Pride evident among Speckle Park enthusiasts

EDMONTON — For Sid and Anne Hollier, importing Speckle Park cattle to England is like the return of a native son.

The cattle are a combination of three breeds from England and Scotland: Shorthorn, Angus and English with the white park pattern.

“To us, they’re a traditional animal. They can trace their routes to English breeds,” said Sid, who attended Farmfair International to look for more Speckle Park bloodlines for his Speckle Park herd in Dorset, England.

“We can show them in England as English cattle,” said Sid, who runs 55 Speckle Park cows, all originally from herds in Saskatchewan and Alberta.

The Speckle Park breed, which originated in northern Saskatchewan, has a growing popularity in England because of size and appearance, said Anne.

“They’re pretty,” she said of the speckled black and white animals with a gentle nature and kind eye.

It was their looks that attracted Gary Kiziak and his family to start raising the breed.

“I was interested in having a hobby. It was a hobby that got away on us,” said Kiziak, who has sold more than 2,500 Speckle Park embryos to Australia and more to New Zealand, Ireland and the United States.

More than 4,000 Speckle Park embryos have been exported to Australia in recent years, making that country’s Speckle Park herd larger than the one in Canada.

The breed originated in 1959 in Maidstone, Sask., and received official breed status in 2006.

Visitors show up weekly at Kiziak’s Codiak Acres farm near Ardrossan, Alta., looking for embryos, semen and animals.

“We can’t produce enough genetics in this country,” said Kiziak.

He said smaller producers were the original market for these cattle, but large ranches are now looking at Speckle Park to breed to their cattle.

“They like their docility, thickness and carcass quality to breed back into their herd,” he said.

Ken Malterer of Ponoka, Alta., said his buyers are looking at the breed because of its carcass quality.

Malterer’s animals won carcass classes in Calgary in 2010 and 2011, and offspring of his animals have won carcass classes in Australia.

“They have lots of marbling without a lot of back fat,” said Malterer, who first heard of Speckle Park when he bought beef from a neighbour.

He liked it so much he traded hay for cattle the following year and has slowly been building his herd ever since.

“They’re the holy grail of cattle,” he said. “They have a small frame, lots of marbling and a minimum of back fat.… These are Canadian cattle. It started in Maidstone. It’s something we should be proud of.”