AT $5985 – $13.34/kg – it was the single most valuable carcase of the Ekka’s inaugural Wagyu Challenge.
Exhibited by Richard and Dyan Hughes’ Clermont based Wentworth Cattle Company, the 448.5kg carcase was produced from a four tooth F2 steer.
The animal was bred, born and backgrounded in the paddock to a liveweight of 369kg before being sent to Mort and Co’s Grassdale Feedlot at Dalby. There it was fed for 350 days, achieving a 1.3kg daily weight gain.
When processed at Oakey abattoir the carcase revealed a 72.88 per cent saleable meat yield. Combine that with the carcase’s high 8.5 marbling score and a buoyant grid price, and the standout $5985 value was generated.
For the first time a purpose built camera developed in Japan was used to objectively measure the key traits of each entry’s the eye muscle. That camera measured not only the size of the eye muscle at the 5/6 rib position, but also meat and fat colour as well as marbling and the all important fineness of that marbling.
Dyan Hughes said the current high returns from Wagyus were very attractive. However, it was the fertility of the breed which impressed her the most.
“We may be weaning calves weighing 10kg lighter than a Brahman-based herd but we’re producing many more calves,” Mrs Hughes said.
“Even without the current high prices for Wagyu we have more saleable animals and that’s very attractive in northern Australia where fertility is a major issue.”
The Hughes have been involved in the Wagyu industry for the past 20 years and run two breeding herds, about 1200 Wagyu females at Wentworth and 3500 females at Strathalbyn on the Burdekin River north of Collinsville. Strathalbyn is managed by their son Bristow.
At Strathalbyn this year 600 yearling mated heifers achieved an 80pc pregnancy rate, while 700 of their sisters (90pc) sisters were back in calf after raising their first calf. All the females were paddock mated using a range of genetics.
“We’ve just started DNA testing so I can’t tell you much about the actual animal that produced the carcase,” Mrs Hughes said.
“We have had less of a focus on genetics and placed more emphasis conformation and fertility.”
The Hughes’ decision to breed Wagyus was inspired 20 years ago by industry pioneer Wally Rea.