Positioning New Zealand beef at the premium end of international markets and delivering long-term economic benefits are the key goals of a PGP programme producing highly marbled grass-fed beef from Wagyu-cross animals.
The programme is being led by Brownrigg Agriculture Group Limited and Firstlight Foods Limited.
Much of New Zealand's beef is lean and destined for use in burgers and small goods. Internationally, high-quality beef is predominantly produced from cattle housed in feedlots, and fed corn and other grains.
Consumer demand provides an opportunity for grass-fed, free-range, high-quality beef to be positioned in niche markets.
This PGP programme will develop an integrated value chain for high-value, marbled beef that is internationally recognised for its superior eating qualities.
Key to this proposition is the use of Wagyu sires with high-marbling genetics for the yearly mating of dairy heifers and cows, and development of rearing and grazing systems that support year-round growth of these cattle.
The programme will utilise calves that are currently by-products from the dairy industry. Dairy breeds – such as the Friesian, Jersey and the Friesian/Jersey cross known as the Kiwi cow – can produce marbled beef, so mating them with Wagyu sires should provide an excellent source of high-marbling beef with the desired meat and fat colour.
As a result of this project, New Zealand beef will become prized globally as a high-quality, "centre of the plate" meat, much like the position New Zealand lamb already commands.
The sale of Wagyu burgers in the UK continue to gain momentum and promotional orders for steak cuts have also been received.
The number of matings for the 2015 year has surpassed 25,000 (target 19,500). AI matings within the dairy industry are up over 200% on the target for the year.
Following on from the success of the trial of a South Island Dairy Hub Manager, specialist North Island Dairy Hub staff have now been employed.
A Regional Producer Group Hub has now been established in the South Island, adding to those existing in the Lower North Island, Central North Island, the East Coast and Northland.
Returns to shareholders have continued to exceed prime steer prices, and is achieving the targeted year round price of $6 per kg. The average Marble Score of 4.9 from April to September 2015 is 1.1 MBS units higher than the same period in 2014. The long term sustainable Wagyu offering continues to attract farmers.
Programme start: August 2012 Length: 7 years PGP funding: $11 million Industry funding: $12 million Crown funding paid out to programme for work done to 30 November 2016: $4,855,033.86 Commercial partners: Firstlight Foods Ltd, Brownrigg Agriculture Group Ltd Estimated potential economic benefits to NZ: $95 million per year by 2025
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