29 Oct 2015

Low dairy prices behind surge in Wagyu interest

2:23 pm on 29 October 2015

A Wagyu cattle primary growth partnership is gaining momentum as dairy farmers look to increase the value of bobby calves by introducing better beef genetics into their herds.

The partnership is a joint initiative between the government and two Hawke's Bay companies, Brownrigg Agriculture and the marketing company Firstlight Foods.

An exhibitor arranges machine sliced olive meat, a kind of wagyu beef at the Oiishi Japan food and beverages showcase in Singapore on October 16, 2014. AFP PHOTO/ROSLAN RAHMAN

An exhibitor arranges machine-sliced olive meat, a kind of wagyu beef, at a showcase in Singapore Photo: AFP

Wagyu is a type of cattle known for its marbling qualities, or how fat is distributed through its meat.

The programme manager Matt Crowther said the seven-year programme was at the half way point and there's been a surge of interest in the past year.

"The mating numbers from last year were approximately 11,000 and we're now clicked over 26,000 matings this year, so the number of calves we're going to have is basically doubling.

Mr Crowther said the milk payout dropping resulted in a surge in interest around September.

"There's a general interest from the dairy industry in alternative options for traditional bobby calves. We're focusing on what's called the kiwi-cross - a cross between the Fresian and Jersey - and that's traditionally the lowest value calf out of the dairy industry, so what Wagyu offers is a higher value option for those animals. Rather than getting $20 odd for a bobby, you can get up to $150 for a four day old Wagyu cross, so that's an attractive alternative revenue stream for some dairy farmers."

The main markets for the beef are California, the United Kingdom, and he said there's great prices coming out of the United Arab Emerits on a cost per kilo basis.

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