There are many instances where youth acts as a barrier to a successful start in agriculture but one young couple is proof unconventional inroads can be the key to a bright future.
Hannah Maller and her partner Josh Collins, Hamilton Park Wagyus, Wallumbilla, turned their dream of breeding their own Wagyu herd into reality when they started buying Friesian calves from the Toowoomba calf sale.
Miss Maller said the opportunity arose when dairy cows previously used to rear orphaned calves during drought years became somewhat redundant when seasonal conditions improved.
“Dad has about 36 dairy cows used mainly as surrogate mothers for Wagyu calves coming in from our Mitchell property, Lussvale, but thankfully we haven’t had to use them in the last couple of years,” she said.
“Josh and I saw that as an open door. We started to wait until the dairy cows calved at Hamilton Park and then bought up to four calves for each cow to suckle and grow out.
“We bought our first ten dairy calves nearly two-and-a-half years ago and they’re now averaging about 520kg. Calves cost us an average of $72 each so it’s not hard to see the profit margin there.
“Our first calves have been on oats this year and will also receive a grain and silage ration to finish them off before they’re sold as bullocks in early March 2017.”
Miss Maller said they currently had 21 dairy cows “operating” with 27 calves purchased for those cows this year.
“Some of the old girls are amazing, we owe a lot to their milk producing capabilities,” she said.
Miss Maller said the real icing on the cake was not in the profit from dairy calves but in the possibilities that profit offered.
“Josh and I are both extremely passionate about the Wagyu breed and essentially we’re using the money from the dairy cattle to start our Wagyu embryo program,” she said.
“We went to John Lockwood at Deepwater and selected a heifer and a cow to flush for embryos. Across two flushes we received 21 embryos which were transferred into Mr Lockwood’s recipient cows.
“It’s a process classed as an embryo calf rearing program where we pay for the semen straws, vet bills and the cost of keeping the cattle in peak condition.
“We make a quarter payment when the cow is pregnancy tested in calf, another when the calf is born and then pay the remaining half when we take delivery of the calf.”
Miss Maller said the embryo transfer program was the fastest way to build their Wagyu herd from a strong genetic base with hopes to offer Wagyu seedstock next year.
“We should have 21 calves on the ground come mid December and we’re hoping for half heifers and half bull calves,” she said.
“The demand for Wagyu bulls is growing and growing and we aim to sell our weaner bulls at the end of next year.”
Miss Maller said her passion for the breed stemmed from watching her parents’ Wagyu enterprise develop and she anticipated a long future for Wagyu cattle in Australia.
“They’re such easy cattle to handle and their reproductive capabilities are second to none,” she said.
“More than that, what they offer in meat eating quality has been gobbled up all over the world and we take great pride in starting from scratch to offer a superb product to a market that can’t get enough.”