At 194 centimetres high, a WA-born steer called Knickers is believed one of the tallest dairy steers in the world and one of the biggest in Australia.
To put it into perspective, the seven-year-old is almost as tall as NBA star Michael Jordan and weighs more than a Mini Cooper car at about 1,400 kilograms.
That’s double the weight of the average Holstein Friesian and half a metre taller — and could make more than 4,000 hamburger lovers happy.
But owner Geoff Pearson of Lake Preston in the state’s south-west said Knickers was not destined for the barbecue anytime soon.
At 194cm, Knickers the Holstein Friesian steer is taller than South Australia’s Big Moo. (ABC South West: Tyne Logan)
“He was too big to go into the export plant’s chain,” Mr Pearson said of the beast’s near-miss at the abattoir.
“We have a high turnover of cattle and he was lucky enough to stay behind.”
Larger cattle on increase says vet
Margaret River vet Rupert Mothersole specialises in dairy cattle and said while he had not seen a cow the size of Knickers before, it was not unusual for a Friesian steer to grow quite large if they saw out their life.
“We’ve seen, over the last 30 to 40 years, quite a considerable increase in the average size of the cow,” he said.
“Obviously the bulls and the steers are also going to grow larger as we select larger genetics.”
Taller, leggier animals are becoming more common says one veterinarian. (ABC South West: Jacqueline Lynch)
Dr Mothersole said a steer was much more likely to grow tall because a bull would go through hormonal changes that caused the bone growth plates to close.
“If we castrate them young then basically we’re not going to have the influence of those hormones,” he said.
“We’re going to find that the growth plates, which cause the bone plates to continue to grow, are going to stay open for much longer and that’s going to give you a much more leggy, taller animal.”
According to Guinness World Records, the world’s tallest living steer is an Italian chianina ox called Bellino that was measured just over 2 metres to the withers in Rome in 2010.
Others have come close. In August 2014, Blossom a 190cm-tall American Holstein, was awarded the record for the world’s tallest cow but died just a year after being officially recognised by the record books.
Australia’s own Big Moo, a South Australian Guernsey steer, was previously thought to be the biggest in Australia but he was 4 centimetres shy of Knickers’ imposing stature.
Knickers stands head and shoulders above other cattle on the Lake Preston farm. (ABC South West: Jacqueline Lynch)
Mooove on over
Mr Pearson explained that Knickers’ name came about because of his close friend ‘Bra’, a Brahman steer.
“[We had] the full set [of underwear] — top and bottom,” he said.
Since he is now longer being sent to slaughter, Knickers has found a way to be useful around the farm helping to lead and coach other cattle.
“You’ll put him in a paddock and all the other cattle seem to get attracted to him,” Mr Pearson said.
“Whenever he wants to get up and start walking there’s a trail of hundreds of cattle following him.
“We all know when Knickers in on the move.”