Work at Kybybolite demonstrated the substantial improvement in pasture production achieved with subterranean clover, various grasses and superphosphate.(Geytenbeek P, Kybybolite Experimental Farm - a History, (2003)) However it was not until the early 1950’s that beef cattle were introduced after the dairy cattle were sold. In 1951, under the auspice of Dr Allan Callaghan as Director of Agriculture, land was obtained at Struan, south of Naracoorte as an outstation.
Kybybolite Research Centre
Initial work into the supplementary feeding of beef cattle commenced at Kybybolite with results suggesting that high protein grain such as peas produced satisfactory gains but that self-fed ensilage was little better than dry pasture residues.(McAuliffe JD, Kybybolite Link) Hereford cattle were bred to calve at the Centre in 1956 and 1957. A study looked at the effect of age at first mating on growth and production of heifers. In the first year a high percentage of heifers calving at 2 years had difficult births and required assistance. However, in the following season this problem did not occur. It was concluded that heifers could be safely mated during their second year providing care was taken to avoid having them over-fat at calving. This was a significant increase in production efficiency. The use of an Aberdeen Angus bull to produce a ‘smaller’ calf was shown not to be effective. While the cattle performed well in the dry season of 1957 they did not fare well in the very wet season of 1958 and all were transferred to Struan the following year.
Photo No.: 103751 Title: Ron McNeil with Northern store heifers for transportation from Alice Springs to Struan and Turretfield Research Centre. Date: May 1959
An early reference to cattle research or extension in the Department of Agriculture can be found in 1955 leaflet “Bruising of Cattle in transit from Central Australia to Adelaide”.(SA Beef Cattle Breeders Association) Some of the early work at Struan focused on the fattening of northern store cattle. The subsequent recommendation was to breed cattle in the northern pastoral areas and then rail young cattle to the “inside country”, particularly the improved pasture country of the South East for fattening.
The 1960’s saw Struan developed as a research facility with offices, fences, laneways, yards and pasture improvement. Subsequently, research and support staff followed. By 1970 the property covered 2000 acres (800 ha) and carried over 1000 beef cattle. Research focused on breeding, management, finishing and carcase evaluation. The establishment of a “meat laboratory” allowed scientific dissection of muscle and carcases to determine meat yields of various breed types. Extensive extension was also carried out in the media and research on private properties. A performance recorded hereford herd at Struan provided the basis for evaluating selection methods on cooperating commercial herds. They were provided with high or average growth rate bulls and then staff from the Centre would weigh and record the outcome.
In 1969 frozen semen was allowed into Australia from England, and Struan was at the forefront of both using artificial insemination in beef cattle and the evaluation of a range of breeds including shorthorn, hereford, brahman and the imported charolais breeds. Additional work included examining the impact and genetics of muscular hypertrophy, calving difficulty in two year old heifers and multiple suckling of calves on dairy cows. One of the significant changes that occurred at this time and improved beef cattle production efficiency was the mating of heifers to calve as two year olds rather than three year olds.
During the 1970’s beef herds were introduced to a number of existing agricultural research centres including Minnipa, Parndana, Turretfield and Wanbi to both demonstrate modern production methods and carryout cross breeding research.