G’Day and thank you for the honour of being able to give this presentation to the members and guests of the Galloway Cattle Society of New Zealand (Inc.). It’s my first time this far south in New Zealand but once again I feel almost at home, maybe it’s a common heritage to many of the people here, although I must admit, I thought more of you may have been without your trousers.
I’m Greg Stuart, President of the Galloway Cattle and Beef Marketing Association Inc. (now Galloways Australia). I’ve been a solid colour Galloway breeder for around 18 years. Long term resident of Scotland and I try to regularly get back to Scotland to visit my many friends there including other Galloway breeders. Galloway was not my original cattle breed. My late wife’s family were very long term Angus breeders and my original breed was Poll Hereford because that was what everyone else had. I didn’t breed Angus because I got tired of looking for the holes in the fence, not to fix the fence but to know where to head for should one of the Angus cows take a dislike to me.
My wife Chris and I today operate two properties of around 550 acres in the Yass/Boorowa region of central NSW running around 150 head although that is reduced at the moment because of the drought. We operate a full blood Galloway stud but our main business now is direct marketing Galloway beef and Galloway hide floor rugs to the public and restaurants.
I’ll start with a joke to illustrate a point or two.
A cattle breeder had a great bull, champion of everything, centre piece of the herd. One morning he found the bull lying down, not moving and he couldn’t make it get up. He called the vet. Need you to give him something to get up, better come quickly. The vet arrived quickly, looked at the bull and said it was dead. No, no said the breeder he’s too good a bull to be dead, I need a second opinion. OK said the vet and got his Labrador dog out of the car, the dog walked around the prone bull, poked its nose with his, sniffed around the tail and came back to the vet and shook its head. Told you so said the vet, the dog thinks the bull is dead. No, no said the breeder, there must be something else. So the vet got his Siamese cat out of his car, the cat peered at the bull intently while walking around the prone bull then walked up to the vet and shook it’s head. There you go said the vet, three opinions and all agree that the bull is dead. OK said the farmer, what do I owe you. $600 said the vet. That’s outrageous, you normally only charge $100 for a call out. That’s right said the vet but then there is also $200 for the lab report and $300 for the cat scan.
Points to note are that not recognising his situation cost the breeder money and not responding to the situation cost the breeder a lot more money. I believe many of us are like that breeder in that we don’t really know where we fit in our industry and don’t respond to the opportunities that our industry can provide.
I consider the Galloway family of cattle, Solids, Belteds and Whites, is a minority breed family in both Australia and New Zealand. Many breeders of minority breeds think their cattle have some great reason for being but may not be exactly sure what that reason is. They do, however, believe that that fuzzy reason for being will have main stream producers and consumers breaking their doors down to get their product. Unfortunately getting your doors broken down does not happen without identifying very clearly what that reason for being is, and, without a lot of consistent, coordinated and united effort to promote that reason for being. It also requires the expenditure of a lot of personal effort, time and money but it CAN happen.
I’ll talk now on what I see as the Galloway’s reasons for being. Bear in mind thatwhen I talk of Galloway I’m referring to the solid colour Galloway and its old and recent cousins the Belties and the Whites. It’s a major philosophical point of mine that unless there is a market for genetics there is little point in preserving those genetics, except in some form of genetic museum. However I’m quite passionate about the Galloway’s genetics and the breed’s future. I’m also passionate about maintaining the purity of the breed for seed stock production because without that purity the attributes we come to later in this presentation will be lost and once lost can never be recovered. By all means cross breed to produce commercial product but don’t try to hide it as full blood Galloway.
Why? Because the Galloway has some very great reasons for being, reasons that are ancient but are very relevant to their and our future. Reasons that are directly linked to the harsh, cold windswept, low protein environment of South West Scotland where the Galloway evolved to the animal we know today. I may bore some of you that already know what I’m about to say but some of the Galloways evolved attributes are central to understanding what our markets can be.
The solid colour Galloway is one of the oldest British beef breeds or even world breeds. Their evolution makes them unique in that Galloways and their successor breeds have a double hair coat, a long hair outer coat and a soft, mohair like inner coat. The only other animal with a similar coat and incidentally similar meat, is the bison however there is no genetic relationship. The relationship is in the environment they evolved in. That coat and that Scottish environment became the basis for other unique changes that express themselves in Galloway meat. Fat serves two major purposes in most animals; it provides insulation and it provides an energy reserve for hard times, for calving or for a bull ranging for cows. The Galloway evolved some of its insulation on the outside, it’s coat, so less external fat is required for insulation on the inside, that is, less external white fat. However the need for energy reserves still requires to be fulfilled, that requirement is fulfilled by putting marbling into the meat and by having “black” fat within the meat. These fats have a very different chemical composition to external white fat, they contain far less saturated fats.
The Galloway’s evolution didn’t stop there. Again their environment was one of alpine type low protein foraging including mosses and lichen, woody stems and coarse grasses. They adapted to the naturally low protein environment and by a ‘lucky for us’ combination produced high quality meat from poor quality feed. It is important to note that Galloways have always been meat producing animals, never draft animals requiring higher levels of nutrition but producing coarser textured meat.
In our area of Australia we have cold winters and hot, dry summers, the coat seems to protect against both, but more importantly for us, we are often trying to produce meat from poor quality pasture like dry phalaris, native grasses and woody stems. The Galloway characteristics allow us to produce high quality meat with minimal supplementation and without “grazing out” the better species of grasses.
As I said earlier I was once a Poll Hereford breeder, I first used a Galloway bull to reduce calving problems and it wasn’t the bull’s name that reduced calving problems, the bull was named after a Scottish dance, his name was Gay Gordon. I went from pulling many calves and losing some to virtually no calving problems once I used a Galloway bull and I then observed that the Hereford/Galloway cross calves did not go backwards in winter. I was so impressed that I then moved to full blood Galloways. Also from that first batch of cross breed calves I entered my first carcase competition and was awarded almost 100% points for meat quality from a steer straight out of the paddock.
Today we have non breed or breed association research proving, those positive attributes I observed many years ago, are correct. US Department of Agriculture, USDA, testing found Galloways had the lowest incidence of calving difficulties of any US breed and the highest weaning percentage. It was also found that a 25mm thicker coat such as a Galloways reduces an animal’s winter feed requirements by 20-25%. Further research by the USDA showed that of the six British breeds raised in the US, the Galloway was:
- first (lowest) in fat thickness
- first (lowest) in kidney, pelvic and heart fat
- first (highest) in percent retail product (69.7%)
- first (lowest) in percent of fat trim
- second in rib eye area
- second in dressing percentage (61.2%)
New Zealand Government testing published in the New Zealand Journal of Agricultural Research found Galloways, when they were represented in the trials, had the highest mean dressing out percentage and mean eye muscle area.
The USDA’s Meat Animal Research Centre at Clay Centre, Nebraska analysed the beef from 12 US raised breeds, it ranked Galloway 1st for flavour, 2nd for tenderness and 2nd for juiciness.
Another US trial undertaken by the US Government’s National Livestock and Meat Board in cooperation with Texas A&M University ranked Galloway 1st for flavour 1st for juiciness, tenderness was still second. Modern testing is confirming what the Romans found when they tried to conquer the Scottish Galloway area. They liked eating the plundered local cattle. More recently, in 1573 it was written “In Galloway are large oxen whose flesh is tender, sweet and juicy.” One form of testing that the Romans couldn’t do has been carried out at the Lipid Analytical Laboratories, University of Guelph, Canada. Galloway beef was compared with randomly selected commercial supermarket beef. The results found Galloway to be low in saturated fat as well as total fat average and indicated high ratios of Omega 6 to Omega 3 – the beneficial lineolic and linolenic acids. Galloway beef has been proven to be as healthy for the heart and brain as both chicken and fish. All beef in the study had been lot feed a high grain diet so the result is not confusing grass fed and grain fed beef.
Testing at the Mols Institute in Denmark found that Galloways were the least specific grazers of any breed of cattle. They ate all the available herbage evenly not just the lusher grasses or legumes.
Can these findings be replicated elsewhere?
Yes. In Australia GC&BMA (GA)members are active in all breed, pure bred, carcase competitions where meat quality and to a degree quantity, is objectively measured.
The results are astounding:
- 2000 National Steer Comp Champion Carcase - Pure Bred
- 2001 Royal Sydney Grand Champion Carcase
- 2002 Royal Sydney Taste Test Grand and Reserve Grand Champions
- 2003 Royal Sydney Taste Test Grand and Reserve Grand Champions
- Royal Melbourne Reserve Champion Carcase
- 2004 Royal Sydney Reserve Champion Carcase
- 2005 Royal Sydney Taste Test Class Winner (equal)
- 2006 Royal Sydney Middleweight Champion Carcase
- 2007 Royal Sydney Lightweight Champion Carcase and Taste Test Class Winner, (a Belted Galloway)
No other breed can match these results.
GC&BMA (GA) members regularly supply steers to agricultural high schools as a way of exposing Galloways to a broader audience and increasing numbers in carcase competitions or heifer shows.
These findings and results can now be reinforced by GeneSTAR testing undertaken by Genetic Solutions. My own testing of both Galloway males and females is showing marbling up to 3 stars, bear in mind that Wagyu average at 4.2 stars, Tenderness between 6 and 8 stars and Feed Efficiency also between 6 and 8 stars, the current maximum star rating for each category is 8 stars. Each star represents a genetic marker that has been isolated as being associated with the characteristic. These are some typical results from our Galloways.
And then you have our experience of marketing our own Galloway beef, two great words, Repeat Customers. People come back and tell us it is so good to have beef that has flavour and is tender and juicy and that even applies to the mince and sausages. We eat it too and consider it is pretty good in fact we don’t order beef in restaurants anymore because it most likely will not be as good as our own.
From all of this, I find Galloway beef to be in a very unusual situation. We have an independently proven product of exceptional quality. Our major attributes for being are:
FERTILITY & ABILITY TO CONSISTENTLY PRODUCE A LIVE CALF
Consistently producing a live calf to weaning each year and a quick return to service are the greatest productivity increasers that an animal can provide. Couple this to the Galloways very long productive life that reduces replacements costs and you have a very cost efficient breed. Remember that a dead calf has a very limited potential to produce wealth, think of the calving problems of some of the Continental breeds. This Galloway attribute more than offsets the sometimes reduced Average Daily Weight Gains of Galloways although careful selection can, over time, virtually eliminate this as has been the case in Australia with Glenkelso Galloways.
REDUCED ENERGY/FEED REQUIREMENT IN WINTER
Another major productivity multiplier. Less winter supplementing or stocking rate can be increased.
A DEMONSTRATED SUPERIOR QUALITY OF MEAT
Over time this should be able to be marketed to gain a premium. The Glenkelso herd in Victoria has been achieving this for many years. However the breeder or finisher must remain vigilant that they are turning off well finished cattle as the Galloway’s hair can mask the visual signs of their finish. Turning off poorly finished cattle can quickly turn off the market. That turn off can take years to overcome should it occur.
People are becoming more health conscious. This is a major marketing advantage for the future.
CATTLE THAT FINISH OFF GRASS
This will soon be a major positive in Australia as the Government has mandated that petrol contain ethanol. Ethanol will largely be produced from grain, grain will become much more expensive globally, feed lot costs will sky rocket swinging the feed equation back to grass finishing cattle, European cattle, in general, require high energy/grain diets to finish. This may not be such an issue in New Zealand as there is less of a feed lot industry.
This reduces pasture replacement costs and reinforces the benefits of rotational grazing.
SECONDARY MARKET FOR SKINS OR GOOD LOOKS
People will buy Belties just for their looks, paddock gnomes, but it is a valid market so don’t knock it. The skins of Solids and Belties make a great floor rug or room feature. Each skin is unique and people like that. A good skin will sell for more than a live animal. as Galloway breeders, we struggle to achieve price parity with other breeds that have not been shown to possess the same high quality as Galloway beef but have much better breed recognition partly through skilful marketing.
So what is the GC&BMA (Galloways Australia) doing?
First up, the basics, know what you have got and when it is finished. There was and still is a chicken and egg situation to overcome ie what markets are available or can be created and what product eg meat and cattle numbers is available. What numbers of Galloway cattle are available for product? A census of cattle including Galloways in commercial situations that may be outside of the Association
was required? A considerable amount of our own product originates from outside sources. One of the spin-offs noted by the GC&BMA (GA) is the need to foster commercial Galloway producers. Prior to theGC&BMA’s existence, the major trading by the debunked old Society was between stud members with new members expecting to immediately become stud breeders. This led to retention of stud cattle that were not an improvement on past generations and a lack of a commercial perspective. Now that Galloway product is being marketed there is a change in emphasis, being a commercial breeder is now taking a higher profile and a proper stud seed stock > commercial seed stock > commercial producer pyramid is commencing to take shape. The GC&BMA conducts field days each year. A common part of every field day, no matter what its theme is, is manual assessment of cattle. Being able to feel when an animal is finished is a skill best leant by doing it. It is essential that people turning off Galloway cattle have some skill that ensures that the cattle going into the marketplace are properly finished for the market they are going into. At virtually every field day we also BBQ Galloway beef so people can taste the difference. A great way to get to know the quality of the meat you are producing is to eat it. I recommend every breeder should eat a sample of each beast they produce for beef.
Another way of guiding your herd towards better eating characteristics is the use of GeneSTAR for marbling, tenderness and feed efficiency. By testing your bulls and using high scoring bulls you can over time increase the number of markers for each of he characteristics across the herd. However it is important to remember that GeneSTAR is only another selection tool that must be used in conjunction with your other selection criteria for, say, temperament, fertility, structural correctness and average daily weight gain, etc.
There is another technique that can be used, one that raises eyebrows but has been proven over time. A measure of tenderness can be determined from measuring the degree of concavity of the first long rib. A concave rib denotes tenderness, a convex rib toughness, a flat rib is in between. This technique is based on butcher observations of carcases. Try it sometimes. If you use GeneSTAR, compare the results. We did recently and were surprised by the consistency.
So the first steps are to know the number of head of cattle available and producers are able to determine product quality.
DEVELOP A RELATIONSHIP WITH THE PRESS
Let the press know when you are having a field day or a conference. The GC&BMA (GA) tries to make it easy for them by writing up a press release and providing relevant photos. Where possible we take the press release to the paper’s/TV’s office, and enthusiastically talk to them and ask what else do they want or what form do they want it. We do the same for agricultural magazines. We have got to know the reporters and editors. We invite them and their partners to free dinners of Galloway beef at top quality restaurants that are using Galloway beef. This started with a restaurant that also wanted exposure to the same food writers/press as the GC&BMA (GA) was aiming at so we were able to split costs.
Over time, the press will start to come to you. From one free dinner, I’m now asked to contribute to a national small farming magazine on subjects quite diverse but I always make sure Galloway cattle and the GC&BMA (GA) get woven into the article.
It can be difficult to have articles to put to the press so the GC&BMA (GA) asks members for articles about interesting things that happen to them and their Galloways to be published. For instance topping a sale, winning at a show (great at local levels), getting an export order, reports on field days.
THE GC&BMA RE-DEVELOPED ITS WEB SITE AND UPGRADED ITS REGULAR NEWSLETTER
People like to get a newsletter they can hold in their hand and read under a tree. The newsletter is put out each month but it must be regular and it must be relevant, it should always contain an informative and educational segment, should have a clear who to contact list, should have a for sale/buy section and something on how to use Galloway beef eg a recipe.
The website covers similar topics but in more detail, it is an important window to the world and includes more information on members and their studs including photos likewise the semen listing is currently being expanded and a where you can get Galloway beef section has been added. The site is receiving thousands of visits each month. Industry and the press now use the web site as a point of contact. Sponsorship of the President’s Bulletin and the website is available.
THE GC&BMA (GA) IS DEVELOPING MARKETING RELATIONSHIPS
First up there are some things that most marketing bodies will require:
A marketer must know that the product will perform the same way every time.
There must be enough access to the product. Supply difficulties will lead to loss of support.
There must be a reliable cost structure; customer support and, for restaurants, menu costing depends upon this.
Post Kill Care
A marketer needs to know how the product has been handled post kill.
It must eat well every time.
Thru Life Care
Many markets want to know that the animal was well cared for inlife, whether it was raised on grass or lot fed, whether hormones or antibiotics were used, is it organic or naturally raised.
Many restaurants have shown an interest in Galloway beef. One restaurant held a blind taste testing by its customers offering beef from a number of wholesalers and included some directly purchased Galloway beef. The Galloway beef was selected unanimously.
However many restaurants are difficult to supply as they want only the top cuts, Leaving the producer to market the “lesser” cuts. However there are restaurants around that enjoy using the whole beast and are happy to accept sides.
Butcher’s require a consistent supply of consistent quality beef. Many butchers want say three bodies a week, all year. However if a butcher is sold on the quality of Galloway beef and the Association provides some support material, you will find that there are butchers that will sell Galloway beef as it is available, as a superior quality product and they will identify it as Galloway. A draw back of some smaller country butchers is that they will often have some cattle of their own that they put through their butcher shop when feed is good ie cattle are finished well. This can give an on again off again relationship that can be difficult.
The GC&BMA about three years ago developed a marketing plan for the next five years. I took that plan and decided to use it as the basis for my own marketing. I’m now being followed by others; that is great for the breeds and the Galloway’s exposure in the market space.
For the next segment, I’ll concentrate on what Chris and I have done to develop our marketing but you can take it as a loose template for what other GC&BMA (GA) members are doing.
The 7 year drought that we are still experiencing caused the stud market to fall away as people purchased feed rather than stock. We had to rethink our business so as not to go broke as we were buying feed too. Saleyard selling often discounts Galloways because they not mainstream and it can be difficult to assess their condition because of their coat especially when the potential for unfinished stock is high during a drought.
We started by having a local butcher slaughter a steer on our property. The steer was skinned, gutted and quartered and then taken it back to hang in the butcher’s cool room before cutting it up for us. The meat was eaten by ourselves and friends. We did this twice. Then the butcher wanted to buy directly from us so we took two steers to our local abattoir, got a “kill” number and had commercial refrigerated transport deliver our carcases to the butcher. I should say here we always take at least two steers at any time. We use our own truck to get them to the abattoir and I put them in their holding pen at the abattoir. This is all to reduce stress, to maximise eating quality.
That was our first step to a better income and the reduction of “middlemen”. Word of mouth was spreading that our Galloway beef was a cut above the average. People we didn’t know were wanting to buy our beef. We couldn’t legally sell to them without licensing.
Our local butcher changed hands and suddenly our retail yields dropped, the new butcher was ripping us off. So we found another in a country town experiencing real hardship because of the drought. The new butcher was also a farmer we had a lot in common, could talk to each other and established a trusting working relationship. The new butcher was happy to cut up to our requirements and to package our meat in freezer bags.
We obtained, what at that time was called a Food Notification registration number from the NSW Government. We then purchased a new refrigerated cool room that we mounted on a trailer. The cool room was then inspected and registered as a human consumption meat van. We sized the cool room to accommodate 8 meat boxes on the floor and we normally stack them two high. This comfortably equates to four sides of beef but can squeeze in six. The trailer has a working space at the end for rearranging or loading boxes and mounts a portable generator in a compartment on the draw bar.
The coolroom maintains a temperature of 0.5 to 2 degrees C. The legal maximum temperature is 5oC. Each side of beef yields around 80-85 kg of meat. Our steers are generally around 500kg when they go off at around 2 years old. They are 0 to 2 toothed fat score 2.5 to 3 with around 6 mm of rump fat. We work on a dressing percentage of 55% and a retail yield of 70%. We are intending to improve on these percentages by selection (ie by selection for eye muscle area, which is directly related to retail yield) and by use of our new Scottish bull; a bull proven to have dressing percentages up to 62%. Improving these percentages relates to a direct profit improvement. From an association with a small farming magazine we were approach to sell at a Farmer’s Market in NSW. We accepted. This bought on a change to packaging. We moved to cryovacing meat that could be handled at the farmer’s market; this reduces health risks and provides the added bonus that the cryovaced meat can be left in the bottom of a refrigerator for 4-6 weeks, a useful selling point. We also started selling by 15kg boxes of mixed cuts to ensure we were not left with a lot of lesser cuts. At this stage we were only selling sausages and mince by the kg, not steak.
Our direct marketing built up slowly and the farmers market was OK but not great. Out of the blue we were informed that our beef had been selected to represent the Capital Region at the National Slow Food Festival in Melbourne. We accepted and Galloway beef was presented, by a master chef, to an audience that over the two days of food demonstrations was 16,000 people. The chef told the audience that Galloway beef was unlike any other beef he had ever worked with in its texture, flavour and fat distribution. I was asked on stage to explain why Galloway beef IS different. This started our relationship with the Slow Food movement, an international group dedicated to the preservation of traditional food preparation and cooking, preservation of traditional agriculture and animal and plant species. To Slow Food people eating should be a pleasant and healthy experience.
We now provide free tasting of sausages and some steak at Slow Food events, this generates more customers who are interested in good food and can pay for it. Becoming aligned with groups like this is a great way to increase demand and exposure.
A local winery, also a member of Slow Food then asked if it could feature our beef at its regular food and wine lunches. The winery featured us at a local wine festival. A TV crew was there so yours truly took to wine stomping in my kilt; its hard to get into a wine vat with a kilt on but had the desired effect on the TV crew who later talked of a possible feature on Galloway beef. Every opportunity like that must be grabbed.
Through Slow Food we were submitted to sell at one of Australia’s largest farmer’s markets, the EPIC Farmer’s Market in Canberra. More licences needed, this time an ACT Food Business Licence. To get this licence we had to improve our packaging and labelling, this is now paying off in increased sales. Everyone selling at this market must be the producer of the product that they sell. People go to it to buy, not just to look. We have found it complements our other farmers market in that we sell a lot of
steak. So we can now comfortably sell our product by the small pack. We noted that customers look at total price on a pack, not price per kilo, so our more expensive cuts are in smaller packets.
Our increased exposure has also increased our marketing of Galloway and Belted Galloway hides. We get back hides from the abattoir in Winter, salt them for a week then send them off by courier to a “traditional” tannery. They come back by post about 3 months later looking beautiful with thick but soft hides that do not shed and do not curl at the edges.
Our success has allowed us to buy from other small Galloway breeders, mainly Belties. We pay more than they would get in the sale yards and it is amazing how word of mouth spreads that there is a market for Galloway beef. That market is far bigger than Chris and I can supply. We are now approaching a quandary; how big do we get and which of our markets do we concentrate on.
We and the Association has now shown other GC&BMA (GA) members that the opportunities are there.
I hope this talk has been of some use. I’m happy to answer questions.
Galloway Cattle & Beef Marketing Association (now Galloways Australia)