Wagyu beef de­liv­ers farm­ers dual ben­e­fits


Carter­ton dairy farm­ers Shaun and Kirsty Rose have ex­tolled the virtues of a pro­gramme de­signed to breed ex­port qual­ity wagyu calves and pro­vide them with more earn­ings.

Farmer owned co-op­er­a­tives LIC and First Light Wagyu have com­bined forces to use ar­ti­fi­cial breed­ing tech­nol­ogy to cross dairy cows with wagyu sires to meet the global ap­petite for grass-fed New Zealand beef.

The Roses, who sup­plied LIC/First Light with more than 100 calves this au­tumn, say the pro­gramme is great be­cause of the bet­ter value it gives them.

‘‘Nor­mally all the calves have gone to bob­bies and we were get­ting paid a pit­tance for them. But now after we cross our ki­wicross with wagyus, we raise them to 90 kilo­grams be­fore send­ing them on to a fin­ish­ing farm,’’ Kirsty Rose said.

Through First Light, the 46 farmer-share­hold­ers who raise the wagyu dairy cross from three- month-old wean­ers to fin­ish at two to three years of age have guar­an­teed buy­ers in mar­kets around the world.

Rose said in their first sea­son last year they had raised 100, and next year they would in­crease the num­ber again.

First Light chief ex­ec­u­tive Ger­ard Hickey said the pro­gramme was help­ing to meet global de­mand for their prod­uct, which was be­ing fu­elled by the grow­ing grass-fed move­ment.

The dairy-wagyu cross fea­tured more of the highly val­ued mar­bling for which wagyu beef is renowned. The prod­uct is 50 per cent wagyu, al­low­ing it to be mar­keted as wagyu beef.

‘‘In tar­get mar­kets, the grass­fed con­sumer pref­er­ence is for pre­mium mar­bled beef prod­uct that is 100 per cent grass-fed, GMO and an­tibi­otic free, and there is noth­ing bet­ter than wagyu to achieve this. Although con­sumer pro­files and pref­er­ences dif­fer across mar­kets, grass-fed wagyu is meet­ing a grow­ing trend,’’ Hickey said.

The grass-fed move­ment had started in Cal­i­for­nia, and has now spread to other mar­kets in­clud­ing the US east coast, Switzer­land, Great Bri­tain and Europe, and Dubai. Prices in these tar­get mar­kets are at the top end of beef prices glob­ally.

LIC pro­vides gene tech­nol­ogy that ver­i­fies the parent­age of calves for farm­ers.

LIC has more than 10,000 dairy farm­ers who use its ser­vices to im­prove farm pro­duc­tiv­ity through ge­net­i­cally su­pe­rior live­stock.

Wagyu is a highly mar­bled beef that can bring an ex­tra ben­e­fit to dairy farm­ers.

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