Wagyu wonder

Tasmanian Country - - FRONT PAGE - KAROLIN MACGRE­GOR

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.

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