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.