In early August I was able to attend the Wagyu Society of South Africa's annual convention. I was impressed with the level of organization, enthusiasm, knowledge and business outlook by the attendees. The event was held at various winery locations in Stellenbosch which is on the southern part of South Africa. Simply a beautiful part of the country with many impressive venues.
The keynote speaker at the event was Graham Truscott (past CEO of the Australian Wagyu Association). Mr. Truscott brought a level of excitement with him that the Australians are experiencing currently with Wagyu expansion in their country. The growth there has been tremendous and Graham was about to shed light on the history and current happenings with Wagyu in Australian. One slide he presented showed the current expected fullblood active female numbers in certain countries. Australia was shown to have 11,500 registrations per annum and the U.S. was shown at 3,500. It is important to note that the fullblood registrations from the American Akaushi Association were not included in this estimate as there is currently ~7,000 active fullblood Akaushi females in the association.
The most surprising fact was that the society had already been in the planning and presenting stages of a Certified Wagyu Beef of South Africa program. This was very impressive for an association to create a certified beef labeling program in the beginning stages that will help create and sustain markets for beef and fullblood male genetics. My hat is off to those that have created and developed this. The association received audience feedback on certain program guidelines. I must say the program can/will be successful if the guidelines are NOT too restrictive. The basics of DNA parentage verification of the terminal animal to at least one fullblood parent, fed all natural and never ever treated with hormonal growth implants were included but overshadowed by many other regulations.
Brian Angus with Woodview Wagyu Beef has been operating their branded beef program for many years and has seen it grow exponentially over time. Brian's experience and knowledge of operating a successful branded beef company will pay dividends to the association and their labeling program(s).
I was hosted by Samuel Pauw of A5 Wagyu in Bloemfontein. I met Samuel at the American Wagyu Association's annual convention last year in Coeur d'Alene, ID and we hit it off well since then. He is one of the breeders in South Africa that have sourced excellent Wagyu genetics from the U.S. and Australia. Samuel took me along a path to see much of South Africa and its vast and mostly harsh environment (much like northern & eastern New Mexico). The Bonsmara breed is very popular there due to their excellent hardiness, red hide color and high fertility in those tough environments and should cross very well with Akaushi.
The progressive South African ranchers are the most similar to U.S. cattle ranchers that I have encountered so far. However, they are not hindered with traditionalism like Americans and I see great things in their future with Wagyu genetics. The hospitality and generosity was much appreciated and I can't wait to make the next trip there!