All the winners from the 2019 RNA Paddock to Palate weight gain competition

James Nason, 25/06/2019


David Bondfield, Palgrove Charolais accepts the ribbon for first place for best weight gain in the 100 day grainfed class from Rabobank’s Troy Frizzell.

EVERY single one of the major winners of the 2019 RNA Paddock to Palate weight gain competition announced at Mort & Co’s Grassdale feedlot this morning are enduring severe and long-running droughts, but yet all are still managing to produce cattle that perform ‘off the scale’ at a commercial level.

Investing in high quality, market-relevant genetics is clearly a big part of the equation but plenty of old fashioned commercial know how must explain a fair degree of their success as well.

The big winners of the weight gain section this year were Lee and Megan McNicholl from Arklow at Dulacca; David and Prue Bondfield of Palgrove Charolais at Dalveen; Rob and Lorraine Sinnamon of Yulgilbar Santa Gertrudis from Baryulgil, NSW; the Bassingthwaighte family from Yarrawonga Santa Gertrudis at Wallumbilla and Jerome Hayden from the Australian Wagyu Beef Network based at Glen Innes, NSW.

Berry Reynolds, Mort & Co Private Client Manager, addresses the 2019 RNA Paddock to Palate competition this morning.

The fantastic thing about the RNA Paddock to Palate competition, according to experienced cattle producer and Mort & Co client manager Berry Reynolds, is that no matter how big or small a producer might be, it provides a platform for an even playing field for producers of any size to excel.

RNA cattle councillor Gary Noller says the competition stands up as one of the greatest benchmarking tools available, offering a wealth of information and feedback to both stud and commercial producers on the type of cattle that have genuine commercial relevance.

McNicholls take out 70 day class

Lee and Megan McNicholl and family at Dulacca have been among a number of commercial family cattle producers to have taken advantage of the opportunity to benchmark their cattle against others in the RNA Paddock to Palate competition for well over a decade.

Today the high calibre of their genetics and production systems was resoundingly endorsed when a pen of six Angus Shorthorn steers tipped the scales with a striking average daily gain of 2.951kg to take first place in the domestic 70-day grainfed competition.

A mere 0.005kg behind them was Godfrey Morgan from nearby Condamine with a pen of Shorthorns recording an ADG of 2.946kg.

Lee McNicholl pictured in wetter times at Arklow.

Worthy of note here is that the Shorthorn genetics used by the McNicholl family come from the Morgan’s own Shorthorn bloodlines, while the Angus component in the McNicholl herd draws from Boshammer Angus and the Hill family’s Wandaloo Angus.

Lee McNicholl couldn’t make it to Grassdale for the presentations today because he was drought-feeding weaners, but said he was “staggered” when told over the phone of today’s win.

The seven steers he picked for the competition were selected from a mob of 160 steers before the mob was sent to the Morgan family’s Lilyvale Feedlot at Condamine, where the entire cohort produced an average daily gain of 2.4kg.

“They were just bigger frame, obviously growthier animals,” Mr McNicholl said of the cattle he selected.

“I’m staggered, overjoyed. It makes you grit your teeth and battle on in this drought.”

No doubt a discerning eye is already being cast over the weaners as he is currently feeding on Arklow with a view to sizing up potential candidates for next year’s competition.

Palgrove wins 100 day section

David and Prue Bondfield began entering purebred Charolais steers in the RNA Paddock to Palate competition five years ago after a long and distinguished stud cattle showing career, during which time Palgrove cattle won multiple interbreed titles at every major Royal show around Australia.

A selection of cattle in this year’s Class 37 100 day competition on feed at Grassdale.

In 2017 Palgrove was runner up in the overall 100-day grainfed competition and last year went one better, winning the overall 100 day event.

Palgrove has now started the 2019 competition in the strongest possible way, winning the 100 day weight gain section with a pen of purebred milk-tooth Charolais steers, which produced a phenomenal average daily gain of 3.095kg.

Russell Pastoral Company which owns Jimbour Station on the Darling Downs and Champion Station at Blackall was very close behind, with its Angus Cross recording an ADG of 3.003kg to claim second place.

Mr Bondfield said the Palgrove steers in this year’s competition were sired by a range of Palgrove sires and were picked out of the operation’s commercial program.

“With the drought and the time of entry we sold the majority of our steers that were heavier and which would have been too heavy for this competition’s starting weight (now capped at 460kg), so they probably came in from the lighter end of that age drop,” Mr Bondfield explained.

“But they’re similar types of steers that we have been entering for the last four or five years.

“The whole team was really very even in their gain and we were really thrilled to have them come out on top, that is for sure.”

Santas win swag of awards

Santa Gertrudis cattle in particular were prominent in today’s awards.

Yulgilbar Pastoral Company from Baryulgil in New South Wales led the way with  three wins including in the new 120 day Hormone Growth Promotant (HGP) free export class (Class 40).

Their pen of six cattle recorded an average daily weight gain (ADG) of 2.226kg to win Class 40 and a share in the almost $65,000 in prize money on offer.

Yulgilbar also claimed the highest individual weight gain award for the same class at 2.559kg.

The hat-trick was completed with the highest individual weight gain award for the 70 day trade class (Class 38), with a steer recording an ADG of 3.610kg.

Rob Sinnamon at Grassdale this morning.

Yulgilbar manager Rob Sinnamon said commercial competitions such as the RNA Paddock to Palate contest were a great way to benchmark their seedstock program.

“We enjoy competing at varying locations in these competitions to benchmark our cattle against others, and obviously when we’re looking to sell bulls over a wide area of the country if we can showcase our steers in different locations that is helpful for us.

“If we can prove the commercial relevance of our cattle in these feedlot programs it certainly helps with the promotion of our bulls.”

Mr Sinnamon said it was exciting to see the competition introduce a Hormone Growth Promotant-free section reflecting the increasing number of markets now asking for non-HGP treated product. Competition sponsor JBS is paying a 20c premium for cattle in the new class this year. Mr Sinnamon said such incentives were welcome and vital, as producers giving up performance benefits afforded by HGPs needed to be compensated with a higher price to produce that product viably.

Last year’s major winners in the weight gain section, Alastair and Andrew Bassingthwaighte from Yarrawonga Santa Gertrudis at Wallumbilla, excelled again in 2019 with their Santa Gertrudis entries placing in three of the four Paddock to Palate Competition classes.

The fourth generation beef cattle producing family won the highest individual weight gain award for the export 100 day class (Class 37) with an ADG of 3.614kg and placed second in Class 40 behind Yulgilbar Pastoral Company with an ADG of 2.172kg.

The Bassingthwaightes also picked up a third in Class 38, which was dominated by fellow Queensland producers, with their pen of six recording an ADG of 2.910kg.

NSW win in Wagyu Challenge

In the 370 day Wagyu Challenge, Jerome Hayden from the Australian Wagyu Beef Network at Glen Innes took out first and second place with ADGs of 1.213kg (F1 Angus) and 1.204kg (F1 Shorthorn) respectively. He also won the highest individual weight gain for Class 39 with his F1 Angus, with an ADG of 1.422kg.

Jerome Hayden, Australian Wagyu Beef Network, Glen Innes, NSW, with Paul Strong from Performance Feeds.

Mr Hayden has been breeding Wagyu cattle since 1990 and has developed a large Wagyu supply chain which includes a monthly live export program shipping purebred Wagyu cattle from Brisbane to Japan.

Breeding Wagyu with frame is a key focus of his breeding program, he said.

“We’re building a chassis to put plenty of meat on the carcases,” he said.

“That is the reason why those cattle have done pretty well.

“While it is pretty tough at the moment (due to drought), I have just been focusing on breeding females that have got frame and then they do well in the feedlot, plus they marble.”

RNA Beef Cattle Committee Chair Gary Noller said it was pleasing to see 889 head of cattle entered in the competition this year, despite the drought.

“Our entry numbers are the highest they’ve been since 2015, which shows just how resilient and determined our beef cattle producers are and how valuable the data from this competition is for their breeding programs,” he said.

A selection of cattle on feed at Grassdale in the class 38, 70 day competition.

“We were thrilled to see more than 200 head of those cattle entered in our new HGP free export class, especially with consumer demand for HGP free beef rising.

“It was no surprise to see the Santa Gertrudis breed do well, as they often feature heavily in the top places in the weight gain phase – but they also have to perform well in the next phases in order to win overall.”

Both the Paddock to Palate Competition and Wagyu Challenge will now move onto the second phase – a carcass competition.

Paddock to Palate is three phased comprising best aggregate weight gain; a carcass competition and an MSA eating quality competition, while the 2018/19 Wagyu Challenge is four phased finishing in a beef taste off judged by some of Queensland’s top chefs.

The exhibitors who poll the highest aggregate scores across all phases of the four classes, will be awarded the overall prizes at an awards presentation dinner during the Royal Queensland Show (Ekka)’s Beef Week on Wednesday 7 August.


Class 37 – Rabobank Best Weight Gain for Pen of Six Grain Fed Steers (100 Day)

1st – Palgrove Pastoral Company – Charolais – ADG 3.095kg – Dalveen QLD

2nd – Russell Pastoral Company – Angus Cross – ADG 3.003kg – Jimbour and Blackall, Qld

3rd – Jabinda Pastoral Company – Santa Gertrudis – ADG 2.958kg – Tambo QLD


Class 37 – Zoetis Highest Individual Weight Gain

1st – D & AD Bassingthwaighte – Santa Gertrudis – ADG 3.614kg – Wallumbilla QLD

Class 38 – Elanco Animal Health Best Weight Gain for Pen of Six Grain Fed Steers (70 Day)

1st – McNicholl Family Trust – Angus Shorthorn Cross – ADG 2.951kg – Dulacca QLD

2nd – Godfrey Morgan – Shorthorn – ADG 2.946kg – Condamine QLD
3rd – A & AD Bassingthwaighte – Santa Gertrudis – ADG 2.910kg – Wallumbilla QLD

Class 38 – Elanco Animal Health Highest Individual Weight Gain

1st – Yulgilbar Pastoral Company – Santa Gertrudis – ADG 3.610kg – Baryulgil NSW

Class 39 (Wagyu Challenge) – Zoetis Best Weight Gain for Pen of Six Grain Fed Steers (370 Day)

1st – JE Hayden – F1 Angus – ADG 1.213kg – Glen Innes NSW
2nd – JE Hayden – F1 Shorthorn – ADG 1.204kg – Glen Innes NSW
3rd – Tom Kirkness – F1 Angus – ADG 1.111kg – Cudal NSW

Class 39 (Wagyu Challenge) – Performance Feeds Highest Individual Weight Gain

1st – JE Hayden – F1 Angus – ADG 1.422kg – Glen Innes NSW

Class 40 – Best Weight Gain for Pen of Six Grain-Fed Steers (120 Day HGP Free)

1st – Yulgilbar Pastoral Company – Santa Gertrudis – ADG 2.226kg – Baryulgil NSW
2nd – A & AD Bassingthwaighte – Santa Gertrudis – ADG 2.172kg – Wallumbilla QLD
3rd – G Morgan & Co – Shorthorn – ADG 2.171kg – Condamine QLD

Class 40 – Highest Individual Weight Gain

1st – Yulgilbar Pastoral Company – Santa Gertrudis – ADG 2.559kg – Baryulgil NSW



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