“It really does separate the wheat from the chaff,” Cameron Cutler on the Hoof and Hook competition.
The Parklea Pakenham and District Agricultural and Horticultural Show’s annual Hoof and Hook competition is one of the local farming community’s showpiece events. RUSSELL BENNETT spoke to this year’s guest judge of the ‘Hoof’ component about just why he jumped at the chance to get involved …
Cameron Cutler used to enter the Pakenham Show’s Hoof and Hook competition when he was a youngster – just a teenager.
It was just part of growing up on his family’s Red Angus and Gelbvieh cattle farm at Willow Grove.
They didn’t have any deep connection to the competition, but they’d attend as a family.
They ran about 600 head of cattle on a 1200-acre property, and when they left in 2010 Cameron started working on another farm nearby at Neerim South.
In 2015, things kicked up a notch yet again – when Cameron started working for Moyle Pathfinder Angus at Gazette near Hamilton in the state’s south-west.
It’s one of the largest farms of its kind anywhere in the country, with a herd of over 3500 cattle spread over seven properties throughout South Australia and Victoria. All of their females are inseminated to the industry’s top sires – truly setting the standard.
“It’s a great team environment, and we’re always striving for success in how we’re building (the business),” he said recently.
“I think the opportunity that I’ve been given has really helped my development.”
Cameron said at Pathfinder Angus sourcing genetics was a constant challenge.
“Our performance data is extremely high, so we find it hard to find bulls that go with our program,” he said.
“A lot of our cows are in the top 10 per cent of the breed nationally and trying to find (suitable) bulls makes it difficult.
“The fluctuating markets can be a problem too, and the drought – the dry up north in New South Wales and Queensland.”
As part of the young Pathfinder Angus team, Cameron has to be able to constantly adapt to the changing landscape.
Pathfinder Angus – owned by Nick and Sara Moyle – is truly a family operation and Cameron, now 27, is in his element there.
And with a history at the Hoof and Hook, he was a natural choice to judge this year’s ‘Hoof’ component at the Victorian Livestock Exchange (VLE) in Pakenham recently.
Spearheaded by Roger Leamon and his tireless group of workers, the competition is made up of both a live cattle (on the hoof) and a carcass (on the hook) component – with Cameron running his expert eye over the hoof section.
The competition provides a perfect opportunity for farmers, both commercial stud and hobby, to compare notes on the finer points of breeding quality cattle for prime, tender steak.
There are a range of breeds involved, from the Charolais, to the Angus, to the Belgian Blue, and the Murray Grey.
Though the competition carries with it plenty of prestige for the winners and the place-getters, it also gives them a way of judging how they’re tracking with their own breeding programs.
During the hoof component, cattle are eliminated from pens one by one until the judge has his final three in each weight category.
He judges on a range of different criteria, such as the animal’s structure, body length, eye muscle, size and shape of the rib and rump, and muscle pattern.
He’d had some substantial judging experience under his belt before, and this year’s Hoof competition at the VLE left a lasting impression on Cameron.
“There’s a lot of sons and grandsons of guys who’ve competed there before,” he said.
“It’s just great that the younger generations are coming through.
“Just the consistency of the cattle was good, too. In previous years, the dry and a couple of other factors have probably caused some inconsistency, but it was really hard (to judge).”
Cameron spoke about just how hard it is to judge live cattle.
“I’ve since had the hook results, and the cattle that I thought were underdone made the grid and cattle that I thought were good, didn’t,” he said.
“I’d like to think I got it as close as I could have got. There were a couple of wildcards that snuck up on the hook that I didn’t have in the top group when I judged them live.
“I think the prizes were shared around and I think everyone overall was pretty happy with their results. There were a lot of new people there this year, which is good. “Hopefully, they’ll take some knowledge out of it and have a look at their programs and make changes and adapt as they move forward as well.”
Cameron was quick to add that competition’s like Pakenham’s Hoof and Hook were “one of the best sorter-outers in the industry”.
“It really does separate the wheat from the chaff,” he said.
“People who have had good cattle, and believe they’ve got good cattle, have had their animals hung up and they’ve not done so well. Then there are people who think their cattle might not be any good and they’ve actually done better than they thought.”
Cameron said any beef cattle program would be well-advised to enter a carcass competition on an annual basis.
“It’s just good idea to get a yardstick of where your herd’s at and where you are with your breeding program,” he said.
“You can make changes and have decisions influenced based on the results you get, especially the hook part. Your genetic selections and your next year’s bull selections, your cow programs, your feeding program – a lot of it can be changed by what you see on the hook on the Tuesday (at Radfords in Warragul).
“There are probably steers there that would probably have a slight adjustment with sire selections potentially see an $1100 steer into a $1300 steer. Over a hundred head a $200 difference starts adding up.”
From the Parklea Pakenham and District Agricultural and Horticultural Show committee perspective, president Geoff Young said Cameron’s judging was a great asset to the competition.
“When you think he’s in a top stud and his partner is a stud breeder as well, to get that calibre of judge to come down from Hamilton to come to Pakenham to be a judge is actually a credit to Roger and his team,” he said.
“It’s been going for 17 years, and it’s getting more and more popular with the breeders out there and it’s a feature of the Pakenham Show. We’ve got the main show – a horse show – and we’ve got the Hoof and Hook. It’s all just going from strength to strength as we progress forward.”
Geoff said the numbers there to attend and take part in both components of the Hoof and Hook were testament to his popularity.
He gave a heartfelt thank you to Radfords for hosting the Hook component, and to Roger and his team of workers for co-ordinating and running the event.
“It’s a credit to Roger and his team for putting it all together every year,” he said.
“It started in 2000 and now it’s 17 years old and going stronger and stronger.”
HOOF AND HOOK COMPETITION RESULTS
Hoof results (Judge Cameron Cutler)
Section 1: Live weight: 250-325 kg
1st: H. King, Black Limousin.
2nd: B. and L. Seebeck, Black Limousin.
3rd: Y. Scholls, Red Angus.
Section 2: Live weight: 330-385 kg
1st: S. Robinson, Inra X.
2nd: I. Anderson, Angus X.
3rd: G. Ward, Red Poll.
Section 3: Live weight: 390-460 kg
1st: B. and L. Seebeck, Limousin.
2nd: B. and L. Seebeck, Limousin.
3rd: S. Robinson, Inra X.
Grand Champion: B. and L. Seebeck.
Reserve Champion: B. and L. Seebeck
Section 1: Live weight hook, 250-325 kg
1st: Y. Scholls.
2nd: R. Draper.
3rd: M. and S. Reedy.
Section 2: Live weight hook, 330-385kg
1st: G. Ward.
2nd: S. Johnston.
3rd: I. and N. Staff.
Section 3: Live weight hook, 390-460kg
1st: A. and J. Furborough.
2nd: J. and S Anderson.
3rd: A. Fyfe.
Grand Champion: Y. Scholls
Reserve Champion: R. Draper