$100m full-blood ambition

WA is set to become home to the world’s biggest herd of full-blood wagyu cattle as part of a $100 million project backed by the family who pioneered farming of the breed in Australia.

The project involves the transfer of thousands of frozen wagyu embryos stockpiled on a property in NSW to surrogate mothers in WA. The first embryos are due for delivery in May and up to 10,000 surrogate cows will be required over the next few years as part of a breeding program designed to take the WA cattle industry into a brave new world.

The wagyu herd will be based around Kojonup, where Mathew Walker and his partners have leased 3000ha with a feedlot and are looking to acquire more land.

Mr Walker’s father, Chris, founded Westholme Wagyu, which was described as the world’s biggest and best credentialed full-blood herd outside Japan when he sold the business to the Australian Agricultural Company for $10 million in 2006.

The deal, then the biggest in the history of the Australian wagyu industry, included a non-compete clause which expired in 2011. The Walkers retained ownership of their 2000ha farm near Tarana in NSW and have been selling feeder steers to AACo while stockpiling embryos.

Mathew Walker said the WA herd would be built up to comprise 20,000 full-blood breeding cows over the next five years before going into full production. He said the herd would produce 6000 tonnes of premium full-blood wagyu beef a year after processing at a local abattoir.

“It will be definitively the largest herd of full-blood wagyu in the world and an asset the State can be proud of, ” he said.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has launched an inquiry into the use of the term wagyu in regard to beef production and marketing.

Mr Walker is convinced it is only a matter of time before the use of the term is clearly defined to set premium full-blood wagyu apart from cross-bred products.

“We are trying to position ourselves for where we feel the industry will be in five years time and our financial modelling is extremely robust, ” he said.

“We don’t need $100 million as of February . . . we are probably only looking at $20 million in the first two years and we have funding to cover all of the initial costs.

“We have had significant investor interest, predominately from China, Taiwan and Malaysia.”

The financial modelling is based on a growing appetite for the famous marbling qualities of wagyu beef in China and other markets.

Last month, Gina Rinehart paid $25 million for farmland in NSW and the 3000-strong Greenhills wagyu herd, including 1600 full-blood females with genetics tracing back to Westholme.


© The West Australian

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