I was joined by Benjamin Vito Guimaraes from Brazil to Australia in early May to the Australia Wagyu Association annual convention in Albury, New South Wales. It was a trip I anticipated for a long time due to the substantially higher volume of Wagyu blooded terminal cattle on feed versus the US. The Wagyu industry in Australia is a serious business and growing. It is dominated by black Wagyu genetics in terminal crossing for live cattle and beef exports being halfbloods and higher. The Australian producers operate on a lower cost of production than USA and logistically are well positioned south of Asia. The association has done a tremendous job of marketing and promotion of their genetics/products. I was able to visit with Dr. Matt McDonagh and wish him the best as new incoming CEO of the Australian Wagyu Association.
We arrived in Melbourne and started at David Blackmore's operation (www.blackmorewagyu.com). Mr. Blackmore is someone that can be considered a pioneer and master breeder in the Wagyu industry world wide. David was very gracious to spend the entire day with Ben and myself explaining his background, history, operation, management, international markets and visions moving forward. One day simply was not enough to soak up the information David generously shared with us. The Blackmore black Wagyu herd of females is one of the most (if not the most) elite I have seen in terms of phenotypic quality. The genetics and management behind the Blackmore Wagyu beef program is progressive, exclusive and yet beholds a strong Japanese heritage. Simply impressive.
We then made our way by train to Albury, NSW to get ready for the convention the following day. That evening there was a cocktail gathering at the convention location. I was able to meet with numerous key people in the Wagyu business.....from commercial pastorial companies to meat exporters and everything in between. The convention boasted an attendance of 400+ attendees and featured some of the best speakers/presenters I have seen covering many segments of the industry.
On the last day, the Elite Wagyu Sale took place and it was full of record breaking prices and excitement! First, a confirmed female pregnancy sold in-utero (in recipient cow) that went for $90K (AUD). Shortly after a bull went for $95k (AUD) and then 10 straws of black Wagyu semen sold for $28k (AUD) per straw. These extraordinary prices sent a signal that many heard and will be talking about for many years to come. I'm glad I was able to witness this important day in Wagyu history!
At the conclusion of the convention, Ben and I were generously hosted by Rick Hunter of Bald Ridge Wagyu at his ranch in Mudgee, NSW. This would be the first time I've seen a large herd of fullblood Akaushi/Red Wagyu outside the USA. I must say Bald Ridge has a really nice herd and is one of the largest herds of reds in Australia. The red genetics in Australia came from America, however, I was anxious to see some different maternal mating combinations that I have not worked with yet. We spent a full day looking at cattle, talking genetics and had Wagyu and fine wine that evening (& amazing lamb on the Barbie for lunch).
Throughout our trip abroad we were able to meet and have coffee/dinner with key people in the financial industry and large pastorial companies in Australia agriculture. Some large pastorial companies (>20,000 hd of breeding females) are not currently using Wagyu genetics but are now considering incorporating into their breeding systems/populations. I will write another blog in the future on how the Australian producers can incorporate Akaushi/Red Wagyu genetics into their current production system. It's fairly simple to take advantage of breed complementarities of black and red Wagyu, Angus and bos indicus influenced cattle. Many producers would be keen to become more efficient by increasing long-term maternal performance through heterosis while boosting growth AND marbling potential in terminal progeny.
Until next time Australia!