A showcase of the nation's best Wagyu, an opportunity for producers to confirm their breeding direction, and simply a way to claim bragging rights.
That's what the RNA Paddock to Palate Wagyu Challenge continues to offer, and why nine producers from across Queensland and one from Tasmania entered cattle in the 2021 competition.
Marking the fifth year of the Wagyu Challenge incorporating feedlot weight gain, carcase competition, carcase value and beef taste-off, most of the exhibitors got their name on the results list in one way or another, highlighting the competitiveness and quality of Australia's Wagyu industry.
In the end, it was the Hamblin family, Strathdale Wagyu, Sarina, that claimed the overall honours for Class 39 - a position they're no stranger to.
With 94.81 total points, it was the pen of 75 per cent Wagyu blood steers that earned them the win.
With an average camera marble points of 52.9 out of 60, marbling percentage ranging from 25 to 41 across the six steers and fineness of marbling average of 37.31, the pen earned a total of 403.5pts to win the carcase phase of the competition.
The highest-performing steer in that pen was also awarded the champion carcase with 82pts.
Weighing 419 kilograms at entry into the feedlot, the steer exited at 744kg with an average daily gain of 0.88kg. The carcase yielded a meat colour of three, camera marble score of 12, marbling percentage of 41, camera eye muscle area of 47.21, and fineness of marbling of 47.44.
The Hamblin pen also came in second for carcase value.
Darren Hamblin said he was very happy with the win - something they've done every year since the competition started, except for last year.
"The other years were won by Alan Hoey with our cattle, he selects them and puts them in his name," Mr Hamblin said.
"The sire who won the pen this year (MOYFD0507 MOYHU F D507), I put a pen of his in every year except for last year and we've won it every year, and with crossbreds every time."
The results and the carcase feedback data are just confirmation of what they do, Mr Hamblin said.
"We've been doing it (Wagyu production) for over 20 years and we've tracked every carcase through for that time.
"I've got a database and an analytics system to make the best bulls obvious to me and 507's the best one, so I like going in the comps because I go in with a bit of confidence.
"I've always been worried about how well our cattle perform because I talk to people in other areas of Australia and around the world and they talk about how good their Wagyus are and what they average.
"It always makes me feel like ours aren't doing as good, but when I put them in a competition I always beat them, so it tells me ours aren't going too bad as well."
Cattle entered under the Poll Wagyu banner - a joint venture by Robbins Island Wagyu, Tasmania; Mayura Station, South Australia; and Strathdale Wagyu - also performed well, claiming second overall with 94.16pts, third in the carcase phase, third in the carcase value phase, and first in the beef taste-off with 90.85pts.
Mr Hamblin said the pen of Poll Wagyu cattle were based on their old Poll genetics, in sire Bar R 52Y, prior to 507 joining the breeding program.
"I put them in there to see how they'd compare. Their marble is slightly under 507, but their weight is over so we're comfortable in the decisions we've made and it's no fluke that we've made those decisions already," he said.
"52Y, there's something about his genetics that gives us real good taste, but it's hard to quantify taste so what I really like about this comp is that's our really only tangible answer to how good he performs and it's not us making up our own decisions, it's totally independent."
Ross and Robyn Shannon's Taldra Cattle Co, Kaimkillenbun, were next to appear on the results list, with their fullblood entry claiming third place and their name appearing several times across the four phases of the competition.
"We're really delighted to have had those scores and won those prizes as part of the overall competition," Mr Shannon said.
"We came fourth last year so it's nice to think we've improved by one place overall.
"It's an incredible competition in that there are so many parameters to consider and it's commercially orientated so from a business viewpoint, I think it's a fantastic competition for us to get involved in because we can then use the feedback in terms of our future breeding programs.
"We're in the throes now of relating that information back to the dams and the sires and considering what we might do in the future in terms of any artificial breeding."
Three points behind the Hamblins' champion carcase, one of Taldra's steers earned the title of reserve champion carcase.
Entering the feedlot at 474kg and exiting at 820kg for an ADG of 0.94kg, the steer had a HSCW of 473.50kg. With a meat colour of three, camera marble score of 11.7, marbling percentage of 40, camera EMA of 37.40 and fineness of marbling of 51.06, the carcase was awarded 79pts.
Another steer from that pen also earned them the highest individual carcase value, worth $7078.50.
Exiting the feedlot at 926kg after gaining 400kg, the steer had a HSCW of 550kg, camera marble score of 8.9, marbling percentage of 30, and 38.32 for fineness of marbling.
"The whole thing about Paddock to Palate, and the Wagyu Challenge in particular, it's a long-term thing and it takes a bit of time but it just gives your overall operation a bit of a picture about how you're going and that's why we value it so much," Mr Shannon said.
"We've never really been in the money in the weight gain section but that doesn't really worry us because as long as we're there when the whips are cracking at the end, that's where it's important.
"Based on the feedback data, there's a couple areas where we've got to look at and think 'how can we do this better', and that's what it's all about."
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