By John Phair, QMI Agency
It was the first of its kind in Ontario but the Speckle Park Cattle show held at this year’s Brigden Fair appeared to be a hit with both competitors and the general public.
With their characteristic white, black and grey spots and flamboyant patches of colour, the Speckle Park breed is known as: “a balanced breed with a colour advantage.”
While the breed is relatively new to Ontario, it was actually developed in Maidstone, Saskatchewan during the 1950s.
According to the Canadian Speckle Park Association the original breeding stock were basically a three-way cross of Teeswater Shorthorn, Aberdeen Angus and White Park cattle. They are known as moderately-framed cattle which dress out in the 700 lb. range and have a demonstrated ability to produce carcasses of superb quality and marbling.
Dawn-Euphemia farmer Dougal Smith. who along with his family helped organize the show, were the first to show the breed at the Royal Winter Fair’s 4-H Junior Beef Heifer Show, placing third with their entry.
On hand for the show’s opening ceremonies was Lambton-Kent-Middlesex MP Bev Shipley who brought greetings on behalf of the federal government and congratulated the fair board for reaching out to the agricultural community and helping introduce a new breed of cattle to Ontario.
Beef Farmers of Ontario (BFO) director Tim Fugard also attended and noted that the timing couldn’t be better for the introduction of a new cattle breed to Ontario.
He noted the cattle herd in Canada has been declining for a number of years and as a result we now have record low production, high beef demand and record high prices.
“There are lots of opportunities as well as challenges in the beef industry right now,” said Fugard, adding that while cattle numbers in Ontario has been in decline for a number of years there are now signs of renewal in the industry.
“We are beginning to see barns being fixed up and people buying breeding stock,” he said. “Speckle Park cattle are a welcomed presence in the marketplace.”
He added that an initiative the BFO is presently working on involves a program to reintroduce cow-calf production to Northern Ontario where there is potentially cheaper land that can be transitioned to pasture.
“BFO is working with government on ways to increase cattle numbers in the North and to find new, young producers who are interested in getting into beef production,” he said.
“We are working with government on ways to clear land and develop the infrastructure needed to accommodate beef production in that part of the province.”
Show organizer Andy Hayward said he has an interest in several Speckle Park cattle and said the idea of hosting a Speckle Park Show at this year’s fair resulted from the enthusiasm and desire shown in the area for the emerging Speckle Park breed.
“There is a real desire to increase the presence and awareness of the breed across the entire province,” he said, adding that the popularity of the breed is really gaining momentum and he expects to see a lot more of the colourful breed in the future. Nadine Smith, 21, of
Nadine Smith, 21, of Croton won Grand Champion honours with “Bullseye” her purebred Speckle Park bull. She noted that she had raised him from a calf and finds the breed very docile and easy to work with. “He responds very well to me but he doesn’t always like men,” she said.
Dave McKillop of Fleetwood Farms in Iona Station won both the Junior Heifer and Grand Champion Female classes with his yearling heifer. He noted that he has tried other breeds and wasn’t happy with their performance so liquidated his herd several years ago and went to Saskatchewan and purchased some Speckle Park breeding stock.
“There are only about eight herds in the entire province of Ontario but they are quickly catching on,” he said, adding that he likes the breed’s many attributes such as their docility, carcass quality, good feed conversion and low cost of production.
Brigden Fair president John Scott congratulated the organizers of the show for their leadership and willingness to try something new. “I’m just very pleased we could do it here in Brigden,” he said.
Matt Brand, an Exeter area cattleman who judged the competition said the Speckle Park is a breed that really caught his eye a few years ago. He added that he was very pleased with the high quality of the cattle shown that day.
“I’m very proud to have had the opportunity to judge the first show in Ontario.”
Now in its 164th year, Brigden Fair is Lambton County’s largest fall fair and the last one of the season. Competition winners at Brigden Fair traditionally go on to show there entries at the Royal Winter Fair in Toronto.