Two Steak of Ori­gin fi­nal­ists come from Tararua

Bush Telegraph - - Front Page - By STEVE CARLE´

Tararua has two class fi­nal­ists in the an­nual PGG Wright­son Steak of Ori­gin grand fi­nal to be held at Mystery Creek on June 13.

Graeme Dyke from Pori is a medal­list in Class 4 Best of breed — British: other, for his Red Devons. Nick Perry from Pahiatua is a medal­list in Class 5: Best of Breed — Cross­breed and Other.

Mr Dyke will not know un­til the grand fi­nal which of his three Red Devon an­i­mals has won which medal, but he is as­sured of get­ting gold, sil­ver and bronze with his en­tries, scoop­ing the pool in the class and is in with a chance to win the over­all com­pe­ti­tion.

Last year he won gold and bronze medals in the same class at the com­pe­ti­tion with his gold medal heifer be­ing the most ten­der steak in the whole com­pe­ti­tion. It was placed fourth in the fi­nal out of 300 en­tries.

This year Mr Dyke says he has pro­duced his best Red Devons ever.

“The beef is so ten­der and well-mar­bled. Its down to the breed. Devons are so docile — even the bulls. I’ve never had a bull put its head down and go for me. It has a big ef­fect on the pH of the meat,” he said.

“Ask any of the top chefs in the UK which is the pre­ferred beef and they will an­swer Ruby Red Devons. Celebrity chef Hugh Fearn­ley-Whit­tingstall of River Cottage runs his own herd of Ruby Red Devons.

“In a drought sit­u­a­tion Red Devons will be the last breed of cat­tle stand­ing, as long as they have a bit of wa­ter. This breed can live on the smell of an oily rag. Fer­til­ity, calv­ing (100 per cent is achieved of­ten), longevity, it all turns into dol­lars. It’s noth­ing to wean some 300kg plus calves ev­ery year. When they are sent to the works, Devons will yield 60 per cent or more well fin­ished,” he said.

Mr Dyke sells his bulls mostly to com­mer­cial beef breed­ers.

“The ge­net­ics of the Red Devon have never been messed with like some of the other big breeds, which re­sults in plenty of hy­brid vigour in the calves. The farm­ers love them. There are lots of herds in New Zealand now that are slowly turn­ing red,” he said.

The Red Devon herd these cat­tle come from are un­der test­ing for M. bo­vis be­cause cat­tle es­caped from the Land­corp farm next door. The re­sults of the first whole-herd test are neg­a­tive. The sec­ond test­ing was done on June 6 and Mr Dyke is await­ing the re­sults. The farm is rugged hill coun­try at an al­ti­tude of 460-580m above sea level. It en­dures cold, high winds with harsh win­ters — with dump­ings of snow. “The cat­tle han­dle it,” said Mr Dyke.

Class 5: Best of breed — Cross­breed and Other

It was a very pleas­ant sur­prise for Nick and Car­ron Perry to learn they had made it through to the Grand Fi­nal of the Steak of Ori­gin this year.

“We’ve been en­ter­ing the com­pe­ti­tion for 10 or 12 years and been to the semi-fi­nals twice but never the fi­nals, so it was nice to get that far,” said Nick.

Hav­ing been farm­ing all his life, Nick has al­ways had pure An­gus cows.

“This time for a change we put a Gel­b­vieh bull across them. There is an ad­van­tage of hy­brid vigour from that first cross. I’ve al­ways been im­pressed with the Gel­b­vieh, they are a very docile to han­dle breed and com­ple­ment the An­gus well,” he said. He sells prime cat­tle, steers and heifers and a few bulls.

“The calves are nice and quiet — we en­tered three heifers but still don’t know which one went into the fi­nals,” Car­ron says.

Asked what win­ning qual­i­ties are re­quired of a breed, Nick said it’s a lit­tle bit of ev­ery­thing.

“Low pH be­cause they are docile — that con­trib­utes a lot to the ten­der­ness of the meat and its keep­ing qual­ity. The mar­bling in our An­gus cat­tle has al­ways been rea­son­able — it’s an­other plus in their favour.”

This is the Per­rys’ first crop of slaugh­ter stock from the Gel­b­vieh. This com­ing Spring it will be the third gen­er­a­tion on the ground of their 182ha breed­ing and fin­ish­ing farm at Manga­maire near Pahiatua. They run 70 per cent sheep and 30 per cent cat­tle.

They source the An­gus bulls from Joe and Shaun Fouhy. Joe has won the Steak of Ori­gin a cou­ple of times.

“It’s all about the con­sumer at the end of the day. It’s try­ing to find out who can pro­duce a con­sis­tent, good qual­ity prod­uct on the plate. It’s about the man­age­ment of the an­i­mal,” said Nick. “If they’re not fright­ened of hu­mans, it makes a dif­fer­ence when they’re loaded on the truck. So

much of the qual­ity of the meat can be de­ter­mined by the an­i­mal’s stress lev­els in the last 24 hours of their life.

“We don’t use dogs too much on them,” Car­ron said. “I call them and they come through the gate. We don’t use ni­tro­gen, just a sim­ple fer­tiliser regime. This year Al­liance was the only lo­cal cat­tle slaugh­ter fa­cil­ity in­volved in the com­pe­ti­tion. Gel­b­vieh is a ter­mi­nal sire in our case — we’re not breed­ing from any of the off-spring. We are buy­ing in pure An­gus fe­males to re­place our cows,” she said.

■ The PGG Wright­son Steak of Ori­gin Com­pe­ti­tion aims to find the most ten­der and tasty sir­loin beef steak in New Zealand. It is open to beef farm­ers, re­tail­ers, whole­salers and food ser­vice sup­pli­ers.

It orig­i­nated from a na­tional car­cass com­pe­ti­tion, when a taste el­e­ment was in­tro­duced to raise con­sumer aware­ness of the qual­i­ties of beef steak. This is the 15th year the com­pe­ti­tion has been run­ning.

The com­pe­ti­tion process in­volves an ini­tial assess­ment of the sir­loin steak at Carne Tech­nolo­gies in Cam­bridge.

Each steak is aged for three weeks be­fore be­ing tested for ten­der­ness, pH, mar­bling and per­cent­age cook­ing loss.

The most ten­der sir­loin steaks reach the semi­fi­nal and are cooked to medium rare in a neu­tral flavoured oil with­out sea­son­ing, be­fore be­ing tasted by a judg­ing panel of food writ­ers and chefs. The fi­nal­ists — the top steak from each of the eight classes — are tasted at the Grand Fi­nal by a panel of chefs to find the most tasty and ten­der steak.

Judg­ing cri­te­ria in­cludes aroma, tex­ture, flavour, ten­der­ness and juici­ness.

Graeme Dyke won Gold and Bronze medals at Auck­land last year in his class.

Graeme Dyke’s Te Maewa Red Devon cows with calves.

Nick and Car­ron Perry with 20-month-old steers.

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