DEMAND for Wagyu-cross cattle is providing Tasmanian producers with options to diversify breeding operations.
Cattle are being bred here for a program run by NSWbased LHW Paterson & Son.
After being sent to Victoria, the calves are backgrounded on the operation’s properties there before going into a NSW feedlot where they are grown out for the export market.
Roberts is one of the companies co-ordinating the program in Tasmania. Across the state, about 25 predominantly Angus producers are involved.
The price premium for the calves and the security of a supply contract are proving an attractive option for breeders.
Roberts agent Steven Faulkner said all up about 2500 to 3000 Wagyu-cross calves left the state each year.
He said the program was growing and while most probreeder ducers used Wagyu genetics over their heifers, some were joining mature cows too.
‘It’s a good option because most people don’t keep heifer calves out of their heifers anyway,” he said.
“At the end of the day everyone has still got their base Angus herds, so if anything changes they can just go back. The Wagyus are also really good for calving ease.”
While he initially took a little convincing, veteran Angus Ian Dickenson is in his third year of the program.
At the end of the month he will send off about 300 AngusWagyu crosses bred at his farm Elverton near Blessington.
Mr Dickenson said the program was an ideal fit with his existing Angus operation.
Each year he joins all his heifers to Wagyu bulls andafter they have had their first calf, he picks the best heifers for his cow herd and the rest are sold.
After about 50 years of selective breeding in his herd and a focus on fertility, the in-calf rates for the heifers is high.
Thanks to the Wagyu trait of low birth weight, Mr Dickenson said they had few calving problems.
The calves at Elverton start arriving in mid-August and are weaned in early April.
Prices are linked to the Eastern Young Cattle Indicator with a significant premium on top. The price is the same for both sexes.
Mr Dickenson said having a contract signed more than 12 months out was also a benefit.
“I know what I’m going to be getting before the calves even arrived. It gives you that bit more surety,” he said.
Calves must be at least 170kg and Mr Dickenson hopes his calves this year will average about 240kg.
“They’re quite flexible about when you can send them too which works well if the season isn’t good,” he said.