management, including waterways and soil erosion.
“As a result, we have a clean, green product in terms of our beef, but the marketing is lacking.
“I’m passionate about getting that story out there to our consumers and pushing the idea that New Zealand farmers are some of the most environmentally conscious and efficient in the world.”
James would like to see more youth join the NZ Hereford Youth to have an influence at industry level.
“Herefords are the most efficient converters of grass and while we are starting to claw back market share from Angus through the benefits of heterosis and crossbreeding, we really need to be pushing the environmentally conscious aspect of Herefords as an efficient converter of grass,” he said.
“There is a lot of work to be done on that front and I would really like to take charge of that marketing.”