Australia received its first Wagyu genetics, a Wagyu female, in 1990. Frozen semen and embryos have been available since 1991 and there have been further imports of live Purebreds.
The introduction of Wagyu cattle to Australia has been a costly, long-term project as there has been no protocol with Japan for direct imports. Initially, the Australian herd was greatly influenced by a shipment of five Fullblood animals exported from Japan to the United States of America (USA) in 1993. These included the two bulls; Michifuku and Haruki II, and the three cows; Suzutani, Rikitani and Okutani.
These cattle were followed by three further shipments of live cattle. In 1995, there was a major shipment from the famed Takeda farm stud of Mr Shogo Takeda. The Takeda shipment comprised 37 cows and five bulls. Four of those bulls qualified for semen shipment to Australia.
1996 saw Westholme Wagyu in conjunction with ET Japan Company Ltd. export three Black Fullblood Wagyu bulls, semen from three other Black Fullblood Wagyu sires, and 84 pregnant Black Fullblood Wagyu females from Japan to the USA. Over the next few years thousands of embryos were produced at Iowa and Texas facilities and shipped to Australia for implantation at the Westholme farm at Tarana NSW while the three sires similarly produced thousands of semen straws at the Hawkeye facility in Iowa.
The most significant importation of live cattle took place in 1997 when the first live Fullbloods came into Australia.
In 1999 Westholme flew approximately 40 females to Australia. Some of these were from the original Japan born and registered females and some were Fullblood calves born in the USA to many of the imported 84 females. Nine bulls were also shipped to Australia.
In 2005/06 all the Wagyu females and sires in Canada and USA belonging to Westholme were slaughtered and sold as meat. No females or embryos from the Westolme herd were sold into the USA for breeding purposes. Only semen and embryos remained and these were ultimately shipped to Australia, with some semen being sold into the US market. Hence Australia has a range of unique Wagyu Fullblood genetics found nowhere else outside Japan.
The Wagyu breed is gaining strength and popularity as it becomes more apparent to Australian beef producers that there is a real need and demand for high quality carcasses that derive from the marbling prominent in the Japanese genetics.
The Wagyu breed is unsurpassed for its marbling and ability to improve meat quality in cross breeding programmes. While this has been important in improving the capacity of Australia’s exports to Japan to ‘grade’ higher, Australian Wagyu beef is now sold globally with 80 – 90% of production exported. Some 10 – 20% is sold domestically, playing a major role in improving the quality of beef for local consumption.
Wagyu strengths include: