She maybe tiny, but 14-year-old Tayla Hansen has a huge passion for Speckle Park cattle and is proving a great ambassador for the breed. Sheryl Brown reports.

Nicknamed ‘the little speckle girl’, 14-year-old Tayla Hansen has a knack for showing cattle and has started her own Speckle Park stud.

The small-framed teenager has no qualms leading her 700kg-plus yearling Speckle Park bull around the ring and has impressed onlookers with her natural stockmanship ability.

“Seeing this little girl promoting the breed and the support and opportunities she is getting is pretty special. She’s so tiny, but extremely capable,” her mum Brenda says.

Tayla has a vast collection of ribbons and trophies and was Northern Junior District Handler of the Year for the last two years running.

Last year she was invited by Fish Creek Farm to the Melbourne Royal Show to lead one of their Speckle Park heifers and Paul Hours from Peninsula Cattle Company has invited her back to attend the Adelaide Show later this year.

Tayla will fly to Melbourne and help them get the cattle ready and then travel the eight-hour drive with them to Adelaide.

Growing up on her parents’ lifestyle block at Taupiri in the Waikato, Tayla’s passion for cattle was ignited by taking calves to her local calf club and A&P shows.

Starting out with Friesians, she later wanted to take an Angus and then was swept up by the Speckle Park breed.

When she spotted her first Speckle Park animal at an A&P show five years ago she was immediately fascinated by their uniqueness.

“I was really drawn to them the first time I saw them,” Tayla says.

“I thought they had a great nature, and then I got the opportunity to have one through a family friend.”

She has since gone on to buy, sell and show crossbred Speckle Parks for the last few years. She currently owns seven crossbreds and now has her first pedigree bull and heifer calf who are the start of her own stud – Limited Edition Speckle Park.

Her yearling bull Below Sea Level Master of Mayhem’ (M&M) and heifer calf Below Sea Level No Papparazi (Lizard), have been immensely successful at shows this season.

M&M’s highlights include winning Supreme Other Breeds at the Hawke’s Bay Royal Show, Supreme Calf Club calf, Supreme Speckle Park Auckland Easter Show and Supreme at the Waikato A&P Show.

Lizard has won Champion Heifer at the Tauranga A&P Show, Reserve Champion at Waikato A&P and Reserve Champion at Whangarei A&P.

Below Sea Level owners John and Jan Bellamy have been generous in helping her start her own stud, offering Tayla the pick of their bull calves last year when she went up to buy a crossbred calf off them.

The Northland stud owners had met Tayla at a show and had invited her up to help out on their farm during holidays.

They sold M&M to Tayla for a good price and then have given her Lizard with an arrangement to pay for her at the end of show season.

“When they offered Tayla the opportunity to buy a bull calf and pick anyone she wanted, she was so excited,” Brenda says.

“We’ve been blown away by the support of people. John and Jan, they had no need to sell M&M to her.

“They have been fantastic, they’re great mentors. The time and advice they’ve given her about how to handle M&M has been so valuable.”

Helping Tayla get started helps promote the Speckle Park breed and helps profile their stud, John says.

“Jan and I could see the benefits of giving Tayla a start in the Speckle Park breed. She is able to get to a lot more shows that we can’t attend and put a good profile out there for our stud. It’s win-win for both parties.”

It’s not something they would do for any young person, but she has a great attitude and the backing of really supportive parents, he says.

“Tayla has a vision and could go a long way, she has that passion and determination and she has a natural aptitude towards stock.

“She is also very lucky that she has the support of her parents which goes a long way.”

Overcoming obstacles

The Speckle Park breed has a shorter stature that suits Tayla’s height, meaning she can hold the animals’ heads high during showing.

Their quiet temperament is also key, and is evident in her bond with her yearling bull M&M.

“M&M is such a big guy, he’s just over 700kg, but he’s so respectful of Tayla. If Tayla said jump he would say how high,” Brenda says.

“Our neighbor led him the other day and he walked off quickly flicking his head around. It just proved to me that he walks slowly for Tayla and is so cautious of her.”

John has been really helpful teaching Tayla the key health and safety tips of handling a bull and how she always has to remember he’s a bull and be on alert.

Tayla was diagnosed with Scoliosis last year, a condition in which her spine has a sideways curve.

The specialists have said the curve is moderate, which may have been helped by having a strong torso from showing cattle.

She has to wear a brace over the next few years until she finishes growing to try and prevent needing spinal surgery when she’s older. She can’t wear the brace while she is showing the cattle as it prevents her from being able to reach up or bend over.

The diagnosis hasn’t altered her determination or her vision for her Speckle Park stud.

Tayla currently has nine cattle grazing her parents’ 2.5 acres, sometimes including the lawn, and are fed a diet of stud bull mix, meal, maize and silage.

It’s an expensive diet so they’re on the lookout for some land to graze so she can keep growing her stock numbers.

Tayla’s plan is to sell M&M later this year to fund buying Lizard from Below Sea Level.

“It will depend on how much Lizard costs, I might have to sell M&M to pay for her,” Tayla says.

Long term she is interested in growing her stud and a potential career in genetics.

“I’d love to have a farm and be able to start up a breeding programme.”

People in the competitive show scene have been incredibly supportive of Tayla, but there have certainly been some obstacles along the way and even an effort to prevent her from having a pedigree beef bull at calf club.

There was a complaint put in about Tayla showing a bull with a nose clip.

Luckily the organisers knew Tayla and knew her ability to show cattle and supported her entry.

“I would love to see a lot more open-mindedness in NZ with nose clips. People make a real scene about them, but it’s a safety thing when you have a 21kg child and a 200kg calf,” Brenda says.      

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