THERE have always been success stories within the Australian beef industry, but in recent years these have been few, so it was refreshing to hear the story of the success of the Blackmore family's Wagyu enterprise.
Wagyu is a breed of cattle native to Japan and is considered one of Japan's national treasures. For centuries no pure-bred Wagyu cattle were allowed out of Japan.
At a beef dinner hosted by the McKinlay Shire Council after the Beef2U field day at Julia Creek, guest speaker David Blackmore told graziers that 25 years ago, it was by chance that he came across two pure Wagyu cattle in the US while searching for different beef genetics. At the time David was a stud stock agent.
He imported embryos from these cattle and implanted them in surrogate cows on his property at Alexandra, Victoria.
Today Blackmore Wagyu Beef is an award-winning and internationally recognised producer of 100 percent full-blood Wagyu beef. The property now runs 3000 pure-bred Wagyu. Of these, there are 1200 breeders, from which they wean 1000 calves annually.
From conception to carcase is 42 months and cattle go into a 650-day feeding program on a trademarked Eco Feeding ration. This results in just a 15mm film of fat.
The enterprise breeds its own bulls, and one bull produced offspring that were returning $800 more per carcase than the best Wagyu bull in Japan.
The enterprise sells one-third of the beef to the top restaurants in Australia and two-thirds in SE Asia, North America and the Middle East, and is expanding into the European Union.
David said the consistent quality of Blackmore Wagyu can be attributed to its unique farming methods allowing a stress-free environment for the animals.
"Our management of the environment, our cattle and our people has led to our product being sought after by the world's best chefs in 14 countries," he said.
The Blackmore family has thousands of native trees on the property and runs the cattle in 5ha paddocks, but feeds them as would be done in a feedlot.
The result is some of the most looked for and most expensive beef in the world.
Blackmore Wagyu beef sells for $100-$250/kg. One Melbourne restaurant sells 220g sirloin steaks for $120.
The beef is pre-sold and paid for before the beast is slaughtered, and 96pc of the beef produces a marbling score of 9 or greater.
The heavy marbling in Wagyu beef, which is described as "an intra-muscular deposit of energy in a lace-like lattice", has been found to contain monounsaturated fats.
Research has shown that the monounsaturated fats in Wagyu can actually assist in reducing cholesterol levels in the body.
Blackmore Wagyu beef has won numerous national produce awards, and in 2011 the company was inducted into the Delicious Awards, Produce Hall of Fame.