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Farming Grass-fed Wagyu

Raising Wagyu cattle on grass is like most things in life — easy when you know how.

Our ingredients include great genetics, carefully designed systems and processes, quality feed all year round and most importantly, finely tuned specialist grass farmers. Here, you’ll get to meet some of them and learn what makes them tick, why they’ve chosen First Light and what they enjoy about working with our team.

But first, a little bit more about our animals. Back in the beginning, we started out with full blood Wagyu cattle and quickly worked out they are not well suited to a 100% grass-fed system. Today all First Light grass-fed Wagyu cattle are the progeny of full blood Wagyu bulls across one of two cow herd systems — traditional (predominantly Angus) beef cows, and New Zealand dairy (Friesian/Jersey cross — otherwise known as ‘Kiwi’) cows.

We looked all over the internet and couldn’t find any information on raising grass-fed beef cattle, so we decided to create some ourselves, and have shared it with you here. 

Mike & Kirsty Bodle, Braintra Farm

Mike and Kirsty Bodle have seen first-hand what it takes to get New Zealand Wagyu into global stores, and then hold onto market position. They’re back from a trip to the US with First Light, where customers can’t get enough of our highly marbled, premium 100% grass-fed beef.

Simon & Sandy McRae, Mt. Egremont

New to First Light, Simon and Sandy McRae chanced on our website one day, and now they’re waiting with excitement for their first results. The couple farm in Southland and say they were drawn by the stability and profitability of the premium First Light Wagyu programme.

Breeding – Wagyu x Angus

This is our breeding program for our hill country sheep and beef farmer. Full blood wagyu bulls are put out with Angus heifers and mixed age cows in Spring. 9 month’s later wagyu calves, known for their easy calving, are born and graze at foot with their mothers. Calves are weaned at 200kg or 6 months of age, they are mobbed up with their mates and either stay on farm or leave home for greener pastures.

Breeding – Wagyu x Dairy

This is our breeding program for our dairy farmers. Semen from full blood wagyu bulls is inseminated into Dairy cows. Calves are raised on farm, or in specialist high care calf rearing facilities (think crèche for calves) up to 90kg. When Wagyu*Dairy calves are weaned they either stay on farm or leave home for greener pastures.

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A Japanese family brought the Wagyu breed to New Zealand in 1994. Today Wagyu Breeders remains the only full blood wagyu stud in New Zealand. They are also probably the only full blood wagyu stud in the world focused on producing Wagyu Bulls, who’s progeny thrive on a grass-fed diet.

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Back when we raised full blood wagyu cattle on grass there was the chance they might out live the farmer before they were finished and ready to be processed. After 10 years fine tuning the recipe we can now raise our grass-fed wagyu cattle as fast, for the really good guys faster, than traditional cattle. Grass-fed wagyu cattle thrive on a diet of rye and white clover, with specialist green feed crops occasionally used on those farms that experience particularly dry summers or cold winters. Grass-fed wagyu farms are located throughout both islands of New Zealand, across a range of climates and soil types. First Light farmers work closely as a team to supply finished cattle all year round, cattle are weighed regularly and assessed for weight and condition to ensure only the best animals are selected for processing each week.