Angus Bull Unit

June 2017

A visit to an open day featuring the top yearling Angus bulls being prepared for the annual Beef Expo National Sale.

As a breed, Angus have a reputation for cattle that are well suited to a wide range of New Zealand farming conditions, with traits such as fertility, resilience, easy calving and a capacity for rapid and efficient growth.   

They also have a reputation for consistently achieving desirable carcass and eating quality. Angus beef consistently achieves top results in carcass quality criteria such as marbling, fat depth, meat colour and pH, assuring a tastier and more tender beef product. 

Angus NZ has a commitment to improve profitability for all its stud and commercial clients and the Angus NZ Bull Unit was seen as an opportunity to showcase the breed to breeders and commercial operators alike.  It has successfully operated in conjunction with the Beef Expo National Sale for 14 years. 

By running a line of premium sires in a similar environment and under a similar feed management programme, environmental factors are taken out of the equation. As a result, the relative strengths of each bull and the breeding philosophy of each breeder or stud are very much to the fore and offer opportunity for potential buyers to compare “like with like”. 

The bulls housed at the unit in 2017 originate from Waitangi in the North, to Gore in the South Island and this wide geographical catchment range is reflected in the type of bull that is on display. There is essentially “something for everyone”, whether it is a traditional hill country terminal sire with good growth and great carcass characteristics, or something better suited to colder southern conditions, or even a sire suited to a dairy operation. 

The bull themselves are delivered to the unit in November and are grass fed through to sale day at the Beef Expo in Feilding. This year (2017) the sale was on 17th May. 

All bulls receive the same feed regime (100% grass fed) and are run as a single cohort. Like all pedigree sires that go ‘over the rostrum’ they are genotyped (i50K), sire verified, tested and certified free of any genetic disorders, fertility tested, independently structurally assessed and inspected on not less than two occasions while they are at the unit. 

By analysing their DNA, breeders can find out which animals have the genes for desirable traits, such as high meat production. 

Each month the bulls are weighed and this year (after 77 days in the unit) they had put on an average of 1.44 kg per bull per day. They arrived averaging 582kg and after the 77-day weigh-in averaged 693kg.

The Bull Unit Open day is the first opportunity for potential purchasers to see the bulls and the day is traditionally well supported by breeders, stock firms and potential buyers. 

At the Beef Expo, there is strong competition between the breeds. All bulls in the Angus NZ Bull Unit are entered into the Unled 2 year old Class at the Beef Expo, and the winning Angus Bull goes on to compete in the Champion of Champions class. Angus NZ also awards prizes to the Top Price achieved at the sale.  It’s fair to say every breed enjoys ‘getting one over’ on the other breeds, and the Champion of Champions class is keenly contested. 

The Angus breed has won the Champion of Champions at the Beef Expo (among six other cattle breeds) 10 times since the contest started in 1990. 

Angus New Zealand Cattle Society president Joe Fouhy and his wife Lea breed and sells Angus bulls at their cattle farm near Pahiatua. Joe and Lea are previous grand winners of the Steak of Origin competition. 

Joe says Angus cattle are in demand for their ability to do well on rough feed and because they produce great tasting beef. "I like angus, they are a quiet breed, reliable, resilient, efficient and adaptable", says Joe.