Maydan's Geoff Willett inducted into Wagyu Hall of Fame

Maydan's Geoff Willett inducted into Wagyu Hall of Fame

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RECOGNISED: Rebecca and Geoff Willett collecting the Wagyu Hall of Fame recipient award at the Australian Wagyu Association's annual conference on the Gold Coast yesterday.

RECOGNISED: Rebecca and Geoff Willett collecting the Wagyu Hall of Fame recipient award at the Australian Wagyu Association's annual conference on the Gold Coast yesterday.

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Tribute paid to pioneer Wagyu feedlotter at Gold Coast conference.

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IT started as a humble four pens in the early 1980s, went on to house 77 pens of premium cattle and become arguably one of the world's best Wagyu feeding programs.

Along the way, Geoff Willett's Maydan Feedlot at Warwick made mistakes and learned lessons that so many Australian feedlots today have benefited from.

In recognition of that enormous contribution, Mr Willett was inducted into the prestigious Wagyu Hall of Fame at this week's Australian Wagyu Association conference, held on the Gold Coast.

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AWA president Charlie Perry paid tribute to Mr Willett's integrity, tenacity and dedication to Wagyu, which he said had allowed many in the sector to prosper.

Many of the early Wagyu pioneers stayed with the Willett program through to Maydan's sale four years ago to Hancock Agriculture.

Mr Perry spoke about the challenges faced by the early Wagyu trailblazers, including stoic opposition to what was a new and misunderstood breed, finding markets for Wagyu beef and F1 live exports and, of course, understanding the genetics and how to feed them.

"Recognising that nutrition was a vital component of successful Wagyu production necessitated research into Japanese feeding regimes and applying the knowledge in a local context," he said.

"One bright spark who saw the potential, and happened to be involved in the feedlot industry, stands out among the crowd as someone who made a significant difference to underpinning the success of many of our early pioneers."

That was Geoff Willett, who went on to champion the cause with AusMeat to extend the marble score rating to 7, 8 and 9 to accommodate the higher levels achieved in Wagyu.

HONOUR: Geoff Willett, former Maydan head stockman Alan Hoey and Australian Wagyu Association president Charlie Perry with the Hall of Fame award.

HONOUR: Geoff Willett, former Maydan head stockman Alan Hoey and Australian Wagyu Association president Charlie Perry with the Hall of Fame award.

Other Wagyu and feedlot industry stalwarts spoke about Mr Willett's determination to overcome challenges of any sort, the way he surrounded himself with people to advise him on the feedlot journey, and his humble nature and willingness to always 'help a bloke out'.

Indeed, when it came time to accept his award, Mr Willett spent the majority of his time at the microphone singing the praises of others.

He paid tribute to the late David Warmoll, of Jack's Creek, who sent Maydan its first consignment of Wagyu, and to Maydan's former head stockman Allan Hoey, who 'tirelessly researched the genetic associations to give us an understanding the many facets for success in breeding, feeding and processing Wagyu.'

He mentioned many more, including nutritionist Dr John Doyle, Japan's premier breeder Shogo Takeda San and breeders such as Scott DeBruion, Percy Hornery, Tony Fitzgerald, Keith and John Hammond, David Blackmore and Simon Coates.

It was a steep learning curve, he said, but 'whatever we could get our hands on, we tried.'

Educating the meat industry was one thing but the public was another, he said.

"Wagyu is a household name now but it certainly wasn't in the beginning. We would constantly say 'not all fat is the same, not all fat is unhealthy'," Mr Willett said.

"We had to educate people on the health benefits. Of course, it didn't hurt that the beef tasted exceptional."

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