Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Further thoughts on Wagyu


CONCEPTIONS  Beef Cow-calf newsletter               Nov-Dec 2020

Clay Howe         (519) 933- 8431         Route Services, trained Agronomist
Greg Palen        (989) 277- 6031          AI Refresher Training, certified Seed advisor
Sue Palen          (989) 277- 0480          Office manager, Order coordinator


It is often a surprise to Beef breeders and marketers that there is a strong and steady market for “grass fed Jersey beef”.    Since when are Jerseys “beef cows”?

If you have been primarily marketing club-calf steers or breeding heifers, it is only your surplus (“commercial cull”) animals being sold at wholesale, and the nearest stock auction barn is a quick and convenient outlet, at which floor values apply.

It is characteristic at auction barns that size – pounds on the hoof – rules pricing, with breed having a secondary effect (a “beef” breed look calf carries the highest premium in deacon sale prices, somewhat lesser premium given desired condition in sales for older animal categories).

The cheapest animal at a commercial auction will be a Jersey deacon (where you may just get a bill for trucking) -- but for those playing with specialty beef markets there are always buyers for them (hobby farmers and those raising freezer beef).   Why is this?   Because Jersey cattle marble naturally after reaching puberty so the beef they produce is highly prized for its taste and texture; so in a grassfed system will generate a significant premium in individual piece or freezer beef marketing.

In the case of the Japanese Wagyu cattle, where calves are born well below that 100-pound threshold that moves a Holstein deacon into a veal barn, similarly low prices could result, even though they may appear to be a “beef” breed calf.   

However, if you are involved in freezer beef marketing and plan to feed the calves through to finish weights, Wagyu genes produce a unique marbling that is totally genetic, ie, unrelated to corn feeding, and will exhibit itself early enough in age to produce steers ready to market at weights most desired for freezer beef buyers – 900 to 1100 pounds at 15-18 months, thus competing with “grassfed Jersey” for marbling flavor and texture without greasy white fat trim off the surface of the carcass that is a net loss of feed dollars.   

Smaller-boned breeds whether dairy or beef, as a general rule will be easier to adapt to grass fed marketing than larger-boned and heavier framed breeds, where selection for rates of gain have been influenced by increased corn feeding since the beginning of “EPD” selection.    The mainstream food chain tastes have adapted to increasing levels of corn being fed, but desires for leaner beef have created a growth trend for “grassfed” to meet more sophisticated palates and health preferences, and established a new category for “premium” priced beef.

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