Ross Shannon is a man who clearly enjoys the complexity of breeding the best Wagyu possible so to be named as the Overall Winner of the prestigious 400-day Paddock To Palate Wagyu Challenge is an achievement he cherishes. Mr Shannon and wife Robyn had two pens of seven steers entered into the Wagyu Challenge – one pen of 75 per cent Red Wagyu steers and another pen of fullblood Wagyu that took out the event. Mr Shannon said he’d spent some time since the awards last Wednesday evening analysing the performance of his Wagyu’s in the 2022 challenge.
“Despite some initial confusion, I can now confirm that our winning pen of seven steers consisted of six fullbloods and one purebred, with the pen of Red Wagyu steers (75pc) finishing in ninth place overall,” he said.
“Our winning pen finished fourth in the weight gain section, second in the carcase section, first in the carcass value section and tenth in the beef taste off section, with one steer winning the highest Individual carcase value section with $8,191.75.
“This particular steer had average daily weight gain of 1.14kg for the 400 plus days on feed and dressed 528.5 kgs with a marbling of nine.”
Overall, the winning pen had the second heaviest average carcase weight of 465.64kg, having the second highest points for fineness of marbling.
“What was most exciting was their camera marble score of 10.3 and marbling percentage of 34.8 which was the best in the entire competition,” Mr Shannon said.
Based just near the Bunya Mountains near Kaimkillenbun, the Shannons run about 220 Wagyu and Wagyu cross cows. They were a purely commercial operation until about five years ago when they purchased some fullblood heifers and decided to make them the basis of a small purebred herd.
The Shannons use IVF to match the best cows to carefully selected Wagyu semen and are delighted to have about 11 bulls coming through this year with some impressive figures. Mr Shannon said it was exciting to see Wagyu EBVs improving across the breed.
“A few years ago the breed average for marbling was about 0.8 and now it is over 1,” he said.
“Now there are bulls around with marbling EBVs in the high 2s and even the odd one of three. It’s exciting to see the progression.”
Mr Shannon said winning the 2022 RNA Wagyu Challenge would give him even more data to play with.
“While EBVs are really only a tool and guide, the great value we place on this competition that we have just been involved with is that we get actual data on our steers in terms of what they marble,” he said.
“We can then use the dams of the winning steers as donor cows for our next IVF program.”
He also said he’d continue to use a little Red Wagyu genetics in the herd.
“We started our breeding program in the 2000s and we started with Red Wagyu then,” he said.
“We value them because they have superior growth, milking ability and eye muscle area but there has been some resistance to them in the marketplace so we had tended more towards Wagyu.”
In addition to marbling, Mr Shannon said he had his sights set on carcase weight, milk and the fineness of the marbling.
“The milk issue is one that I think Wagyus have slipped on and I also took my eye off the ball a bit and some of our milk EBVs were slipping but we’ve now got access to a couple of bulls that are not only good for marbling but their heifers are also proving to be very valuable because they are coming through with good marbling and milking ability,” he said.
2022 marks the sixth year of the RNA Wagyu Challenge which incorporates a feedlot weight gain phase (20pc of total score), carcase competition (40pc), carcase value competition (20pc) and a beef taste-off (20pc) conducted by the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries Food Science Team. The cattle were feed for 400 days at the Smithfield Cattle Company’s Sapphire Feedlot and processed at JBS Australia. The overall winning pen from the Shannon’s Taldra Cattle Co also placed first in the carcase value competition and second in the carcase competition. One steers from the pen also took out the Highest Individual Carcase Value at $8191. The Shannons largely sell their commercial steers to feedlots but also have a small but valuable partnership that sees them export some live steers to be fed in Japan.
“The (Australian) feedlots are our backbone and over the years we have developed good relationships with two or three,” Mr Shannon said.
“The live export job is only a small part of our operation but it is a very precious part because we get the feedback as the steers are graded on the Japanese system. It is a great benchmark for us to have.”
Class 39 – 400-day Wagyu Challenge results
Class 39A best weight gain
1st – McIntyre Agriculture (50pc – 1.108 ADG)
2nd – McIntyre Agriculture (50pc – 1.060 ADG)
3rd – Sefton grazing (fullblood – 1.004 ADG)
Highest Individual Weight Gain – McIntyre Agriculture (50pc – 1.198 ADG)
Class 39B Carcase
1st – Hancock Agriculture (97pc)
2nd – Taldra Cattle Co (75pc)
3rd – Hancock Agriculture (fullblood)
Reserve champion Carcase – Bar H Grazing (95pc)
Champion carcase – AA Company (fullblood)
Class 39C Carcase Value
1st – Taldra Cattle Co
2nd – Sunland Cattle Co
3rd – Hancock Agriculture
Highest Individual Carcase Value – Taldra Cattle Co
Class 39D Beef Taste-off
1st – Bar H Grazing
2nd – Hancock Agriculture
3rd – Hewitt Pastoral Enterprises
Class 39 Overall Winners
1st – Taldra Cattle Co
2nd – Hancock Agriculture
3rd – Sunland Cattle Co
Full Results: Paddock to Palate 2022 winners celebrated at RNA dinner
First published in Queensland Country Life August 4 2022 | Written by Penelope Arthur