The Northern Champions

Foundations of Beef - July 04, 2024
Seifert Foundtions The norther champions breeder of Belmont Reds

Seifert Belmont Reds in demand
WHILE Jeanne Seifert has been breeding Belmont Red cattle for 21 years, her involvement with the breed goes back to its origins. Jeanne spent her early childhood at Belmont Research Station, Rockhampton, in the early 1960s, where her father, Dr George Seifert, was the principal research scientist responsible for the beef breeding program. His research led to the release of the Africander-cross line as the Belmont Red in 1968. After pursuing a professional career as an occupational therapist, Jeanne registered the fledgling Seifert Belmont Red herd of 30 cows and a bull, on 40 hectares at Mt Cotton, Brisbane, in 2001.

Her passion for the breed soon outgrew the size of the property. This led to her selling the Mt Cotton property to purchase 2000ha at Crows Nest, Qld, on which to run 500 breeders. Jeanne met Ian Stark in Crows Nest and they married in 2009. This heralded the duo's commencement of single-mindedly growing a business focused on supplying Belmont Red seedstock. They now own six properties, purchased between 2015 and 2024, at Jandowae, including Wonga, Alice Downs and Kurrajong, Flag Spring on the Auburn River, between Eidsvold and Chinchilla, and Bellfields and Bellfields South at Dalby.

"Our purchase of Bellfields and Bellfields South in April 2023 and 2024 is the jewel in the crown. It's a flagship property and we can't wait to move there in a few years and set it up magnificently as our bull depot, selling complex, and home," Jeanne said.

A winning article
In 2005 Jeanne bought the entire registered Montpellier Belmont Red herd from Rockhampton. Over time, Ian and Jeanne have topped up with females from commercial Belmont Red breeders and occasionally bought bulls, but largely run a closed herd of carefully managed diverse pedigrees and family lines. They are proud to have the purest Belmont Reds, including pedigrees reaching back to foundation CSIRO Africander and Belmont Red genetics from 1956.

"We gave the breed a makeover, by selecting for better phenotype, while rapidly accelerating genetic gain," Ian said. "As seedstock breeders we targeted traits of economic importance, especially temperament, fertility, carcase, tropical adaptation, growth, and polledness. "We changed the face of the breed to produce a thoroughly modern Belmont Red. "At the same time, our data and research benchmarking indicate Seifert Belmont Reds are the most profitable cattle of any breed in Northern Australia, and the best Belmont Reds in Australia for all traits. "One of our favourite sayings, which sum up our cattle well, is that 'Seifert Belmont Reds survive like Brahmans, marble like Angus, and breed like rabbits'," he said.

Fight for survival
Jeanne and Ian became even more invested in saving the Belmont Red breed in 2015 when a faction sought to extinguish the Belmont Red name, brand, and breed, and therefore the Belmont Red Association. "This upheaval put me in the president's chair, with only three people left in the association. The goal at this time was the survival of the breed and the Belmont Red Association."

Under Jeanne's presidency the association recovered financially, membership numbers flourished, and the breed grew. Resigning her presidency in 2019 allowed Ian and Jeanne to devote their undivided attention to their own business.

"Our success in making Belmont Reds not only commercially acceptable, but sought after, is our greatest satisfaction especially in the face of those naysayers," Ian said.

Expansion abounds
Jeanne and Ian are most proud of the growth of the business. "To go from selling about 10 bulls in 2014 with 2833ha and 600 head, to selling 400 bulls, 10 years later in 2024, with 10,927ha and 4000 head, is a testament to the profitability of Seifert Belmont Reds. We've never had an off-farm income, so our expansion and financial growth has been solely on the back of the Belmont Red.

"Our unstoppable passion and belief in our cattle, and each other, remains pivotal to our success both professionally and personally. All sentiment aside though, we are a serious business, and if there was a more profitable breed, we would be breeding it but there simply isn't another breed in Northern Australia that has proven to be this productive, with such low input costs."

Jeanne said one of the most significant changes in the breed came when Ian worked to improve the phenotype of their animals. "It took him as a cattleman to recognise the perceived shortcomings about 'the look' of the breed, and to address those criticisms by making better selections on type.

Now, we not only have the best performing Belmont Reds ever, apparently we also have the best-looking ones!" They Breedplan-record every animal in their herd and DNA test every calf for sire verification, the poll/horn gene, and GBVs (genomic EBVs). Genomic analysis is also used to manage relatedness.

All data is input into the StockBook cattle recording program, and crush-side laptops are used at every property to maximise data accuracy. "We're transparent in everything we do and we're strong believers in sharing our data. We've benchmarked our performance in many research projects."

The bulk of their bulls are sold into North, Central, and Western Qld, the Kimberley in WA, and the NT, while genetics have been exported to Paraguay, New Caledonia, and Papua New Guinea, with interest coming from the USA, Vietnam and Fiji.

Seifert Belmont Reds will hold their annual on-property, online sale on Monday, August 5, with 100 polled high genetic-merit bulls to be offered for sale. They also offer over 300 paddock bulls from March to December each year. "We were thrilled to recently sell 140 paddock bulls in one volume buy, to repeat buyers at Cloncurry.

Building a relationship with repeat buyers, and receiving their feedback is one of the most rewarding parts of our job."

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