Meeting a niche market

Meeting a niche market with Wagyu at Kimbe

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BOOSTING CALVING EASE: The Montgomery family's Rennylea-blood Angus cows with Wagyu first-cross calves at foot at Kimbe, near Grabben Gullen.

BOOSTING CALVING EASE: The Montgomery family's Rennylea-blood Angus cows with Wagyu first-cross calves at foot at Kimbe, near Grabben Gullen.

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Wagyu bulls are allowing the Montgomery family to meet a niche market while improving calving ease.

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Wagyu bulls are allowing the Montgomery family to meet a niche market while improving calving ease.

Scott and Terri Montgomery run a small herd, joining between 90 and 110 breeders each year at Kimbe, Grabben Gullen, near Crookwell.

"We initially started using Wagyu bulls for low birthweight and easy calving with our Angus heifers and it went from there," Mr Montgomery said.

"Having a small operation, we thought this might be a good niche market for us and we're quite satisfied with the way it's gone."

They've been breeding first-cross calves for the past six years, using fullblood Koolang Wagyu bulls over Rennylea Angus heifers.

"In this Wagyu game it's all about marbling, and that's why we're going with Koolang," Mr Montgomery said.

"We get guidance from Michael Katz and Geoff Cummins from Koolang Wagyu Australia and JBS as to what particular bloodlines they're chasing."

The Montgomerys market their cattle to JBS Australia in conjunction with two other local first-cross breeders.

"The other two breeder are quite large so with their 250 to 500 head we could end up with around 600 first-crosses every year," Mr Montgomery said.

While being able to meet a premium is a huge benefit of Wagyu genetics, the biggest benefit is on farm with improved calving ease.

Calving is in July and August and the first round of calves are sold in June, weighing 250 to 300 kilograms at approximately 10 months.

"The ones that don't make the June cut off are then ready by December, at 300kg," Mr Montgomery said.

"We calve the heifers and younger cows (up to five years) one month earlier than the older cattle, and this helps keep the calf weight more even in the first draft."

The cattle are on a range of improved pastures, including phalaris, clovers, fescues and ryegrass.

"When we had all Angus, we'd just send everything to a weaner sale in April and take whatever price we'd get, but now we've got to make sure they're the right weights, so we're doing pasture improvement every year," Mr Montgomery said.

"Our goal is to have an average marble score of seven or eight."

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