ONE of Australia’s biggest suppliers of yearling bulls, the fourth generation family Angus stud Ben Nevis in the NSW Northern Tablelands has grasped the opportunity being presented by the large number of Angus females currently being pulled out of the system for Wagyu joining.
Erica and Stuart Halliday are producing a special style of commercial Angus female which best suits the F1 production programs .
Ben Nevis is one of Australia’s oldest performance-recorded Angus studs, established in 1947 by Erica’s father Bruce Steel.
The Hallidays, before taking over the reins at Ben Nevis, were heavily involved in commercial Wagyu cross breeding.
Speaking at the Australian Wagyu Association’s annual conference in Albury this month, Ms Halliday said she and her husband saw Wagyu Angus as the most competitive form of the cross.
“While many in the Angus breed see Wagyu as a threat, we see an opportunity to create a superior eating experience,” she said.
“The Wagyu Angus cross is being accepted in Japan and we are not sacrificing IMF (intramuscular fat) while providing more growth.
“If done well, this will revolutionise eating preferences not only among Westerners but among the traditional consumers of Wagyu.”
Ms Halliday outlined what she sees as a solid emerging opportunity for Angus breeders to supply high quality replacement heifers, pregnancy-tested-in-calf to Angus or Wagyu.
“The FI producers' demands for an Angus cow are the same for as they are for our Angus breeding programs - high growth, high marbling and easy care,” she said.
There were hidden costs associated with raising Angus replacement heifers in Wagyu F1 programs, she explained.
“For every three heifers you run you can run two cows with a calf at foot,” she said.
“Those three heifers over a year make you no money, where as the cows and calves will make you $2500. That doubles in the second year so it costs you $5000 to grow heifers out.
If you don’t calve at three years it costs even more.”
A flying herd, where the rearing of replacement heifers is outsourced, has big production advantages to the Wagyu F1 producer and is likely to be the way the industry will move forward, the Hallidays believe.
“Every blade of grass goes towards producing high quality beef,” Ms Halliday said.
“A flying herd offers increased turnover and, because you have more numbers, you have more marketable lines and you have better females.
“If you’re breeding your own, just because she’s black you will keep her where as if you are buying in replacements, you’ll be looking for the best and improving over the long term.”
The success, of course, demands on how you source.
Ms Halliday recounted her experiences setting out to buy 200 replacement Angus females on the open market.
“We really only had one criteria - that they calve in spring,” she said.
“We ended up with a group calving over a much longer period and we quickly worked out that 5 per cent ‘slightly stirry’ means 95pc verifiable mad.
“It’s a much better way to identify people who are specialists in producing Angus replacement breeders and start to build a relationship.”
While the Hallidays see a big future in raising specialist Angus replacement females for Wagyu F1 producers in a flying herd, they say those doing it need to set targets for the heifers.
“They need to monitor them and have a health protocol so they come into a program at the point of calving at 85pc of their mature weight, which both reduces calving problems and means they have done most of their growing so most feed is going into milk,” Ms Halliday said.
“They have to be bunk trained to accept pre calve supplement have a quiet temperament and be bred with a focus on high growth and IMF.
“Within the Angus breed there is a big variation in marbling and it’s not hard to identify those ones which can offer extra performance in those two areas which will add to the Wagyu F1 success.”