Grant & Kate Webb
Grant and Kate Webb’s farm backs onto the beautiful Rangitikei River between Bulls and Sanson, about 20 minutes west of Feilding.
Their original farm is a 155ha (effective) beef property and in June 2017 they added a neighbouring 250ha dairy farm; this has a manager looking after 600 cows with autumn and spring calving.
The two properties are run under the same partnership, but Grant takes the dry stock and heifers onto the beef farm for grazing.
“We have a ‘grass factory’ of approximately 400ha and try to utilise every square metre of grass the best we can,” he says.
He has a mixed bag of beef options on the farm, which gives the Webbs diversity in both market and price, as well as added flexibility. There are two age groups of everything - 120 Friesian bulls, 120 Wagyu steers and heifers and about 80 white-face Herefords.
“The Herefords are our safety valve in case the season is tough or something else happens. We don’t want all our eggs in one basket so we’ve diversified to have both dairy and beef options.”
Under the First Light Wagyu system, the Webbs are breeder finishers.
“We live next to my parents’ runoff, which is 60ha, where I look after their 130 Friesian heifers. We put them all to a Wagyu bull and take that progeny and rear them on the beef block and take them through to finish.”
Kate helps with the calves where she can, but is busy with their three children – Leo, Cruz, and Emmi – and teaches part time.
Grant says it was talking to an old school friend, Scott Linklater, about Wagyu that first got him involved with First Light.
“He said they were a good beef animal and I was looking for options to stock the beef farm, as opposed to buying older stock. It was such a waste to put those Friesian heifers to a Jersey bull and just get bobby calves. I wanted greater sustainability, which we have; there is value in the calves and I get a steady supply of stock for the beef unit.”
The Webbs are a relatively closed operation.
“All progeny are taken from my parents’ dairy farm 10 minutes away, and reared through to finishing which allows us to eliminate bobby calves. We’re not as susceptible to the market. We know what we’re getting well in advance.”
Grant enjoys being part of the First Light family.
“Their Spring Muster is really well done. It’s a good confidence builder, getting people together talking about Wagyu, especially the newer ones like us talking to the farmers who have been involved for longer. It’s a great concept. Everyone seems to have buy-in and talks about how best to grow the Wagyu and what strategies we need to employ to add value and produce a high-end product.
“They’re always looking to do things better… and so are we. We are always trying to get more information and find out how other people are doing things. That’s one of the great things about being part of the First Light programme.”