History of Strathmore

James Walker

James Walker

 

 

Albert Edward Walker

Albert Edward Walker

 

The Strathmore Stud is the culmination of 150 years of Walker cattle husbandry in Australia. Lloyd’s grandfather, James Walker came to Australia in 1864 and took up a virgin block of land in the Kangaroo Valley. With hard work and careful planning he established a very successful dairy farm. Albert Walker, working like his father, built up a series of dairy farms, milking some 1000 cows between Bellingen and Lismore. He was an astute judge of cattle and he was not afraid to cross breed to improve production. He was one of the pioneers of the A.I.S Breed.

In the 1940’s Lloyd’s father retired to Sydney but he continued to be active and took a keen interest in his sons’ lives on the land. He read about the merits of the Santa Gertrudis cattle in Texas and was very impressed. He arranged to sail to the United States to inspect and possibly purchase some of the breed. However he suffered a mild heart attack and was forced to delay his departure. It was during this period that a complete ban was imposed on the import of cattle from America.

Fortunately, King Ranch had already brought in a sizable herd of cattle to Australia. Albert Walker encouraged his sons to purchase cattle at the annual King Ranch Sale. Both Alec and Harry acquired bulls at the inaugural sale. In 1955 they purchased King Ranch Active. They mated these bulls to the best available cows they could find and the resulting progeny did not disappoint. Harry registered his symbol H. based on his own name.

Lloyd had a long running partnership with Harry, which was terminated in the early 60’s when Harry decided to move to Manly, NSW. It was through this partnership that Lloyd had access to the bulls Harry had purchased and he accepted the offer to purchase the bulk of Harry’s cattle and his brand.

When the property ‘Strathmore’, near Longreach QLD was purchased it had a fine line of Illawarra cows that were used as milkers. They were red and had big udders but not much size. A next-door neighbour had a big roan shorthorn beef bull. Some good red calves resulted from the joining of these cows and the bull. Lloyd put these heifers with the King Ranch bulls. These cattle, with several other purchases, were the modest start of the Strathmore Santa Gertrudis Stud.

Lloyd purchased King Ranch Elevator in 1959 for 5200 guineas (the bulls were sold in guineas – 21 shillings: the vendor received 20 shillings and the agent the extra shilling). Elevator was a huge animal, reportedly out of the biggest cow to come from the USA. Although he was a bit slabby he had massive bone and was just what was needed at the time to put scale into the “Strathmore” herd. After purchasing Elevator, Lloyd was a regular visitor to the annual King Ranch sales at “Risdon” outside Warwick, QLD and then to “Milton Park” near Bowral, NSW. He purchased most years and in the early days he took advantage of the King Ranch offer to purchase an extra classified bull from them for 1000 guineas. With the influence of bulls from King Ranch and others from Elgin Downs the cattle overall improved in stature and quality.

Over the years there have been some setbacks to the Strathmore Stud. Drought and low cattle prices were and continue to be a challenge but historically disease had the most detrimental impact on the herd. Brucellosis was fairly prevalent in Australia and particularly in Queensland. The local vet in Longreach at the time advised the Strathmore Stud to inoculate all females with “Strain 19”. This was done and later when it became mandatory to have these cattle tested for Brucellosis a surprisingly large percentage tested positive. Many of the best and oldest cows had to be slaughtered. It was only when one parcel of cows was tested and found to be over 50% positive that Lloyd insisted on a retest. The DPI refused to do the retest. Lloyd shifted the same cattle to another adjoining property and had them tested there. This time they came back almost all clean. The early tests could not differentiate between Brucellosis and the Strain 19 inoculation. Unfortunately a lot of fine cattle had been slaughtered.

There was, in the early days, a lot of bitterness from other cattlemen: they hated the new cattle and feared that they may contaminate their herds. Potential buyers were reluctant to purchase the herd bulls, which were being offered for sale. Each year a heavy culling was done and more good bulls were sent to the meat works. To correct the situation, Lloyd purchased “Oakvale” near Muttaburra, QLD in partnership with Graham Rudd. Surplus “Strathmore” bulls were mated to the fine Herefords on “Oakvale”. The resulting steers were taken on to fattening and were in great demand.

After Lloyds’ sons left school they were able to take a greater interest in the land and the livestock. In time Lloyd passed on the ownership of the stud to his sons Ian, Mark and Phillip. They each had their own properties and each ran single sire herds. The stud thrived on the unity of the family. The boys married and for their own reasons they divided the stud and took their share of the cattle. The Split-up was an amicable arrangement with Phillip taking his share in 1989 forming the “Westhill” Stud and Ian and Mark separating in 1992 with Mark forming the “Rio” Stud.

Ian and Kerry and family continued to operate the “Strathmore” Stud in its reduced state and set about building the numbers and the quality of the cattle. The family has maintained its enthusiasm for the Santa Gertrudis breed resulting in the Studs growth and increased momentum.

Complementing the fine country at “Ravensbourne” are two quality properties that were acquired over the years, “Chatham” in 1987 and “Westquarter” in 1999. These acquisitions together with the enthusiasm shown by Andrew and Ben Walker and their wives Amanda and Carly have seen the “Strathmore” Santa Gertrudis Stud and Commercial herds grow.

Run parallel with the stud herd the purebred commercial herd keeps the family in touch with the commercial market. With commercial producers being the lifeblood of the stud, Ian and the family believe it is vitally important that the stud cattle breed the traits that are desired by the commercial market.

“Strathmore” had sold cattle initially at the “Cumberland” Sale under the invitation of Sir James Walker and his family. This was a fine ongoing family arrangement for many years. Cumberland bulls purchased over the years by Strathmore have greatly contributed to the success of the Strathmore Stud. It was with some regret that the arrangement ceased in the year 2000. The impetus for change came from Ian and Kerry’s sons’ Ben and Andrew who put it to their father that they should be conducting a stand-alone sale. Ian and family decided to face the challenge and build their own sale yard and conduct an on property sale at “Ravensbourne”, Blackall.

To date the Strathmore sales held at “Ravensbourne” have gone exceedingly well. This is testament to the dedication and time the family have put into rebuilding the stud. Emphasis is placed not on presenting sale bulls as “fat as possible”, but more on presenting young sale bulls as “ready to work” in a healthy and fit condition with comprehensive semen tests to back up their fertility. Repeat buyers have made up the bulk of the cliental and the bulls sold are building a reputation for consistency, constitution, fertility and quiet temperament.

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