John Hourigan is a beef farmer from Donard in Co. Wicklow, who has been in the business of producing Wagyu beef for the past eight years.
The farm was originally a traditional suckler farm with Limousin and Charolais cattle, but John developed a real passion for Wagyu beef when he first experienced it while abroad a number of years ago.
The Hourigan’s farm ‘Ridgwway Wagyu‘ keeps a herd of purebred Wagyu cattle as well as F1, or first-cross Wagyu cattle.
In recent times, to add more F1-Wagyu cattle to his herd, John has been offering a deal to beef and dairy farmers.
On a recent trip to Ridgeway Wagyu, John explained to Agriland: “What we do now is we supply selected Wagyu semen to both suckler and dairy farmers.
“The agreement is that we will provide the Wagyu genetics via the AI straw on the condition that we buy the calf back at an agreed age and price after it is born.
“We buy back the calves at approximately 21 days-of-age from most dairy farmers that we deal with. Alternatively, some dairy farmers rear them until weaning stage.”
Suckler farmers generally keep the Wagyu-cross calves until weaning stage or yearlings, depending on their system.
“It all depends on what suits the farmer and we agree on the price beforehand,” John added.
John noted that in suckler herds, Angus or Shorthorn cows make a great cross to their Wagyu bull genetics and in dairy herds, he tends to prefer British-Friesian cows in the mix.
Once calves have been reared to the agreed stage, they return to Ridgeway Wagyu where they are reared on primarily grazed grass until they reach slaughter age.
John noted that Wagyu cattle are a quiet breed and are similar in both temperament and Food Conversion Efficiency (FCE) to an Angus cross “They are easy calving also,” he added.
“Over the years we have been working to improve the genetics in our Wagyu herd.
“An animal that has the right genetics and is bred by the right sort of Wagyu bull will have a unique taste. It’s not easy, you have to fine tune it. It’s not just as simple as getting any old Wagyu bull.”
Continuing, the Wicklow Wagyu beef farmer explained: “The marbling gene generally doesn’t kick in until the animal is about 30 months of age, however, it can kick in sooner in good genetics but is more prevalent after 30 months. With our genetics we aim to reduce this.”
When finishing the Wagyu beef cattle, they are offered a ration which includes olives.
John explained that when olives are in the Wagyu cattle’s diet, it adds to the flavour of the beef.
“We buy the olives and feed them to the beef cattle and it works. We’re very happy with the product that we sell to our customers online.”
Concluding, John expressed optimism that he and his wife Michelle could further develop and improve the genetics of the cattle in Ridgeway Wagyu’s herd.
Farmers who are interested in finding out more can contact Ridgeway Wagyu via e-mail at [email protected]