WAGYU has opened beef production up to new faces.
The Australian Wagyu Association takes on around 100 new members each year and many come from a background outside livestock production.
Chief executive officer Matthew McDonagh said the Australian Wagyu Association had a unique mix of members in that most obtained the lion’s share of their income from commercial production and the membership covered the full supply chain from seedstock producers to international brand owners.
“Our membership base is increasing also in scale of enterprise, with 50 per cent of members having less than 100 head three years ago but less than 30pc now having less than 100 head,” he said.
Of AWA’s 600 members, 500 are from Australia, predominantly NSW, Queensland and Victoria, with others coming from the United Kingdom, Europe, New Zealand, the United States and South Africa.
They are looking to benefit from the only global genetic analysis system for Wagyu, Dr McDonagh said.
Wagyu also boasts a number of mature value chains with relationships between brand owners, processors, feedlots and producers highly integrated, he said.
Wagyu occupies the luxury beef market and within this, there appears to be a trend towards very highly marbled beef - marble scores of eight, nine and nine-plus, with demand for this product very high in export markets, Dr McDonagh said.
“There is a huge opportunity for marble score 4 and 5 product in domestic markets, and we need to be working hard with the Australian consumer to improve their understanding about the phenomenal quality attributes of this product,” he said.
Is there opportunity for grassfed Wagyu?
Perhaps, says Dr McDonagh.
However, given the energy demands in depositing fat as opposed to muscle, it is difficult to finish Wagyu content cattle on grass as they can’t consume the volumes required to obtain the unique high-marbling characteristics of Wagyu beef, he said.
The 2018 AWA conference, to be held in Mackay in the first week of May, will include a nutrition workshop with information on backgrounding through to feedlotting.
The protein and energy requirements for Wagyu are different to normal cattle as they deposit so much more fat in way of marbling over their life, Dr McDonagh explained.
The energy intake required to deposit a gram of fat is three times that of lean meat. So the feed requirements of Wagyu are different to other breeds of cattle.
The conference is followed by a tour through major Wagyu producing properties in central Queensland, where the adaptability and resilience of Wagyu production at significant scale will be shown.