WESTERN Australia will be host to an International Akaushi (Red Wagyu) Convention in October next year, if it gets the final nod of approval from United States breeders, according to CY O'Connor Foundation deputy chairman Alan Peggs.
Mr Peggs and Tillbrook Melaleuka Group chief executive John Dawkins, North Dandalup, recently undertook a study tour in Texas to understand how Akaushi cattle were raised, fed, processed and marketed as well as attended the American Akaushi Association's Annual Convention in Austin, Texas.
Mr Peggs said the American Akaushi Association celebrated its 25th anniversary this year, with the annual convention held between October 11-13 attracting 280 delegates.
"While most came from the US there were also delegations from Australia, Mexico, New Zealand and South Africa," Mr Peggs said.
It was there that they canvassed delegates about their interest in attending an International Akasuhi Convention in WA next year, to be held possibly at Mandurah, close to the CY O'Connor herd at North Dandalup.
There would also be a trip into the Gascoyne where calves would be at foot to showcase what WA herds offered.
"Many delegates, including those from Mexico, New Zealand and South Africa, indicated they would be very keen to attend such as convention," Mr Peggs said.
"A formal proposal will be put to the American Akaushi Association to support the holding such a convention in Western Australia in October 2020 in the very near future.
"Tentatively the board of the association have said they would be in favour of such an endeavour."
Mr Peggs said the trip to Texas showed there was very high demand for Akaushi beef due to its eating quality and health attributes, with this demand resulting in substantial price premiums for F1 Akaushi cattle compared to straight bred cattle.
He said the Akaushi breed was very versatile - it can thrive in both tough and benign environments - it crosses very well with virtually all breeds, including both Bos indicus and dairy and the Akaushi has great potential in the both the agricultural and pastoral regions of WA.
Mr Peggs said Akaushi cattle originated from the southernmost tip of the Japanese island of Kyushu and were imported into both the US and Australia in the mid 1990s.
"Like their black Wagyu 'cousins' the Akaushi has an ability to produce highly marbled beef with low melting temperature fat," Mr Peggs said.
"These attributes ensure Akaushi beef consistently eats well and improves human health by lowering cholesterol levels."
The first stop on the Texas trip was at HeartBrand Beef in Flatonia, in South Central Texas, which dealt exclusively in Akaushi beef with the largest herd of the breed in the US - 3000 cows - spread across four ranches in South Central and South Texas.
HeartBrand Beef sell more than 300 bulls annually, as well as a substantial volume of semen to cattlemen in the US and around the world - including Australia.
"As the name suggests HeartBrand Beef focuses on the eating quality and health attributes of the Akaushi breed," Mr Peggs said.
"Every animal which goes on feed for HeartBrand Beef is DNA tested to ensure it is at least 50 per cent Akaushi.
"This ensures the company can offer products which consistently eat well.
"Studies by HeartBrand Beef indicate it only requires one cross with Akaushi to generate the benefits of higher marbling and lower melting temperature fat."
Mr Peggs said according to the HeartBrand Beef chief executive Jordan Beeman demand was so strong for their beef that they could market at least twice their number if they had the cattle.
"It was to this end Jordan visited WA and the Tillbrook Melaleuka Group last year with a view to developing an additional supply chain to service demand for HeartBrand Beef in the Middle East and South East Asia out of WA," Mr Peggs said.
While at the convention delegates visited the nearby Elgin Breeding Service, an AI centre, where they saw a consignment of 30,000 straws of Akaushi semen destined for Brazil.
"One reason for the enthusiastic uptake of Akaushi genetics is the price premium producers receive," Mr Peggs said.
"Jim and Corrine Yancy, who operate the 1700 acre (688 hectares)Yancy Ranch just out of San Antonio with 200 breeding cows, said they began using Akaushi bulls over their Angus and Brangus cows because of the premium their F1 Akaushi x Angus/Brangus weaners could generate over their straight bred Angus/Brangus weaners.
"An F1 Akaushi cross Angus/Brangus weaner at 220 kilograms live weight will bring AU$5.25/kg while a straight Angus/Brangus weaner the same weight will only bring $4.10/kg.
"It is this 28pc price premium which makes it attractive to both farmers and ranchers to mate their cows to Akaushi bulls."
Another reason for the uptake of Akaushi genetics in the US is their ability to thrive in tough environments.
As part of the study tour Mr Peggs and Mr Dawkins visited two ranches in what is considered low rainfall country by Texas standards.
The first was the Myers-Cooper Ranch, just south of San Angelo, in West Texas.
"This region normally receives 457.2 millimetres of annual rainfall but at the time we visited it had only received 254mm for the year," he said.
"The Myers-Cooper Ranch is about 2500 acres (1012 hectares) and runs 200 breeding cows - one cow to 25 acres (10ha).
"Most of the cows are stud cows with a number being embryo recipients.
"Despite the harsh environment Akaushi cattle do remarkably well."
Mr Peggs said according to HeartBrand Beef Livestock Operations vice president Jo Jo Carrales, Akaushi cross well with a range of breeds and to date they have data on the performance of 13 F1 breed combinations.
The HeartBrand Beef herd was bred up from Red Angus and given the dominance of Angus in the US the F1 Akaushi x Angus is the most common breed combination.
On the tour they saw a range for F1 Akaushi crosses from Akaushi cross Brahman to Akaushi cross Jersey.
"All perform well in the feedlot and on the rail, according to Jo Jo Carrales," he said.
Cee Arnett, chief executive of Bovina Feeders at Farwell in the Panhandle of Texas, which has a capacity to 45,000 head daily and where HeartBrand Beef has 10,000 head fed under contract at any one time, noted there had been a substantial increase in the use of Akaushi semen in dairy herds in the Panhandle due to the easy calving attributes of the breed.
He said Akaushi calves had an average birthweight of 30.8kg.
Bovina Feeders feed a significant number of F1 Akaushi cross Holstein and F1 Akaushi cross (Holstein cross Jersey) steers and heifers and they perform well both in the feedlot and on the 'rail'.
Mr Peggs said they were "most impressed with the F1Akaushi x Brahman heifers they saw at the HeartBrand Beef ranch".
"The F1 Akaushi cross Brahman female would be a great female in the pastoral regions of WA," Mr Peggs said.
"The Akaushi component would dramatically improve the fertility and carcass attributes in the F1 while the Brahman component would provide environmental adaptability."
Mr Peggs said all HeartBrand Beef animals were "naturally fed", which was an important distinction in the US because it meant that "no hormonal growth promotants or any ionophores are used in the diets of 'naturally' fed cattle".
"While this results in slightly slower growth rates this is a cost HeartBrand Beef is prepared to wear in order to ensure the health attributes of their product is maintained.
"It also means that they are able to examine the prospects of exporting beef to the European Union next year given the recent signing of the US EC Free Trade Agreement."
The tour also took them to Caviness Packing Plant at Hereford just to the north of Farwell, Texas, where HeartBrand Beef cattle were slaughtered.
There they saw that Akaushi carcases graded "so much better than other breeds".
p More information on the Akaushi breed in WA, next year's study tour to Texas in June 2020 and the International Akaushi Convention in WA, October 2020, contact John Dawkins on 0428 883 310 or Alan Peggs on 0428 932 717.