We speak exclusively to the German Angus Group and the owner of the Donaumoos herd Bernhard Delle
This week we were lucky enough to hear from the German Angus Group as well as the Donaumoos herd as they picked up the Silver award at the World Steak Challenge 2018. The global scale of the brand and breed was on show once again with the Aberdeen-Angus breed picking up a number of awards from home and overseas herds!
Hailing from Germany, we speak exclusively to Bernhard Delle the owner of the Donaumoos herd, as we find out about his background, the interesting operation that he operates in Germany, what his aspirations are for the future and how he felt receiving the Silver award at the World Steak Challenge 2018.
What is your personal background, how did you get into cattle breeding?
“I was born in 1961 in Gundelfingen I grew up on a small farm as the youngest of four brothers. Our farm was active in horse and cattle breeding, so contact with animals has always been in my life. After finishing secondary school in 1977, I started an apprenticeship as a butcher. After completing my apprenticeship, I worked at various places as a butcher's assistant and passed my master's examination as a butcher in 1985. In 1988 my wife, Jutta and I decided to start our own business. We began to plan how our common future could be shaped. We built our family ran hotel, Landgasthof Sonne with 300 seats and 30 beds, with a butcher shop and direct sales at weekly markets. I rented a farm and started breeding Angus cattle. That was the beginning of the Donaumoos Angus herd. In the next years this meant a 24/7 job: Jutta the boss of Landgasthof Sonne did a great job in the restaurant and in the kitchen, I did the butchery production and sales, and the Angus cattle breeding.
After intensive efforts the success came consequently, we went with animals on all considerable shows to become known.”
Tell us a little bit about your herd?
“Our Aberdeen-Angus Pedigree herd comprises of 150 suckler cows divided into two groups pending of the date they were calved: November/December and March/April. These cows are always outdoors on the pastures. Calves up to 200 days do not get extra feed. Our goal is to produce medium-framed cattle that is easy to manage with 365 days between calving season.”
Can you tell us about your herd background?
“We manage the entire process in the Angus business closing the circle - from the pasture to the plate in the restaurant. To use the best genetics for the highest quality beef in our restaurant, we imported TeMania Angus semen and embryos from Australia in 2002.
Very good quality of beef with low production costs is what we aim for, this means positive development of breeding beef cattle with the right quality of cattle. The right selection of the genetics determines the success of a breeding farm. The robust Angus cattle realises a good beef conformation with minimum care through extensive grazing. This is a competitive advantage in an era where good management decisions, low production costs and high quality is critical for the success of cattle breeding. Beef from pasture meets the demands of modern consumers, and Angus cattle are ideally suited for fattening with grass. The rugged Angus cattle are very easy to care for and show an optimal usage of roughage. As a breeder, you can reduce the cost-intensive additional feeding of concentrates.”
What is the focus of the Donaumoos herd?
“Breeding of Angus cattle is a core part of our Angus system. We are very closely interlinked with partner companies, to make production as efficient as possible. When breeding, we are guided by established principles similar system as in Scotland or Ireland, where the Angus breed has a long tradition. For pure breeding and commercial production herds sophisticated production techniques are just as essential as site-adapted and market-based genetics. In order to ensure the performance security we focus on thoroughbred cattle families with good weight gain, high fertility and calving ease. Selection is based on the global gene pool of the Aberdeen-Angus breed. We have access to selected reproduction bulls with top genetics; we offer assistance with artificial insemination and embryo transfer.
Our breeding goals are: medium-frame, easy to feed types (energy-smart cattle), fertile cows with high milk yield, fitness and vitality of cow and calf, easy-to-care cows (claw, temper) – easy-handling-cow, weaning, when the calf has reached at least 50% of live weight of the mother, outstanding results for us and our customers. We want to breed healthy and fertile cattle that show a rapid growth and have on the one hand excellent carcass and on the other hand show good fertility features. The cattle has to bring outstanding results for us and our customers in order to achieve a premium price on the market.
In my whole career as an Angus cattle breeder I think I have achieved many successes, e.g. class winner ZLF Munich (Angus Champion ZLF Munich 2016 DM Delia K 494 V: Donaumoos Rossiter G182 M: Donaumoos Delia G116), Inter Breed Bavarian Champion DM Tyler L 190 V: HF Tiger 5T M: Young Dale Pollyana 22P, Euro Tier Hannover Winner with DM Rossiter, Bavarian Champion at Bavarian State Animal Show 2010 with DM Nemo B 994 (AA), Champion Euro-Beef 2010 with DM E 577 and German Champion at the Green Week in Berlin with Peggy.
For me DM Proud Tyler is the temporary highlight of my work. For 25 years I have been promoting the systematic breeding of Angus beef cattle in Germany. The embryo, which was delivered by a Simmental mother in Germany, has become one of the most handsome bulls in Europe. Tyler's five years old now. The star of the Donaumoos has competed last year as European Champion against the best animals from three other continents (South America - Argentina, Africa - Botswana and North America - Canada) and won the third place worldwide.
There have been several important influencers in the sector who have been "incredibly impressed" by my farm and how we successfully breed quality cattle in Donaumoos Angus farm, but also how we produce quality beef. This means that we receive immediate feedback from consumers. This vertical integration in the beef sector was our dream as a quality meat producer. The guests at Landgasthof Sonne and the customers of the surrounding weekly markets appreciate this gourmet meat and its regional and near-natural production.
The magazine "Der Feinschmecker" has described our family's Angus meat as a "Mecca for cattle lovers". This statement is also a permanent commitment for us to further improve the quality of meat in the breeding of cattle.”
What are your plans for the herd for the near future – what will you be concentrating on?
“With the help of my partner company the Angus Group which offers Angus know-how unique in Europe at every stage of production, both in the breeding of Angus cattle and the marketing of the meat. Together with Angus Group I am happy to assist interested companies with advice at every stage - from the procurement and sale of weaners and breeding cattle through genetics and the procurement of entire herds to the sale of valuable individual animals.
The Angus Group has an interesting worldwide network, cooperates with partner companies at home and abroad, creates interesting perspectives for suckler cow owners and cattle fatteners, sells breeding animals, embryos and semen material of the various international breeding lines, mediates weanlings and slaughter animals of all categories.
Angus Group sees Angus breeding as the future to include new markets. By concentrating on fattening with grass, we want to use this grassland sustainably for the production of quality beef. Angus Group creates Angus projects throughout Europe, especially in the Balkan countries.”
What are the general thoughts on the Aberdeen-Angus breed over in Germany?
“Germany has around 12.9 million head of cattle in total, including 4.2 million dairy cows and 0.7 million suckler cows. Germany has the largest dairy cattle herd and the second largest cattle population in the European Union. Cattle production in Germany has a long tradition, is well organised and in the breeding sector there is a lot of experience. This includes insemination on farms, milk production and slaughtering. The basis for sustainable breeding programs as well as for effective management on the farm are the high standards of the performance and quality testing of milk and dairy cattle. Around 2.6 million cattle are registered in herd books and 3.5 million cows are registered for milk recording. With a production value of about 10.6 milliard Euro (2009) cattle production (milk and beef) contributes about 25 percent to agricultural output in Germany. Germany is the world´s largest exporter of breeding cattle and one of the leading countries in the export of bovine semen.
In the German beef breeds including Angus there is an own system for estimating the breeding values. Unfortunately, the results are not comparable to the Breedplan system. So I decided to have the Donaumoos cattle registered in the Scottish herdbook, which are now a part of the world-wide Aberdeen-Angus family.
Angus Beef is Steak Beef. Currently we observe a change in attitude among customers towards greater awareness of quality. The current demand for premium beef exceeds by far its supply. With the branded meat program “Certified Angus Beef Germany” we meet exactly this demand. The future of sustainable and efficient quality beef production is based on extensive grasslands, where a good meat intake can be achieved with pasture grass. Added value is achieved only with special commercial exploitation. This is why Germany can no further expand its development in Aberdeen-Angus cattle breeding and needs to relocate its production to Eastern Europe where there are large areas of unused grasslands and can transfer know-how in this sector.
Whether Hungary, Romania, Ukraine or Serbia - the countries of Eastern Europe offer excellent potential for the breeding of quality cattle. Many countries have a high share of grassland in agriculture, land prices are low compared to Western Europe and average wages. These favorable conditions are leading to an increasing relocation of livestock production in these countries. Together with ANGUS Group I have recognised this trend and established a network of contacts to producers in various countries.
What was your reaction to the Silver award in the World Steak Challenge?
“Winning the award in the World Steak Challenge was an important opportunity for us and for our partners, which actually brings hope to us to develop more and more in the coming years and that the premium Angus beef from Europe will become known worldwide for its top quality. This is a good example that our investments in top genetics and the special attention we give on high-quality performance will bring us in the end the desired success.
We have not won just one award the silver medal but three awards together with our partner farms working closely with the Angus Group and Donaumoos. Together with them we won the whole range of awards for quality beef, from gold to bronze in different categories of the competition. We are very proud that the results of our intensive work and efforts in this area are consistent. We are therefore confident that the support we promise our partners in the coming years will bring more and more positive effects and awards.''
We would like to thank Bernhard for giving us such a great insight in to his operation over in Germany, it is always great to hear from overseas members which again highlights the international success of the Breed and brand. We very much hope to hear from Bernhard in the future and are sure his herd will continue to flourish!