For Darla Sauter of Second Chance Speckle Parks, the trip to Ag Ex is a pleasant change.
It’s the difference between making the drive to Edmonton or Lloydminster, all the way across the province from her home in Fairlight, Sask., and making the hour and a half drive to Brandon.
“This is huge for us, because we know this is a market that we don’t have very many animals in yet and by showcasing the breed and hopefully getting our face out there, it will lend more people to think about them,” she said.
Sauter is one of a select few Speckle Park breeders in the eastern part of the Prairies, although she says that number is increasing as the breed spreads south and east of Alberta and northeastern Saskatchewan, where it originated.
Most shows are still in that original area, she says. This year however, Manitoba breeders got the chance to enter a local ring.
The Provincial Exhibition of Manitoba added Speckle Park to the mix for the first time this year, adding to what is already one of the biggest stops on Manitoba’s purebred showing circuit.
Among beef circles, the moderately framed Speckled Park is instantly recognizable by its multicoloured flecks and is often lauded for its thrifty feed needs, well-marbled meat and low fat.
As well as the ability to perform in “a harsh winter environment on very basic foodstuffs,” the Canadian Beef Breeds Council has noted traits like, “polled, early fertility, calving ease, vigorous calves, milking ability, and manageability of cows and bulls.”
Compared to the larger-framed cattle in the Ag Ex barn, the colourfully patterned Speckled Parks look relatively small. According to the Canadian Beef Breeds Council, a mature cow will top off at 1,200 pounds and finished carcasses typically weigh in at around 725 pounds.
That, however, was one of the reasons that Sauter was attracted to the breed.
“We didn’t have a lot of land to start with, so we were looking for something where we could have the better feed conversion, where we didn’t need a lot of acres to raise a few cattle,” she said. “That’s still a big benefit for me.”
Manitoba breeders have started exploring the breed.
The Canadian Speckle Park Association currently lists four breeders in Manitoba.