TAKE some Angus cattle, marble them up at the Vasse Research Station and what do you get?
Well, that's what a whole lot of people involved in this marbling trial at Vasse are waiting to see, not the least of them being research station CEO Frank Coupar and Many Peaks Angus breeders Jeff and Rebecca Blyth.
The Blyths have been supplying the research station with their quiet Angus cattle for six years for trials, the past three for marbling tests. Frank says the results should be available by the end of next year.
The other person who has played a vital role in the whole undertaking is Harry Carroll, Wesfarmers Landmark, Mt Barker, who has been the link between the Blyths and the research station.
"The trial is about the value-adding of heifers and at this stage it is believed that heifers will marble at a lighter weight than steers," Frank said.
To do this, trials have been undertaken on both 1999-drop steers and heifers, with the heifers in feedlots for 200 days, while the steers get another 100 days. Both are then slaughtered to compare the results.
Another trial (in its first year) involving the Blyth's Angus cattle involves the testing of hormone growth promotants (HGP).
The question asked here is: Do HGPs have an affect on meat quality that justifies its inclusion as a factor in the MSA grading system?
"This is still being tested at Vasse and as far as we know nothing has been done on this in Australia," Frank said.
The story on the marbling and HGP trials started six years ago when Rod Duggan, then of Cowaramup Agencies, contacted Harry Carroll, seeking cattle for the Vasse trials.
"It went from there," said Harry, who has been organising the cattle from the Blyths since then.
The cattle are sold to the research station at current market prices and this year all the Blyth's calves were trucked from Manypeaks thanks to the bad season.
"I heard plaintive cries from Many Peaks and we had green feed, so they came over a bit earlier this year," Frank said.
Rebecca and Jeff believe that because of the poor season, their cattle were between 40 to 50kg lighter than they normally are.
The "marblers" are 1999 drop steers and heifers that spent nearly a year on Vasse paddocks before they went into the feedlot, where they have consumed about 2t/head of feed over the eight months they were on the feed, which comprises processed (hammer-milled) lupins, barley, pasture hay and minerals.
In the marbling test, 130 animals are being trialled in different groups, with the heifers being slaughtered at different weights (all liveweight) ‹ 400kg, 480kg, 560kg, 630kg and 700kg.
The steers are killed (again, all liveweight) at 430kg, 520kg, 610kg, 700kg, 800kg and 890kg and marbling on all groups compared.
The Blyths run 750 breeders with a Mordallup background at Many Peaks where they usually achieve a 93pc calving.
The heifers are preg-tested and 100 heifers annually are kept as replacements.
Calves are marked in the paddock during the February calving and each calf and mother are identified.
"The cattle are only brought into the yards once ‹ at selling, when the calves are weighed," Jeff said.
"The temperament is good and we cull anything that has a behaviour problem".
Frank vouched for their temperament.
"We get the cattle from Blyths because they stay in their pens and do the job that Agriculture WA requires," he said.
Drenching of the Blyths cattle takes place only every three or four years ‹ really, drenching as needed.
"We cull any really wormy cattle and we are very particular about feet," Rebecca said.