DRIVING west from Georgetown, the last thing you expect to see are Wagyu bulls grazing in paddocks alongside the highway.
But for Glen and Cheryl Connolly, Blanncourt Station, Georgetown, the black bulls are bringing a lot to the table in their crossbred commercial herd.
The Connollys operate on 18,600 hectares at Blanncourt, and have a second property, Elwell, between Prairie and Muttaburra of 16,187ha (40,000 acres).
Together, Blanncourt and Ellwell run 1800 breeders producing between 800 and 1000 head annually, predominantly for the live export market, where they are marketed between 300kg and 320kg.
The crossbred herd features Brahman, Charbray and Charolais genetics, and the family have recently introduced Brangus, and started a Wagyu program.
While they initially only joined five heifers to the Wagyu bull as a test, last year they joined 120. They preg tested in April, with 115 in calf.
The first progeny dropping a fortnight ago and the Connollys say they are now investigating several marketing options for the new venture.
Australian Wagyu Association board member Ron Fitzgerald, Jondaryan, said there has been a “huge” increase in interest in Wagyu cattle not only in the north, but all around Australia.
He predicted producers like the Connollys’, would find their first cross Wagyu calves to be “versatile, fertile, hardy cattle”.
Mr Fitzgerald said crosses with Bos Indicus and Euro breeds were not likely to achieve the meat quality of southern Angus crosses but would raise the overall herd meat quality.
Fertility is a large driver for the Connolly’s operation and the couple say they have started to see marked improvements within their herd.
He said the yearling heifers must be in calf after weaning, or they are sold.
The entire herd is pregnancy tested and anything empty or that doesn’t produce a calf at weaning is culled.
Bulls are put out in November, but the females generally don’t start cycling until the first storm at the end of December.
On a five year average, they have a 70 per cent weaning rate, and a 15 per cent loss rate between preg testing and calving.
This year the family were thrilled to receive about 100mm of rain in May, which saw them through until the beginning of September. They had another 100mm in the middle of October but the Connollys say Elwell is still dry and in need of a big wet season. “This rain was extremely welcome as we calve our heifers out middle of September through until December… so this year is just ideal for our program,” Mr Connolly said.