Two brothers, two bulls and ten cows that turned the beef industry on its head

on 1st September 2023

The Santa Gertrudis breed revolutionised the Australian cattle industry in the 1950s.

One Central Queensland family was key to making that shift then, and 70 years on Gyranda Santa Gertrudis stud number three, remains the dominant force for pushing performance in Bos Indicus cattle.

It started, however, with two commercially minded cattlemen simply looking for a better way to raise cattle and a worldview that gave them a few ideas about how best to do it.

In the year 1953, two brothers, Raoul and Barney Joyce, were running a successful beef business over several properties on the Burnett and Dawson river areas. The large area of land they managed contained the well known properties Gyranda, near Cracow, and Eidsvold Station, near Eidsvold.  At the time, the area was dominated by Hereford breeders and the battle with ticks and flies was constant.

On a trip to Texas the two brothers observed Santa Gertrudis cattle thriving in similar conditions to the country in Queensland.  They soon realised the potential the breed could have on their herd back home and were eager to trial Bos Indicus cattle.  The partnership took a chance, purchased bulls from the first Australian King Ranch bull sale in 1953 and registered studs No-2 and No-3. It was controversial, but they were willing to try something to avoid having to dip cattle every three weeks and be able to move cattle during the heat of the day.

“They were commercial cattlemen determined to boost their productivity,” said Peter Mahony, the current director of Gyranda.  Little did they know the dynamic shift this would trigger.

At the time, the cattle industry consisted of predominantly Bos Taurus breeds, with Bos Indicus cattle only just starting to gain traction.  The Santa Gertrudis breed quickly grew to become industry titans, recognised for their ability to enhance performance without compromising constitution.  The results of this trial were well worth the criticism as the first progeny proved the theory that Santa Gertrudis could provide the same performance as Bos Taurus cattle in a much improved model.

The first cross bulls to be sold attained more than double the average of Hereford bulls at the time.  The benefits of hybrid vigour, longevity, calving ease and efficient management attracted more producers towards the breed, accelerating the demand for genetic diversity.  With the satisfaction of the first cross, the partnership was eager to invest further in the breed.

In 1954, Joyce and Joyce imported 10 purebred Santa Gertrudis females from the Armstrong Ranch in Texas.  Shortly after their arrival on Australian shores, the Federal Government introduced the import restrictions which resulted in no further live imports to Australia until the 1970s.  Those 10 females formed a substantial part of the foundation of Santa Gertrudis cattle today.

With the growing interest and demand, the inaugural Gyranda sale was established in 1968 and evolved into the annual Gyranda sale that continues to be hosted on property in September each year.  The foresight and willingness to try something different is what gained, and continues to gain, merits for Gyranda in the industry.  “Gyranda has always been at the forefront of doing those new and different things,” Mr Mahony said.

With the current state of flux in the industry, the reliability of Santa Gertrudis and Gyranda genetics leave Mr Mahony and his wife, Nikki, confident about the future of their operation.  A strong focus on commercial realities and performance has put them in good stead with the industry.

“We’ve been operating in Northern Australia for 70 years, producing animals that do the job year after year. Benchmarked against the best beef cattle in Australia, these genetics are peerless for growth and fertility.  And carcase, long considered the ace in the pack of Shorthorn, Angus and Hereford, is fast becoming just as consistent in Gyranda Santa Gertrudis genetics.”

Santa Gertrudis cattle pioneered the Bos Indicus cattle industry that dominates today’s markets. Gyranda were trailblazers amongst the first of those producers.  The Gyranda Santa Gertrudis of today are regarded just as highly for their pioneering spirit and capacity to break new ground in a constantly evolving beef industry.

View article in Farm Online here ~ July 2023