Wagyu busi­ness is

Warwick Daily News - South West Queensland Rural Weekly - - Front Page -

RE­VERSE psy­chol­ogy is paving the way for­ward for one of Aus­tralia’s lead­ing wagyu beef op­er­a­tions.

An­thony and Chan­tal Win­ter, man­agers of the Ja­panese-owned Mac­quarie Wagyu on the Con­damine River flood­plain at Ley­burn in Queens­land’s South­ern Downs re­gion, don’t look at the busi­ness from a pad­dock-to-plate per­spec­tive. In fact, they do the op­po­site.

“For us it is work­ing back from the plate to the pad­dock,” said Chan­tal, who was re­cently elected the first woman pres­i­dent of the Aus­tralian Wagyu As­so­ci­a­tion.

“We turn it around so it is all about the con­sumers. If you haven’t got those con­sumers why are you do­ing what you do?”

This in­ten­tional fo­cus on the end-user means all breed­ing de­ci­sions re­volve around how a cow’s off­spring, hav­ing been fin­ished in the prop­erty’s 2900-head feed­lot, ul­ti­mately stack up on the din­ner plate.

“We can plug ev­ery cow into a com­puter pro­gram and we can look at her blood­lines, DNA, how many car­casses she has pro­duced and how good the car­casses have been,” said An­thony, adding the first three calves from any fe­male – ir­re­spec­tive of breed­ing – were fin­ished in the feed­lot to pro­vide cru­cial car­cass feed­back.

“From there we pick the cows we want as donor cows for em­bryos, the cows that are prob­a­bly the next rung down but are good enough to join to the top bulls and re­tain fe­males, and then our com­mer­cial pro­duc­tion cows.

“It’s not rocket science. We are us­ing our data to find the out­liers and breed from them.”

It’s a no-non­sense ap­proach that is pay­ing off in spades. Mac­quarie has po­si­tioned it­self at the top of the wagyu ge­net­ics tree. At the Aus­tralian Wagyu Con­fer­ence’s elite sale this year it sold a bull for $80,000 and two pack­ages of 10 se­men straws for an av­er­age of $70,000.

All the while its prod­uct con­tin­ues to win over judges in branded beef com­pe­ti­tions.

Not ones to rest on the lau­rels of their suc­cess, the Win­ters only have eyes for the fu­ture.

They are ex­cited by breed­ing and ge­netic tech­nol­ogy ad­vance­ments and are in the box seat to be able to al­ter their pro­grams to suit fu­ture mar­ket trends.

MAC­QUARIE Wagyu is run on the prop­erty that once served as the Aus­tralian breed­ing head­quar­ters for the US-based King Ranch’s quar­ter horse and santa gertrudis op­er­a­tions.

Cov­er­ing about 8700ha, it com­prises pre­dom­i­nantly graz­ing coun­try but for

1300ha of farm­ing coun­try –

500ha of which is ir­ri­gated. The whole op­er­a­tion, which em­ploys nine full-time staff, is geared around the feed­lot with wheat and bar­ley grown over win­ter to sup­ply it. Chick­peas are also grown over win­ter with mung beans, sorghum, corn, cot­ton, soy beans grown as cash crops dur­ing sum­mer.

The Win­ters, who have man­aged the prop­erty since

2009 for the Ja­panese fam­ily which pur­chased it in the

mid-1990s, said about half the graz­ing land com­prised poor-qual­ity sandy, wat­tle and bull-oak coun­try with the bet­ter pad­docks of clay, briga­low and heavy soils.

Pad­dock sizes range from

20ha to 200ha and the prop­erty re­ceives about

625mm of rain a year in a mostly sum­mer pat­tern.

Last year it ex­pe­ri­enced a very or­di­nary win­ter be­fore things turned around – “but only in this im­me­di­ate area” – dur­ing sum­mer. But fol­low­ing a rea­son­able au­tumn “the tap turned off in May”.

“We nor­mally plant about

1500-2000 acres

(605-810ha) of win­ter crops and this year we have about

450 acres (182ha) and it’s all un­der the ir­ri­ga­tor,” An­thony said.

“We’ve got no dry­land at all. We were very lucky in that we have four and a half inches

(112mm) in Oc­to­ber which we were able to plant (sum­mer crops) on but all the hot weather since, we re­ally need an­other drink now.”

An­thony said the prop­erty had its own mi­cro­cli­mate – “it is not as hu­mid as the (Dar­ling) Downs and not as hot as out west” – but win­ter could be tough with 40-50 frosts this year. The prop­erty was hit by floods in 2010 and 2013 de­stroy­ing cot­ton and ready-to-har­vest sorghum crops in the process.

ON the beef front, Mac­quarie joins 650 full-blood wagyu fe­males and 100 re­cip­i­ent cows, used to breed re­place­ment fe­males and some bulls. An­thony said they didn’t breed ac­cord­ing to one par­tic­u­lar line.

When he and Chan­tal first came to the prop­erty there was a lot of vari­a­tion in the size of the cows and, with it be­ing “very, very hard to breed size and mar­bling be­cause they are two dis­tinct lines”, they ini­tially fo­cused on growth.

“We have a very lim­ited ge­netic pool to work with. We’ve re­ally tried to keep di­ver­sity in our ge­net­ics and also keep size in the breed­ing herd,” Chan­tal said.

The Win­ters worked on the the­sis that it didn’t mat­ter how much mar­bling the car­casses had, if they were too small in size they wouldn’t have a mar­ket.

“We ba­si­cally spent seven years where all we did was con­cen­trate on get­ting a more uni­formed, medium-framed cow,” An­thony said.

“We were try­ing to do that while at least hold­ing on to our mar­ble score, which we did rea­son­ably suc­cess­fully.”


PLATE TO PAD­DOCK: An­thony and Chan­tal Win­ter of Mac­quarie Wagyu at Ley­burn, south of Toowoomba.

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