A 10,400km round-trip is no obstacle to competition for WA seedstock producers, the Thompson family, who will easily win the ‘long distance exhibitor’ award in stud beef judging at Beef 2012 in Rockhampton next month.
Andrew and Anne Thompson and their son Harris will fly the flag for the Sandgropers at the nation’s largest stud beef competition, which this year has attracted about 2000 entries from all mainland states of Australia.
The family performed the same feat when they displayed a Charolais heifer at the last event in 2009, but this year hope to ‘go home empty’ having entered their competition heifer, Venturon Gorgeous, in the Special Sister Twilight Female Sale catalogue.
The Thompsons have staged their heifer’s visit to the Eastern States this year by arranging to have her compete in stud beef judging at Sydney’s Royal Easter Show last week, working her way anti-clockwise around Australia, under the watchful eye of master fitter, Steve Hayward. The Hayward Fitting Service operation this year has an incredible 100 animals in preparation for the Rockhampton Beef 2012 judging rings.
Responsible for delivering the heifer safely to the east coast – 60 hours on the truck, with spells, from home to Sydney alone – was fellow WA cattle breeder Doug Giles from Quicksilver Charolais Stud.
The Thompsons operate a successful and expanding Charolais seedstock and commercial herd at Boyup Brook, 300km south of Perth, establishing their stud back in 1994. As well as their cattle interests, the family owns and operate the local IGA supermarket.
So why bring a 14-month old heifer from one side of the continent to the other for the prospect of perhaps winning a class ribbon?
“The Beef Expo is such a special event,” Anne said, in struggling to explain their decision.
“It’s only once every three years, and as far as stud breeders go, doing well at something like that is a great accolade. But we did not enter with the expectation of necessarily winning – it’s about participating in the greatest cattle event in the nation,” she said.
“We want to be a part of it, and it helps showcase the quality of cattle we have back in WA.”
The Thompsons’ 14-year-old son, Harris, is also passionate about the cattle industry, and the event presented a huge learning and education opportunity for him, as well as themselves.
“There is nothing else like it – from one end of the showgrounds to the other it is wholly-focussed on the cattle and beef industry, in one way or another. There are so many different events that we can attend and learn from, and that’s part of what we will be doing this time – everything from property tours to seminars and scouring the commercial display area. It’s an amazing learning experience,” Anne said.
Developing an in-house beef brand
As one of the innovations introduced in their independently-owned retail supermarket business, the Thompsons have introduced their own Venturon Charolais Beef brand through the store.
A full-time butcher, who has worked at the IGA business for 10 years, oversees the carcase breaking, slicing and pre-pack preparation after processing through the Dardanup Butchering Company’s Picton abattoir.
Anne said establishing their own beef brand through the store’s retail chilled cabinet had been an ‘interesting learning curve’, but they have been encouraged by the ‘fantastic support from customers.’
Because of seasonal cycles, Thompsons plan to supply the store, which employs up to 30 full and part-time staff, for at least eight months of the year with their own beef.
Calving patterns have been manipulated to extend the supply process further into the year at desirable weights. Over time, the Thompsons may seek supply from other beef producers who have purchased their Charolais bulls, to supply the Boyup Brook store.
In a development familiar to a growing band of beef producers in Queensland, the Thompsons in August 2008 were forced to sell their previous property at Noggerup to Griffin Coal for mine development, before re-investing in their current holding.