PAUL Harris says he was less than impressed the first time he saw Wagyu up close.
"But the more I researched this breed, the more I came to appreciate these exceptional cattle," Mr Harris said.
"I'd read a lot about them and I realised their potential was wholly based on the eating quality of the beef, not what that looked like.
"Being a first generation beef producer I didn't have any preconceived ideas about particular breeds and had carried out a lot of crossbreeding. I wanted to be in the beef industry and to do it well.
"I started with Wagyu 12 years ago and bred more of them and sold off all non-Wagyu cattle."
Now the Rockhampton accountant and his wife Clare have built Sunland Cattle Company into a world class Wagyu operation with more than 10,000 full blood and pure bred Wagyu spread over more than 18,000 hectares of highly fertile country in Central Queensland.
To kick off the enterprise the Harrises initially bought 1100 second, third and fourth cross females plus a number of full blood bulls.
The Harrises increased their numbers further by buying another complete Wagyu fullblood herd of more than 500 head and investing in comprehensive, ongoing embryo and artificial insemination programs.
Sunland operates two properties in Central Queensland: Old Bombandy Station on the Isaac River and Ten Mile Station on the Mackenzie River.
The exceptionally well developed properties have extensive laneway systems, steel yards, and big covered areas to maximise the productivity of the herd. A strategic water management system ensures cattle walk no more than 1.5km to water.
Between Old Bombandy and Ten Mile, there is also an impressive 6000 hectares of leucaena complementing the buffel, green panic and other pastures.
"We take the approach of putting a toe in the water to make sure it works," Mr Harris said.
"It it works we just keep going.
"Whether it is Wagyu cattle or leucaena we're here to get results. That's the big thing."
Mr Harris said he would continue to focus on breeding superior Wagyus and producing cattle for specialist feedlots and bulls and females for sale to breeders.
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"We've looked at having our own feedlot, but that is an entirely new operation," Mr Harris said.
"We'll leave that to the experts.
"What does interest me is taking the ownership of the cattle through the feedlot process and selling the cattle in carcase form, based on their marbling scores and eating quality.
"People have come to know the performance of these cattle, so there is an opportunity to step up the chain and take more control of the beef we are producing."
Old Bombandy Station is stocked with Wagyu fullblood and purebred females and Wagyu fullblood bulls. Ten Mile Station is stocked with all Wagyu fullbloods. Paddock sales of Wagyu bulls from Ten Mile usually top $1 million a year.
Wagyu typically go into the feedlot system at about 20 months of age for 400 days.
An intense focus on genetic selections using both science and historical records means Sunland cattle are consistently producing world class Wagyu carcases.
Sunland fullblood carcases have a very high marbling score with many carcases achieving the optimum 9 marbling score under the Australian grading system.
Mr Harris said Wagyu cattle were highly fertile, with 98 to 99 per cent pregnancy rates not uncommon.
"One challenge is to keep the young males and females separated as they mature very early," Mr Harris said.
The aim was to have females in calf once they passed the 300kg liveweight mark. Some cows were still productive at 18 years, he said.
"You get used to the Wagyu and know they have excellent eating qualities and are very profitable provided you have the right genetics," Mr Harris said.
"Some graziers still cannot get used to Wagyu and don't think they look as good as other cattle.
"I ask people would they rather have good looking cattle and bad looking bank account, or would they rather have bad looking cattle and a good looking bank account," Mr Harris said.
"I tell them the lowest price achieved for a Wagyu is usually never worse than the price for other breeds.
"When people think about that it's generally not an argument that goes very far."