Wagyu breeder Jason Lewis attributes much of his success to the use of Meat Standards Australia (MSA) grading, and believes temperament is key to consistently achieving outstanding compliance rates to the program’s specifications.
Jason and his wife Ann run Jac Wagyu and the couple were declared the state’s most outstanding beef producers at the 2017 Meat Standards Australia (MSA) Excellence in Eating Quality Awards, presented at Tamworth last week.
The awards recognised producers who achieved outstanding compliance to MSA specifications for high eating quality, as represented by MSA Index results for beef carcases graded during the 2015-16 and 2016-17 financial years.
Jac Wagyu runs as a vertically integrated operation in conjunction with Jason’s parents, John and Lynne from their 2000-hectare aggregation, with the home base at “Clevecourt”, Bingara. They market their beef within the Australian and export markets.
The accolade comes a year after Jac Wagyu was named as one of the top three finalists in the inaugural MSA Excellence in Eating Quality Awards in 2016.
Jac Wagyu beef is sold in 14 Coles stores in NSW, Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia, and the Lewis’s have successfully developed a premium line of Jac Wagyu Rendered Fat that is stocked in all Coles stores on the eastern seaboard.
Their breeder herd comprises 400 Angus breeders and 100 full-blood Wagyu females that are used to provide replacement bulls. Cattle are usually turned off at weights of 650-700kg plus.
Jason Lewis said a major contributing factor to meat quality that has emerged from their past 10 years of MSA grading is temperament, and it has become a key selection criteria in the animals they keep.
“Wagyus were originally bred to work and they get around the paddocks a lot more than British breeds, so we’ve learned a lot about handling and educating the cattle throughout the growing period,” Mr Lewis said.
Even when we’re transporting cattle to be processed, it’s important to not send them in extremes of heat or cold because of the potential stress that in turn affects the meat quality as well.Wagyu breeder Jason Lewis
“Even when we’re transporting cattle to be processed, it’s important to not send them in extremes of heat or cold because of the potential stress that in turn affects the meat quality as well.”
Young cattle are yard-weaned for two weeks and started on supplementary feeding, and worked with Kelpie dogs to get them used to being handled with people and dogs. Once in the paddocks, they are visited once a week on motorbikes and by the dogs, while grazing sub-tropical grasses and a hay or grain supplement.
Mr Lewis said 400 days later, they’re a big, calm animal, and kept on a rising plane of nutrition in increasingly smaller free range paddocks with access to supplementary feed.
He said he’s happy to keep learning about producing the perfect product, by constantly monitoring the MSA feedback.
“In this field we are competing with some very large meat production companies, so we need to keep doing things better wherever we can,” Mr Lewis said.
“We’re dealing with a very high-value animal and asking quite a large premium from customers for our product, so it’s important to aim for 100 per cent compliance.”
Rangers Valley feedlot, based near Glen Innes, and owned by Japan’s Marubeni Corporation, won most outstanding beef producer – grainfed.
Throughout Australia, more than 14,000 producers consigned almost 5.9 million cattle to the MSA program during 2015-17.
To be eligible for the awards, a producer’s annual MSA-graded volume had to be equal to or above the average volume consigned for the state in which they were produced.
To look at your own carcase feedback and use the MSA Index calculator, visit: www.mymsa.com.au.