Wagyu Milestone – 30 years in Australia

This year marks 30 years of Wagyu cattle in the Australian beef industry.

From humble beginnings, Australia now has the largest herd of Wagyu cattle outside of Japan, where the breed originated. The breed has grown from strength to strength and is now bred within many herds, who are breeding crossbred and full blood animals.

Wagyu meat is known for its high marbling which attracts premium prices in certain markets.

Department of Agriculture and Fisheries Beef Extension Officer Matt Brown said the nutrition of the animals plays a key role in determining the marble score and a nutritional set back of a young animal can have a detrimental effect on the future marble score.

“Not only do producers need to carefully consider the nutritional requirements of this breed, but they also need to consider how to cross breed effectively. Some crossbred cattle have been bred from Bos indicus females that do not possess marbling characteristics, which is desired by feedlot buyers. So many feedlot buyers are becoming very particular about what crosses of Wagyu cattle they buy.

“Angus females are the most commonly used base breed, but producers need to realise that crossbred cattle may not attract price premiums.

“At the recent Annual Australian Wagyu Conference in Adelaide a panel of feedlot buyers gave presentations of what they are looking for in cattle they want to purchase.  They said that:

  • Producers need to supply the pedigree of the full blood bull who is the sire of the cattle.
  • Buyers are preferring cattle that have been DNA tested.
  • Carcase data that can be supplied by the producer is also a bonus.
  • Premium brands have been created for full blood animals by several feedlots.

“The Department of Agriculture and Fisheries has produced a document, Fitzroy beef production systems – Preparing for, responding to, and recovering from drought that describes one way to convert from a Bos indicus herd into a purebred Wagyu herd.

“This shows that it can be economically viable if the premium for the crossbred cattle remains stable.  But if the price premium decreases it may not be viable,” Matt explained.

Australian Wagyu breeders are making a huge effort to get their full blood cattle registered into Breedplan with EBVs that can be used by buyers of full blood and purebred animals to estimate their genetic potential.

The future of the breed within Australia looks bright, as Australia is seen as world leader in Wagyu breeding and production. There appears to be optimism within the breed, with a full blood heifer making $280 000 in the Elite Wagyu National Sale held on 10 May 2019.

For more information please contact a FutureBeef Extension Officer, or call the DAF hotline on 13 23 25.