In 1814 Samuel Marsden introduced the first shorthorn cattle to New Zealand. Now, almost 200 years later, the New Zealand Beef Shorthorn Cattle Association is preparing to host the 14th World Shorthorn Conference in March. Diane Bishop reports.
Winton farmers John and Lindy Dobson are enthusiastic promoters of shorthorn cattle.
As dairy farmers they always ran a few but their so-called "retirement hobby" has grown much bigger and more successful than either of them imagined.
"It's got a bit out of hand," Lindy said.
Their Brigadoon Shorthorn stud, established in the early 1990s, now numbers about 70 stud cows and their progeny.
The Dobsons show their cattle regularly and last weekend picked up the prestigious Alliance Beef Cup with Brigadoon Bonnie Maid and her calf Brigadoon Bonnie Lad at the Gore A & P Show.
The cow and calf then beat a southdown ram, a friesian cow and a horse to be named Supreme Animals of the Show.
"It was a nice surprise.
"It's something you're always aiming for but you don't expect it," Lindy said.
The win was great timing for the Dobsons who are preparing to host the 14th World Shorthorn Conference in early March.
More than 100 delegates from Britain, the United States, Canada, Argentina and Uruguay are expected to take part in the conference tour along with many New Zealand breeders.
John, who is president of the New Zealand Shorthorn Cattle Breeders Association, will play a key role in the conference which will promote both beef and milking shorthorns.
One of the oldest cattle breeds, the shorthorn originated in the north-east of England in the 18th century and is usually coloured red, white or roan. The colour variation is part of the reason why the Dobsons love the breed.
"You can never guarantee what colour calf you will get.
"It's always a real surprise," John said.
The docile and easy to handle breed has good maternal qualities and is ideal for cross breeding and as a terminal sire.
It also ranks among the leaner beef breeds and its meat is well marbled with good flavour.
The Dobsons attended the last World Shorthorn Conference in the United Kingdom three years ago but it has been more than 20 years since the conference was last held in New Zealand.
The tour starts in Christchurch on March 8 and includes a visit to Benmore Station, near Twizel, where weaner calves, including shorthorns, are being finished at export weights.
After travelling through the Lindis Pass to Northburn and Bendigo stations, the tour group will visit the Dobson's Brigadoon stud at Winton.
They plan to have their champion cow and calf along with their ribbons on display, before visiting the Weldon stud at Mossburn.
At Mount Linton Station, at Ohai, delegates will see and hear the results of a cross breeding trial that the association has been running with manager Ceri Lewis using shorthorn and angus cattle on the western Southland property.
Milking shorthorns will also be visited near Invercargill along with the Glendu stud at Heriot, before the tour continues around the rest of the country and finishes with the conference in the Bay of Islands.
- Otago Southland Farmer