Bull - The Farmers and the Winemaker Dinner Part 2 - Gippsland Food Adventures

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A Summer Romance

Published by Paul O'Sullivan in Bull · 18/2/2014 22:55:51
Tags: Romancebullbeefproduction

There are a few broken hearts at Malabar Farm at the moment.
After a six week romance starting in mid-December the bulls were recently taken from their mobs of young girls. One came willingly, possibly exhausted from socialising with 50 carefully selected females, while the second was a bit more reluctant - he had been run with 40 heifers, and perhaps had a greater opportunity to form stronger bonds with his mob!
During our Gippsland Food Adventures farm visits we highlight the importance of genetics in producing premium quality meat, and this summer dating is the first step in the chain.
We only run the bulls with the best of our heifers. The girls (that have been born and raised on our farm) have been selected for their temperament, size and physical structure. They need to be at least 280kg at joining, which ensures they are big enough to handle our bulls and have demonstrated good growth rates. We also check their legs and feet to be sure they are likely to stay sound and be of sufficient quality to come into the breeding herd.
At the same time, all the adult cows that successfully calved unassisted and maintain good physical structure are run with bulls for 9 weeks in mobs of 40-60.
We usually have between 9 and 12 bulls on the farm at any one time, and each bull has the potential to influence 50 calves per year for 3-5 years, so we want to be sure we’re selecting and using the most suitable bulls. We purchase all our bulls and source them from leading suppliers who objectively assess and performance record their cattle to give us good indications of the performance of the progeny of their bulls.
Hence we can select bulls to produce the highest quality beef, whilst meeting the specific needs of our females. A common factor across all the bulls is quiet temperament. I can’t emphasise enough how important quiet and stress free cattle are to produce premium beef, and this begins with the temperament of their parents and their handling.

We want bulls that are well muscled and have sufficient cover of fat to maintain flavour and moisture in the beef. And we want bulls that will pass on high growth rates to their offspring. Well fed, fast growing animals will go a long way to passing the grading criteria required to guarantee top eating quality. And fast growing animals are good for the environment - the more quickly they reach maturity and are fattened, the less time they are producing greenhouse gas emissions!
And the bulls have to be an appropriate size at maturity. Too big, and their progeny will not fatten at the right size for the butcher shop. Too small, and the progeny will get overfat before their muscle size is big enough for eating.
So we select bulls that meet these criteria, then add additional requirements according to which females they will be courting. Bulls for the heifers need to have traits conducive to easy calving ie low birthweight, and good sloping shoulders for easier delivery. Bulls for our Hereford cows must have a pedigree to show their daughters will be productive females – highly fertile with good milking ability.
And the bulls for our crossbred cows? All these calves are destined for the table so the bulls just need to excel at the 4 common features listed above, temperament, muscling and fat cover, high growth rates and size at maturity
So what is the destiny of the bulls once they’ve finished their working lives – an all-expenses paid trip to America. Their very lean meat is generally ground and mixed with mince of higher fat content (generally from cull cows) to produce hamburgers to feed that nation!

Talking of mince meat, and given that I will soon visit the home of bolognese sauce (or as its properly known ragu sauce) I thought it timely to include one of the hundreds of versions of this creation. Our son, Clive, makes this superbly – straight out of one of Jamie Oliver’s cookbooks.
Fry some sliced pancetta with a handful of rosemary in olive oil for a couple of minutes, then add finely chopped onion and garlic and fry for another 3 minutes or so, before adding the minced beef. Stir and continue frying for 2 or 3 minutes then add a glass of red wine. Reduce slightly, then add some oregano, a tin of tomatoes and some tomato paste. Once this has boiled, cover with a lid and place in preheated oven (180 degrees) for an hour and a half. (We found the bacon from our home grown pork added awesome flavour to this dish and an excellent alternative to the pancetta.)

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