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McLachlan genetics key to MSA Award

13 April 2016

Quality genetic make-up is the prime ingredient to producing high quality Meat Standards Australia (MSA) beef, according to Mt Pleasant beef producer Angus McLachlan.
The focus on genetics, combined with a low-stress environment, has resulted in Mr McLachlan being named as South Australia’s best MSA producer. 
“For us the key to the MSA opportunity is the genetic background of the cows combined with a Limousin bull over them to give our cattle the weight that suits the domestic trade,” Mr McLachlan said.
“We have Friesian in the background of our cattle which gives us a bit of marbling and clearly milk for the calves.
“We get the beef from the other half of the female with the fat that comes with an Angus. And then the Limo bull, although not particularly suited to marbling, gives us the bulk and the muscle that we are looking for.”
Mr McLachlan’s magnificent 2000-hectare property ‘Rosebank’, which incidentally featured as one of the farms in Channel Nine’s hit soapie McLeod’s Daughters, is nestled in the Adelaide Hills only 50 kilometres east of Adelaide.
Every year for the past 20 years, Mr McLachlan has turned off between 100 and 115 stress-free grass-fed vealers of mixed sex to Woolworths, aiming for a dressed weight of 225 kilograms.
“I buy my heifers from Camperdown in Victoria on the point of calving as two-year-olds. Those heifers have been hand raised and bucket reared as poddy calves, and as a consequence they’re very quiet,” Mr McLachlan said.
“My overseer, Paul Shutz, is very gentle with cattle. No one shouts at them and they rarely need anything more than reasonable encouragement.
“As a result, the calves are very easy to handle, and when we separate them to weigh them, they don’t seem to get too upset about that.”
This low-stress environment has resulted in excellent compliance rates to the MSA specifications by avoiding dark-cutting meat and the consistent growth path to slaughter has resulted in low ossification scores assessed during grading – a measure directly linked to tenderness.
MSA is a Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) supported program where the eating quality of every beef cut is determined using a grading system that measures key attributes such as carcase weight, ossification, marbling, rib fat, tropical breed content, meat pH and temperature, hanging method, hormonal growth promotants and meat colour.
Each carcase receives an MSA Index value that represents its potential eating quality based on the measurements collected.
During 2014-15, almost 13,000 producers throughout Australia consigned over 3.2 million cattle to the MSA program.
To be eligible for the MSA awards, a producer’s annual MSA-graded volume had to be equal or above the average for the State they were produced in during 2014-15.
Each producer that met the eligibility criteria received a score out of 100 weighted on two factors: the compliance to MSA minimum requirements, and eating quality performance as determined by the MSA Index for cattle consigned to MSA in 2014-15.
Mr McLachlan was pleasantly surprised to be named as the SA winner of the inaugural MSA Producer of the Year competition.
“To be named this State’s best MSA producer mystifies me I’d have to say. While we take great care with the cattle, we don’t buy the most expensive heifers at Camperdown; on the contrary we are looking for the smaller, softer more feminine types,” he said.
“It’s quite a low-cost operation, and yet the quietness of the cattle means that we can turn off a beast that fits into these MSA standards.
“But of course job satisfaction is related to somebody buying your product and paying an adequate price for it.”
More information on MSA is available at

Click for more details about the South Australian MSA Awards.