Wagyu Beef Adds a New Dimension to Swainsons at How End

The Wagyu dairy herd cross store breeding and ranching adds a third dimension to their business for the Swainson, How End, Thursby, Carlisle family.

The family operates 700 acres on two farms, milking 350 calving cows year round, along with 450 other young heads.

“We are quite happy with the number of cows we are raising, which produce 3.5 million liters of milk for sale,” said John Swainson, the third generation in the family to farm at How End since 1942.

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John (Craig) operates a farm with his wife Anne, his parents John and Margaret and his uncle Gordon. Son Johnny (Patrick) studied agriculture and business administration at Harper Adams University College and, with the Covid-19 restrictions ending his travel plans, he returned home to work.

“We sell cows privately and at a few production sales at Wigton Mart each year. There appears to be a good demand for crossbreed cows with returning buyers who specifically ask for them.

“We’ve always had a bottom percentage of the herd from calf to beef bull and the use of sexed semen and Wagyu pretty much means that every calf born has a market. This fits with our milk buyer, Arla, and her “every calf has a value” campaign.

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“The system is a victory for the consumer because it solves the problem of unwanted dairy bulls; a victory for us because each calf has a viable future; and a win for Warrendale Wagyu because she can grow her business, ”added John.

Bulling heifers receive two services with sexed semen and are then driven with a Wagyu stock bull, which replaced the previously used Holstein sweeper bull.

Dairy cows are inseminated with high genomic Holstein semen sexed up to 100 days in milk, then either sexed Norwegian Red or Wagyu up to 150 days – after which only Wagyu is used. This way they hope to get our replacement heifer from our most fertile cows.

“We use several different Wagyu bulls recommended by Warrendale Wagyu and supplied by Genus. They calve easily and appear to have above average fertility, ”John said.

All calves are reared in a new specially designed ventilated unit on an automatic calf feeder, installed 2.5 years ago, which takes 100 calves, or in groups of six on a milk feeder.

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“Since we built the new calf housing and installed the automatic feeders, the whole rearing system has improved – we have improved our colostrum management and are trying to give all calves a good start during their lifetimes. first three months, ”John said. “Wagyu calves are aggressive drinkers and they thrive and do well in both systems.”

“Calves are weaned at 10 weeks when, along with dairy heifers, they are fed an ad libitum diet of 16% mixture and hay. sense of doing them well. ”

In winter, the majority of the young animals are housed at the 240-acre Fisher Gill Farm in Aikton, a former dairy farm four miles away that was purchased two years ago.

Wagyu calves have at least one summer on the grass when supplemented with 1.5 kg per day / head of the 16% mixture.

Johnny, who runs his own Kerry Hill flock of sheep, said: “We are paid a fixed price per weight based on a matrix system which takes market volatility out of the system. Initially, the Wagyu premium was substantial, although beef prices have increased over the past year, this premium has declined.

“However, the fixed pricing of the Warrendale system allows us to plan by knowing what the price will be when we choose to sell livestock, which we have not been used to as farmers in the past.”

John added, “Johnny and I both love working with cattle. The Wagyu are pleasant to work with and have a very good temperament. There are more positives than negatives with the system.

“Currently we have 160 head of Wagyu on the farm, the most we have had. Of these, 120 have just been tested TB before being sold to finishers.

“In the future, we would like to expand our housing to accommodate the Wagyu until the end. The taste quality of Wagyu beef is greatly affected by the level of marbling of the meat.

“There seems to be particular genetics, food types and feeding systems that can influence this marbling, so it would be interesting to work with Warrendale to produce the best animal possible,” added John.

The farm grows over 200 acres of grain, including 80 acres of whole winter wheat grown for dairy cows and the rest of winter and spring barley combined.

Corn was grown until five years ago, but was taken out of the rotation when weed control, growing costs, and damage to soil structure at harvest made the entire crop. a more attractive option.

The Swainsons have been involved in countryside stewardship programs for 30 years and currently have ‘mid-level’ programs running on both farms, which involved creating a large pond, planting more of 100 deciduous trees in the hedges, the planting of 15 acres of wild bird seed, the roofing of three silage pits and the erection of several kilometers of sheepnets to protect the hedges.

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