GROWING demand for chilled Wagyu Holstein product in high-end overseas markets may be underpinning solid contract prices for the F1 calves here in Australia but it’s a challenging business that certainly requires a long term perspective.
Victorian company Beefcorp Australia, owned by Nick and Vicki Sher, has been in the game for 21 years and produced more than 50,000 calves over this time.
Under the award-winning Sher Wagyu and Sher Black brand, chilled beef, across more than 30 cuts, is supplied to markets including Japan, Taiwan and China.
Calves are contract reared, grown out on pasture to 350 to 400 kilograms liveweight then finished for 400 days in a feedlot to be processed at 750kg.
Beefcorp contracts to buy thousands of Wagyu cross Holstein F1 bobby and reared calves a year.
Managing director Nick Sher told the Australian Wagyu Association conference in Albury last week that what had been fantastic about Beefcorp’s journey was not only the customers and markets but the relationships with dairy farmers and the fact the industry had been able to create a business for calf rearers.
“What we hope to do is help dairy farmers value-add their calf drop,” he said.
“There are, however, many challenges in this business - it’s significantly harder than a cow calf operation.
“What we have to remember is the F1s are a byproduct of the dairy industry. It’s not the farmer’s main source of income and so it’s not their main focus.
“There have been a lot of ups and downs in the dairy industry and that causes us issues with supply.
“When there is drought, for example, cows pregnant to our Wagyu genetics get culled, so we lose those potential calves”
“There are also other markets - like heifer export markets. Plenty of pregnancies we had planned to come into our program end up calving in another country.
“Dairying is a tough occupation. We hope, for those involved with us, we can give them something that adds to their business and they will continue working with us long term.”