A new beginning for Arley Speckle Park

By Tamara Hooper
November 28 2021 - 2:00am
Arley Farm manager Tim Elliot has a strong focus on beef cattle production, both for stud and commercial purposes and the young bulls behind him are testament to their Speckle Park breeding program.

A NEW perspective for a property steeped in nearly 130 years of history has seen the development of a fresh era of farming with the aim of building a future for another family to realise their dreams.

When Ben and Victoria Murphy purchased a 400 hectare portion in 2019, off the Fry family's original Shenfield property at Benger, with South West Highway frontage, they renamed it Arley Farm.

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Shenfield had been in the Fry family since 1893 when John (Jack) Partridge of White Rocks, Brunswick Junction, purchased the land for his sister Edith Partridge Fry and her four children after the death of her husband Henry in England.

The property was named Shenfield after another where Ms Fry had lived with her husband on the outskirts of Brentwood, Essex, England.

"We are really only the second owners of this property, since it has been in the one family since it was settled," Ms Murphy said.

"Being able to own such a historical property is amazing, we love it, the land is pretty magical."

Originally owning their own machinery transport business, the Murphys transition into farming was not a decision made on a whim and came from a long held wish to own a farm.

"I have always wanted to own some land," Mr Murphy said.

"Growing up, my great uncle bred Herefords at Margaret River and I have always liked cattle."

Having the dream to own a farm and the passion to produce cattle was coupled with the desire to also have a lasting legacy for their sons Josh, 9 and Sam, 5.

"We have been fortunate to be able to do this," Mr Murphy said.

"We are able to diversify and give the kids a great experience and learn as we go."

Starting with a completely clean slate, with no preconceived ideas about farming methods has given the Murphys the ultimate opportunity to diversify, change, learn and implement their own plans and ideas for Arley Farm.

When it was first settled Shenfield was utilised for mixed farming, including dairy, pigs, sheep, chaff, an orchard, potatoes, seed potatoes and vegetables.

As time progressed the emphasis changed so that beef and seed potato production dominated.

However, the newly minted Arley Farm has its focus on beef cattle production, being in the form of Arley Speckle Park stud and commercial production.

With rainfall making for a great season, the Arley Speckle Park progeny are looking fantastic, like this young heifer, as is the feed on hand at the Benger property.

Mr Murphy said that while he was passionate about producing quality cattle and building up the business, he knew he did not have the knowledge or skills to be able to manage the property himself.

"While I am involved in the farm and love spending time there, I am more like a farm hand," Mr Murphy said.

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"Tim Elliot is the farm manager and he comes from a stud and commercial cattle background, so has all the necessary qualifications.

"I enjoy being able to follow and learn from Tim and to be able to assist in making the decisions."

Not being born into farming, or having the pre-existing understanding, has been a blessing, Mr Murphy said.

"I knew I wanted to breed cattle and was keen to try something different," he said.

"I was introduced to Tony Trainor, from Gingin Speckle Park and liked the breed."

Speckle Park cattle are relatively new to Australia and there are only a handful of breeders in Western Australia, but with Mr Elliot's guidance, Mr Murphy said they plan on cementing their stud as quality producers of Speckle Park genetics.

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The Speckle Park breed was developed in Canada in the 1960s and its full origins were documented in the book, The Cow That Jumped Over the World, compiled by Christine Pike.

The book reveals the original Speckle Park female was a cow that likely had Shorthorn blood, which was bred to an unknown bull, with the offspring bred to Highland, Jersey, Angus and Galloway breeds.

The next phase was the introduction of the Black Angus, with the original Angus from Scotland.

This made an excellent mix, creating the Speckle Park breed.

The book's title is a play on the fact that there are now Speckle Park cattle on the other side of the world in Australia and in New Zealand.

It is speculated that Australian numbers of the breed have surpassed Canada's.

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Mr Elliot has had plenty of previous experience breeding Angus cattle and is impressed with the performance and traits of the Speckle Park breed.

The markings of the Speckle Park breed are unique and each animal has its own unique pattern.

"They are a very calm animal with excellent temperament," Mr Elliot said.

"They are good mothers, with great maternal instincts.

"Over the hook they dress well, with good marbling.

"They are a good meaty animal with a smaller bone density."

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Arley Speckle Park stud was initiated with 200 recipient F1 cows for embryo transfers.

"The genetics came from Gingin Speckle Park stud and mixed with international genetics," Mr Elliot said.

"Gingin Speckle Park created the embryos and we have a good diverse range of genetics from proven animals."

The first lot of embryos were implanted for autumn calving.

"We are trying to create a good sound herd to produce quality offspring," Mr Elliot said.

"Their ease of calving and docility is great.

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"With our bull selection we are looking for strong animals with good feet and conformation.

"They need these attributes as we have a lot of hills and the animals need to be able to cope with this environment."

Mr Elliot said the animals were fed solely on pastures and silage and hay.

"We do not feed the cattle grain or pellets and we grow and cut all the hay on-property," he said.

He said that while he had had no prior experience with the Speckle Park breed, his experience with other stud cattle had allowed him to compare them.

"I am really impressed with the Speckle Parks," Mr Elliot said.

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"I especially like their temperament and how easy they are to work with, as well as their meat qualities."

Calves on the ground were about 200-days-old and Mr Elliot said they had just completed their first spring embryo program.

An impressive steer that will be up for sale on December 8 at the Boyanup Saleyards, as part of two teams of 10 offered by Arley Farm.

"I am interested to see the results of the spring program, compared to the autumn," he said.

"Ben and I are in this for the long haul and in the future are looking to produce one of the best Speckle Park herds in Australia.

"We aim to have about 100 stud and 150 commercials (animals), depending on the season."

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This year they will have produced 50 commercial heifers, 50 steers, 43 stud heifers and about 40 bulls.

"At about 200 days the steers weight averaged 300 kilograms to 320kg," Mr Elliot said.

The Murphys and Mr Elliot, with the assistance of local stock agent Errol Gardiner, will be selling their first progeny, two mobs of 10 steers, on December 8, at a Boyanup sale.

Mr Elliot said they were also entering two steers and one heifer in the Harvey Beef Gate to Plate Challenge.

"We are interested to see how these three animals perform in the feedlot," he said.

With such an inspiring opportunity, it is no wonder the future is looking so bright for the Murphy family's Arley Speckle Park stud.

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"The results so far have been impressive," Mr Elliot said.

"The bull performance is exceptional, showing great 200 and 400-day weights.

"The overall herd has great muscling and fat.

"The calves were weaned a little earlier than we would have usually, but they have been really resilient and have bounced back, especially the bulls."

For the Murphys and Mr Elliot their commitment to their beef operation and the Speckle Park breed is palpable.

"This is just the beginning," Mr Elliot said.

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The mix of steer and heifer calves are very calm and approachable, making feeding and herding tasks easier even with this group of about 200-day-old calves, which were recently weaned.

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