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Black & white and Canadian all over

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A speckled appearance is preferred and the classic look consists of black sides with white on the top or bottom, and white or black across the face.

Can you convince a cow to change its spots? Not if it’s a Canadian Speckle Park cow. The breed was developed on the Prairies and is now making inroads in the international market.

Joe Stookey, an animal behaviour scientist at the University of Saskatchewan, has conducted research with numerous breeds of cattle. He owns a herd of Speckle Park and says he was attracted to the breed because of its calm temperament and disposition.

Stookey says Speckle Park are naturally polled and are easy calvers with light birth weights ranging from around 65 to 75 pounds. “In about four years of calving, I’ve pulled one calf and that’s the only one I’ve seen born,” says Stookey.

Rod Remin, chief executive officer of the Canadian Speckle Park Association, said the calves are extremely vigorous and will be nursing minutes after birth. “They don’t even lay around in the snow long enough to get chilled.”

Remin says Speckle Park cattle don’t have any major health problems and are not susceptible to pink eye or hoof rot.

Stookey says the breed is easy keeping and does well in the cold Canadian climate. He finishes his cattle on feed and grass and finds it easy to maintain their body condition.

Three colour patterns

Speckle Parks have several colour patterns. A speckled appearance is preferred and the classic look consists of black sides with white on the top or bottom, and white or black across the face.

The leopard pattern shows more white than the speckled, and the black sections are broken up into spots that can vary in size and number.

The third colour pattern is white with black points on the ears, nose, and feet. Colour patterns tend to follow through in families.

The Speckle Park has origins back to 1903, when reverend James Barr settled in Lloydminster with several Park cattle, which were white with dark colouring around their noses, ears and feet. The Parks were bred to Shorthorn and Angus over the years. In 1958, Bill and Eileen Lamont of Maidstone, Saskatchewan bought some of the speckled offspring. Bill was an Angus breeder, so he began breeding the speckled cattle to purebred Angus.

Over the years, the breed’s development continued along the highway from the Battlefords to Edmonton. The Canadian Speckle Park Association was incorporated in 1993, and began to create guidelines and goals for the breed. In 1997, the Speckle Park Association was invited to show at Farm Fair, even though the cattle were not yet recognized as a distinct breed. On July 6, 2006, the Speckle Park was awarded distinct breed status, making it the second distinct breed of cattle developed in Canada. Remin said there is a growing demand for Speckle Park bulls from both commercial herdsmen and international buyers. “Speckle Park cross well with other breeds, and we haven’t found any reason why you wouldn’t want to cross them,” he says.

Speckle Park’s international status has been growing since the cattle became a distinct breed. Cattle are now in Australia, the United States, New Zealand, Ireland and England and the Russian buyers looking to improve carcass quality have expressed some interest in the breed.

About the author

Reporter

Alexis Kienlen

Alexis Kienlen lives in Edmonton and has been writing for Alberta Farmer since 2008. Originally from Saskatoon, Alexis is also the author of two collections of poetry, a biography, and a novel called "Mad Cow."

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