The unique eating qualities of Firstlight Wagyu mean beef farmers finishing Wagyu-dairy cross animals are enjoying returns above already strong beef prices.
Firstlight Wagyu supply chain manager Peter Keeling says the company’s efforts to build stock numbers to meet growing market demand is being achieved with more dairy farmers taking the opportunity to mate Friesian and crossbred dairy cows with Wagyu genetics.
Wagyu beef is finding favour with farmers and diners.
This is in addition to strong demand for matings over Angus cows and heifers, and has proven highly successful over the past two seasons.
“Dairy farmers have appreciated our contract offer for next season of up to $150 for four day old Wagyu-cross bred heifer and bull calves. This mating season we have experienced record demand for both Wagyu semen, and bulls.”
Results from Wagyu-dairy cross animals being processed this spring are also encouraging. The marbling effect that gives Wagyu beef its unique look, taste and eating qualities occurs strongly in the Wagyu-dairy cross cattle, recording high marbling scores of six or higher.
“These top end performing cattle are gaining additional premiums, ending up on plates in fine dining restaurants and high quality steak houses around the world,” says Peter.
The boost in numbers from dairy farmers mating some of their herd to Wagyu genetics has created some exciting opportunities for dry stock farmers wishing to be part of the Firstlight Wagyu success story. Weaned Wagyu cross dairy calves will be available to purchase this season at 95kg.
“We have just had a line of 22 month steers processed at 304kgCW, and heifers at 260kgCW. Over the last couple of years the average growth rates have gone up, and animal age at processing has come down.”
Hawke’s Bay farmer James Greer says his experience with Wagyu dairy-cross animals has proved any myth of them being slow finishers as wrong.
“Since we purchased our Wagyu cross dairy weaner calves we have shown you can get them up to the same weights as Friesian bulls but they are considerably easier to manage.”
This year James aims to have 75 per cent of the Wagyu dairy-cross animals processed by Christmas time as two-year-olds.
Manawatu farmer Scott Linklater puts Wagyu genetics across his Angus and Angus-Jersey cross herd, and also buys in Wagyu dairy-cross weaner calves to finish. With better feeding and higher quality young stock, Scott has cut 12 months off his finishing programme from what he achieved three years ago.
He now processes animals at 18-22 months, with excellent premium marbling levels. His stock averaged just below marble score 6.0 this year and achieved a $6.50/kg return this August. Like James, he looks forward to an additional pool payment at season’s end of about 70c/kg.
Firstlight director Gerard Hickey says supplier optimism is supported by the positive feedback Firstlight Wagyu is getting from overseas markets. These include eight new retail store outlets in California, and high end marbled steaks now sold in Dubai and cities in China. Fresh and frozen Wagyu burgers launched in the United Kingdom and USA have also proven highly successful.
“The typical Firstlight Wagyu consumer is one who wants the best beef in the world, grown by the best NZ farmers and culminating in a dining experience that delivers something unique that is tender and tasty every time.”