Stress-free cattle produce the most tender beef, perhaps being responsible for at least 70% of the product quality. At Surrey Springs we go to a lot of trouble to minimise the sources of stress to our animals.
Native grasses and improved pasture, laced with clover, cover most of the 66 hectares except where we grow crops for finishing the cattle before sale.
Cell grazing is seasonally available to animals where possible before sale. This ensures that they are in top prime condition when they leave us. We have between five and eight hectares under grazing oats or sorghum, depending on the season, reserved specifically for those cattle due to be sold.
Zero- or low- till techniques are used to conserve the moisture in the ground and a sophisticated planter is employed to insure the best crops possible. The cattle love the crops like you wouldn’t believe, and wallow in the lush green vegetation. A far cry from Lot Feeding where the animals are constantly penned, fed grain from troughs and not allowed to free-range.
We don’t use hormones or growth boosting techniques, just a daily ration of Copra Meal or grain to liven their appetites and improve their coats; more of a treat than a necessity. None of our animals are forced to eat anything they don’t want to.
Like all cattle breeders, we stock cattle which are best suited to our conditions. Droughtmaster and Brahman breeders, all of which have been on their familiar property since a young age. Servicing these is a Brangus stud bull (Jock), a cross between a Brahman, and an Angus, specially selected for the quality of the meat on the progeny and his welfare in this high rainfall area.
But the best beef in the world is recognised as Wagyu, or Japanese Kobe Beef which is said to retail in Tokyo for more than $400 per kilo; and that’s what we are converting our herd to; Wagyu/Brangus cross with just the right amount of marbling to suit the Aussie palate.
We select the best heifers born to our current breeders and put them with Mac, our full blood Wagyu bull. Their progeny, except for those that we keep for our ongoing breeding program, are what we offer you, direct from the farm.
You will see Wagyu steaks in some up-market butcher shops or on restaurant menus, but never in the supermarkets. Almost all is exported to Japan. Additionally, grass-fed Wagyu is quite rare as most is sold as lot- (or grain-) fed.
Grass-fed meat is healthy with an Omega 3 to Omega 6 ratio of 1:3 – an ideal balance. The ratio in lot-fed meat escalates to 1:26 and is therefore not ideal. Grass-fed beef is also tastier and more “refreshing” on the palate.
From time to time we may gain access to other breeds from small local growers that share our philosophy.
Otherwise, all the beef on offer to you, the consumer, is bred on our property and has spent its whole life here at Surrey Springs where it has been carefully nurtured and humanely treated.
It will take at least two years to restructure our herd for the predominant production of Wagyu, so in the meantime we will be offering some Droughtmaster and Brahman cross steers, all born and bred here at Surrey Springs, about 24 to 36 months old, ensuring meat of excellent quality. The best heifers we will keep as breeders.
Quite apart from the humane issues, the effect of stress on the quality of meat is becoming widely recognised, and we have observed this phenomenon here on the farm when we butcher beasts for our own consumption. Ideally they would be killed without warning in their own familiar surroundings; but this is not permitted for sale to consumers.
The next best option is to transport the animals to a small privately owned abattoir at Eumundi, where they specialise in humane techniques and only process a few head on three days of each week. This type of attention is not possible at large abattoirs, the like of which supply butchers and supermarkets.
We have set up a special set of yards where no veterinary attention is practiced, only feeding, so the cattle associate them with positive experience and are comfortable when we load them on our own specially constructed trailer from there.