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Blackwell's and Bowmont's demonstrate consistency at Steak of Origin

Robin and Jacqueline Blackwell, Mangaotea Herefords made Steak of Origin history this year by claiming the gold, silver and bronze medal in the Best of British – Hereford class.


Jacqueline and Robin Blackwell of Mangaotea Herefords near Inglewood, Taranaki have shown just what it means to produce consistent and top steak by cleaning up the Best of British – Hereford class at the 2017 Beef and Lamb NZ Steak of Origin Awards.

Jacqueline and Robin farm registered Hereford, Angus and Murray Grey beef herds with the Herefords being Jacqueline’s passion.

The couple were announced semi-finalists with three entries in the new look Steak of Origin, with the awards evening held in Auckland at the Viaduct Harbour recently. The other semi-finalists in the class were the Morrison Family of Marton and the Paterson family of Gore.

The Blackwell’s have previously made the finals with Angus entries and Jacqueline said after the announcement to win first, second and third place in the class was a surprise.

“I felt shocked and overwhelmed. When they were reading out the spiel and they said it was the first time in history someone had taken out all three places I then realised it was me. I was in shock,” she recalls.

“I thought, looking at the class numbers I had a 50:50 chance – I never ever imagined the result. It’s beyond expectation.”

Jacqueline said they first entered the Steak of Origin in 2006 and she has once had a Hereford entry make the semis, but this is the first time she’s been recognised in the finals.

“Rob has had a bit more luck with his Angus entries.”

Of the three heifer entries two were 18 months old with the third 20 months old. They were all home breed heifers bred by Jacqueline using semen sourced from James and Becky Murray, Matariki Herefords.

The scientific component of the judging process (which makes up 60% of the score) appeals to the Blackwell’s.

“We love the scientific aspect of it and are looking forward to getting the full results report,” she said.

“I would encourage all Hereford breeders to enter. Its $100 to enter and you get paid for the rest of the carcase. It showcases the breed and you just never know,” she said.

Jacqueline and Rob farm a total of 600ha with 212ha of that farmed in partnership between the couple. The balance of area is farmed under the umbrella of the family business. The property sits between 200-300m above sea level and has a mix of contours from flats to rolling to steep hill country. Half of the business income is generated by dairy support with the three beef herds and sheep making up the balance.

Jacqueline said she established her Hereford herd in 2003 and Rob saw how much fun she was having so established his Angus herd which has since been followed by the registered Murray Greys. Rob’s daughter Zarrah has just returned from four years working on large scale properties in Australia and management of the Murray Greys will be handled by her. Jacqueline’s breeding cow numbers have steadily grown and this year she’s calving 96 cows.

The development of the beef herds has largely been driven by the Blackwell’s annual bull sale which sees them sell 180 bulls in two hours. Each year they offer Hereford, Angus, Murray Grey, Jersey and Friesian bulls with Jacqueline selling Robin Hereford bulls for him to offer at the auction. The 2017 Mangaotea bull sale is being held on Thursday September 14th.

“Breeding our own bulls gives us full traceability,” she said.

The couple’s goal is to look at establishing a finishing platform within the business.

The Hereford Prime brand itself was again well represented by Invercargill processing partner, Bowmont Wholesale Meats who were awarded a silver medal in the Best of Brand Wholesale & Foodservice class.

Bowmont’s regularly feature in the finals of the Steak of Origin and this year’s silver medal reinforces the consistency the Hereford Prime beef brand has to offer consumers.

Stephen Flynn from Bowmont Wholesale Meats in Invercargill took home the silver medal in the Best of Brand Wholesale and Foodservice class. The medal is the 10th award Bowmonts have collected from the 15 year history of the competition.

Stephen Flynn from Bowmonts says they were pretty chuffed to be awarded silver.

“We had one chance in eight,” he said.

He said receiving accolades from competitions such as the Steak of Origin mean he and his team can back up the story they tell when selling Hereford Prime product to chefs and Southland consumers.

“It cements the story that we are producing top quality beef and what we are doing is right,” he says.

This year’s silver medal is the 10th award Bowmonts have taken home from the finals of the competition in the 15 year history of the event.

“We are pretty proud of that,” says Stephen.

Three of Hereford Prime’s processing partners, Bowmonts, Cabernet Foods and Westmeat Christchurch (ANZCO Foods Ltd) entered the brand classes and each of them were named semi-finalists – a significant achievement in itself.

Brand manager Natalie Campbell said when you looked at the number of entries in the Best of Brand classes, the odds were stacked against the Hereford Prime entries.

“But the fact that each of our entered partners were named in the semis is a fantastic result. It says a lot about the quality parameters the brand enforces and proves Hereford Prime is a genuinely consistent and high performing product. We are one of the best performing brands in the industry when you look at the odds,” she said.

“I’m over the moon for Bowmonts who have worked with Hereford Prime since its inception and proud of what Westmeat and Cabernet also achieved.”

There were 305 entries in this year’s Steak of Origin competition. The first round of judging sees all entries scientifically analysed by Carne Technologies in Cambridge to assess the top 20% in each class before the sirloins progressed for further judging. Carne assess each steak for tenderness, percentage cooking loss in weight, marbling, colour, water binding capacity and pH. Chefs are then asked to judge each steak on aroma, tenderness, juiciness and taste to decide class placings.

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