TOP quality Wagyu cattle are the perfect fit for Victorian producer Stephen Gibbons, who's backgrounding steers for high-end Wagyu programs.
The production is based at Kildrummie, an aggregation of 1100 hectares over four properties near Colac, and includes approximately 300 fullblood Wagyu breeders as well as steers for backgrounding, along with 550 Angus breeders.
Mr Gibbons started breeding Wagyu cattle about five years ago, after being a consumer.
"I was interested in the breed because I loved eating it and were impressed by the eating quality of the product," Mr Gibbons said.
"I was also interested in the genetics and the high performance traits of the animal."
He plans to transition to a full Wagyu-based production based on the breed's performance, markets, herd quality and genetics.
Mr Gibbons started his Wagyu herd with 65 fullblood embryos from Mayura Station which were transferred into high quality Angus recipient cows.
He also purchased two fullblood bulls for first-cross production over the Angus cows, and since then he's added females and bulls based on their carcase and maternal traits.
Females have been sourced from a range of studs, including Trentbridge, Samaria, Sumo and Circle 8, which is owned by Jeremy and Carmen Cooper at Marulan.
"I was interested in the Circle 8 females as they are all parent verified and registered, and provide genetic diversity to my herd with their genomic make up in female traits being fertility and gestation, as well as growth and carcase.
My breeding objective is to provide the optimal presentation of the animal to feedlot programs in order to maximise performance on feed and carcase data in terms of marbling, fineness and carcase weight. We've been targeting the high-end Wagyu market and while numbers have been low as we have been developing our brand, we've been able to be flexible and highly versatile in selecting genetics for improved genetic gain.- Stephen Gibbons, Kildrummie, Colac, Vic
"The females phenotypically were well structured and I liked the phenotype to compliment our cattle and improve performance."
The high quality females from Circle 8 were a good fit for his breeding objective, and were selected, like all Kildrummie cattle, based on proven genetic performance.
"My breeding objective is to provide the optimal presentation of the animal to feedlot programs in order to maximise performance on feed and maximise carcase data in terms of marbling, fineness and carcase weight," Mr Gibbons said.
"We've been targeting the high-end Wagyu market and while numbers have been low as we have been developing our brand, we've been able to be flexible and highly versatile in selecting genetics for improved genetic gain."
Steers are backgrounded for the large Mayura Station operation in South Australia, which includes one of the country's largest Wagyu studs as well as a state-of-the-art 1500-head undercover feedlot.
Mr Gibbons aims to get his steers to 350 to 400 kilograms, which is generally achieved in 15 months.
"We background steers to Mayura because it has a very high end cattle management and lotfeeding program, with excellent conditions and animal health standards," Mr Gibbons said.
"The animal environment is optimal for our cattle and we get all our data feedback in order to improve ongoing genetic structures.
"We make the specifications required for Mayura based on strict breeding protocols with embryo transfer and artificial insemination, then through nutritional management with creep feeding and weaning protocols including grain mixes."
Calves are born onto fresh pastures, with creep feeding beginning from an early age, then they're weaned onto lucerne and high quality pastures with supplementary grain feeding.
"Gina Lincoln from Linc Ag has been a consultant for us in terms of genetics, nutrition and animal health for the past three to four years and the results have been outstanding."
Having four blocks with diverse soil types and environmental conditions has been a big benefit.
"We accumulated the four properties with the objective that they were, firstly, drought proof with optimum quality water and this includes spring feed dams, bores, rivers and creeks; and secondly, able to grow quality pasture with a combination of ryegrass, clover, oats and summer crops such as lucerne."
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