South devons are quiet achievers

OPPORTUNITIES: Promoting the south devon breed with Torr Down Merlin are Leonie Daley (left) and Heather Lindsay of the Dalby Athlone South Devon Stud.
OPPORTUNITIES: Promoting the south devon breed with Torr Down Merlin are Leonie Daley (left) and Heather Lindsay of the Dalby Athlone South Devon Stud. Megan Masters

LEONIE Daley loves her south devons so much even retirement can't keep her out of the game.

Mrs Daley and her husband recently sold up the family farm in south Gippsland to go into retirement, but she still found herself in Toowoomba for the South Devon Cattle Society annual general meeting.

After that it was on to CRT FarmFest to promote the breed further.

Mrs Daley said it was something she was passionate about after 20 years of breeding the gentle giants and spending three years as national president of the breed organisation.

She said despite not having the budget for promotion that some other breeds had, south devons were a worthy addition to any commercial breeding program thanks to a number of traits.

She believed if they had the promotional budgets of breeds like angus and hereford, south devons would be a lot more prevalent.

They also crossed well with other breeds.

"They're a British breed and known for their quiet temperaments,” Mrs Daley said.

"They're safe to handle and very quiet, which I think is important.

"Also, as far as temperament goes, every south devon breeder would tell you that the less stressed the animal, the better the meat.”

She said the fast-growers also featured strong maternal traits like high milk production because they were initially bred as a dual-purpose animal, but in recent years breeding concentrated on the meat production.

"They're good mums and raise a good calf with good weight,” she said.

"Around 400kg at weaning is ideal.

"They've been doing really well all over the country in carcase competitions and at the grass-fed trial.”

She said the trials involved 50 steers including both pure and cross breeds and the south devons regularly came up with the best weight gain and carcase attributes.

The annual Vasse Feed Efficiency Trials in Western Australia also showed the south devons to be 10% above the average for feed efficiency five years running.

Despite that, there were only 40-50 breeders across the country, including roughly 10 in Queensland.

"They do very well up here; they're very adaptable,” Mrs Daley said.

"We just came back from the world conference in South Africa and while there weren't a lot there, the studs we visited were quite big and had some beautiful animals.”

Mrs Daley said this year was her first visit to CRT FarmFest and she was more than impressed with the event.

After watching some 50 entries parade past in one section of the cattle judging, she was just blown away by how popular the event was and how important it was to the region's cattle breeders.

She said if she had one wish for the south devon breed it would be to see a few more young farming families get involved in breeding them.

She was thrilled to have a few strong inquiries at FarmFest into buying south devon stock.

Topics:  cattle farmfest stud cattle