Chance for farmers to get higher returns

Last updated 05:00 14/08/2014
Firstlight Wagyu supply chain manager Peter Keeling with wagyu calves.
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ON FARM: Firstlight Wagyu supply chain manager Peter Keeling with wagyu calves.

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Dairy farmers are soon to mate their dairy cows, and Firstlight Wagyu staff believe they have an opportunity to get higher returns.

Firstlight Wagyu managing director Gerard Hickey recently returned from visiting markets in the United States and Europe, buoyed by the positive feedback and strong sales figures his company's grass-fed wagyu are enjoying there.

In response the company has ramped up its supply of bulls and semen for artificial breeding (AB) this spring.

The company has built a base of 70 beef farmers who grow and finish the cattle, renowned for their marbled beef.

"However every beef supply chain has to start with calves, and we want to get more calves on the ground next spring to meet this growth in the market. The dairy sector is an obvious and well suited means to achieve that relatively quickly," supply chain manager Peter Keeling said.

He said wagyu calves typically had a lighter birth weight and were easier calving than traditional beef breeds, bringing some welcome advantages for farmers seeking a low-stress, non-replacement breed to put over their cows or heifers.

Keeling said that appeal translated to the back pocket, given Firstlight Wagyu's guaranteed premium and contract to purchase both Kiwi and friesian-wagyu cross calves at 4 days old.

Last year's premium price averaged $100 a mixed sex calf from AB mating. Indications are this year will be similar.

The premium on the calves opened up options for farmers who may want to be selective about what cows they mate to dairy AB this spring.

"You get the chance to have your cake and eat it with the wagyu calves, focusing on your dairy genetics, and still having a non-replacement calf that is of value for the cows you may not want replacements from. This is something that a Kiwi cow dairy farmer may not have had available before."

Using wagyu bulls or AB genetics over first mated heifers this spring was another option proving popular with farmers wanting an option to low value "bobbied" calves, and the easy calving attributes added to the bulls' appeal.

"Our experience has shown dairy breeds including the kiwi cow cross can produce high quality marbled beef, so mating them with wagyu sires provides an excellent source of high-marbling beef.

"It also gives dairy farmers a unique opportunity to be part of the wagyu supply chain, and addresses calf wastage in the sector."

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- Manawatu Standard

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