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Lilyvale lives on one shade of grey

TOP BREEDER: John Sturgeon has always had a good eye for quality cattle.
TOP BREEDER: John Sturgeon has always had a good eye for quality cattle.

JOHN Sturgeon was 13 when he became involved in the meat industry and cattle.

After operating the largest meat wholesale business in Queensland for many years, Mr Sturgeon decided to try his hand at breeding top quality cattle when he bought "three or four" head at the Brisbane EKKA led steer competition.

Mr Sturgeon's history as a murray grey stud operator goes back to the early 1980s when he bought property near Texas on the Queensland-New South Wales border.

"When we bought it, the place was run down and we developed it," he said.

"We were on river country and the river flat was the most southerly point in Queensland.

"We added to it later and it ended up about 1300 acres and was a beautiful place called Lilyvale."

Mr Sturgeon said he loved the murray grey because of its bone ratio, muscling and temperament and his enthusiasm for the breed along with his eye for quality helped Lilyvale produce some of the finest cattle of the time.

"We were the first Queensland stud to take them on in Melbourne and win," he said. "We had grand champions and champions in every state and we mainly concentrated on the big shows."

One of Mr Sturgeon's finest champions was a cow named Lilyvale Lady Lynda 160 which he said was head and shoulders above the competition.

"She was Champion Murray Grey in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne," he said.

"She also won the Anthony Hordern Trophy which is probably the most prestigious award for cattle."

After operating the stud and breeding champion cattle for close to 20 years, hard times forced Mr Sturgeon's hand and Lilyvale was sold.

"It was a passion of mine but we dispersed the stud for financial reasons," he said.

"We went back to concentrate on the butchery business and when we sold the stud we sold the name Lilyvale."

About three years ago Mr Sturgeon went "in search of a few cattle" and made applications to reinstate the stud after his grandchildren became interested in cattle.

"The grandkids are interested and I wanted to keep the name Lilyvale alive for them and it will be a legacy I can leave for them," he said.

"I bought Parknook Bonanza in Tasmania and he was grand champion in Brisbane in 2010 and at 1332 the heaviest bull ever shown.

"In 2011 we took a female down and she was a blue ribbon winner."

In 2012 Mr Sturgeon's cattle swept the competition at Brisbane's EKKA - once again with one of his bulls, Michaelong Advance, taking the award for senior champion and another, Lilyvale Grenadier, taking junior champion and grand champion.

"We've had a lot of success in a short time considering the numbers we have here," he said.

"Our two bulls wiped the others out and had to compete against each other."

Mr Sturgeon's wife Joy said he had always had a good eye for cattle and his stock always deserved a second look but he was quick to add the success was a team effort.

"I go to the shows to win and all the cattle which go to the shows have a lot of work put into them," he said.

"I'm very lucky to have John Willocks who comes from a line of great cattle men handy to do the show preparation of the cattle."

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