‘A nice quiet animal is what you want’: Hoof and Hook heats up

Believe it or not, the temperament of an animal can make the difference between a good and an average cut of meat.

“They need a good nature, nervy ones don’t do as well in the paddock,” Bemboka cattle farmer John Cullen said after the first phase of Bega’s Hoof and Hook competition on Monday, ahead of final judging at the Moruya abattoir on Wednesday.

John’s twin brother Dave said the cattle need to have “shape and good nutrition” to be a contender in the competition, and a little luck always goes a long way.

“It’s only half time, so there’s a long way to go in the competition and there’s some tough judging,” he said.

“So, how we go on the hook is another matter.”

Numbugga farmer Darrell Moxey was Reserve Champion, and also came first in the heaviest class on the day.

“A nice quiet animal is what you want,” he said.

“Once they are quiet they grow.”

The contenders. Picture: Alasdair McDonald

The contenders. Picture: Alasdair McDonald

It was Mr Moxey’s first time in the competition, and he brought his 10-year-old daughter Paige along for a lesson or two in the family business.

“There’s a lot of good animals here, and I learnt it’s not about the nice tight muscled animals, it’s the soft muscled animals that win.” Paige said.

Mr Moxey said his combination of dairy-cross Angus mother cattle is what saw him do so well on his first attempt.

“They give us a bit of extra milk, and they grow quicker,” he said.

The breeders discussed the shift in approach to farming that must follow public opinion on meat, and what the market considers healthy eating.

Whether no fat is popular or fat is popular, the breeders must stay abreast of trends in the market.

Crookwell agronomist and Angus breeder Andrew Harborne judged the cattle on the day, and gave an insight into what he “objectively” seeks in a winning animal.

“I look for thickness, softness temperament and yield,” he said.

“I have to predict what the meat looks like without being able to see it.

“I’ve noticed the European influence with British based cows is a good combination that gives you good yield and quality.”

Mr Harborne said the “proof would be in the pudding” when the animals are slaughtered in Moruya and judged while hanging from a hook in the abattoir.

“It was a very highly contested competition, from the light-weights up,” he said.

“I was very impressed, they are wide based and wide topped.”

The Cullens have a small farm, and have to focus on marketing their animals.

“We have a small heard of 35, so we don’t have many options,” John said.

“Today is the start of next year’s show season, and at the end of the day we have to sell our product.”

“You have to sell your meat.”

Wednesday will be judged by 2017 Sydney Royal Easter Show hoof judge Jeff House.

Winners will be recognised at a dinner at Oaklands in Pambula on Friday May 26, and the award winning meat will be available at participating butchers from May 29.

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