The Scenic Rim is fast becoming known as a world leader in wagyu genetics and breeding, thanks to significant ongoing investment in the Kerry Valley.
The historic Shamrock Vale Station, about 15 minutes out of Beaudesert, is now home to Australia’s original Goshu Wagyu herd, and its owners have a vision to keep investing locally to ensure their position as international market leaders.
The man behind the investment and the vision is prominent Australian businessman Robert McVicker. Mr McVicker purchased Shamrock Vale Station about five years ago, in his first foray into farming.
He went on to buy the complete, 300-head Goshu Wagyu stud and genetic stocks from industry pioneer Barbara Benjamin, who had spent more than 20 years carefully developing her herd in Victoria and had earned a global reputation for excellence. Ms Benjamin has stayed on as a consultant.
Goshu Wagyu clients include leading Australian premium beef production company Jack’s Creek Beef, which won ‘World’s Best Steak Producer’ in 2015 and 2016, ‘ World’s Best Fillet Steak’ in 2017 and took home a swag of medals in the 2018 World Steak Challenge. Jack’s Creek also won gold medals in the Australian Wagyu Association 2018 Wagyu Branded Beef Competition awards, with all entries sired by Goshu Wagyu bulls.
Shamrock Vale Station now spans about 5000 acres across three properties, including the original home station, established in 1875, as well as the recently acquired organic Shamrock Vale West and the neighbouring Benwerrin Lodge.
There are 10 staff across the three properties, with a vision to eventually expand the team through an on-site genetics centre and an organic honey extraction and bottling facility. Agri-tourism is also on the cards, with a range of potential projects in the pipeline.
Station Manager James Matts said the future was exciting and full of promise.
“The biggest thing is having secured those genetics – that’s the core focus of our business today, those Goshu genetics,” he said.
“It’s simple that once you’ve got those genetics you can building the infrastructure around that for job creation and business growth. We’ll look to employ geneticists, vets, lab staff etc.”
Mr Matts praised local businesses for their support and customer service.
“Our preference is to use local businesses, and we can’t speak highly enough of Elders Beaudesert, for example. Our agronomist Brendan Magee and our livestock production specialist Mark Meldrum have just gone above and beyond for us – we could ring up at 8 o’clock on a Friday night and get an answer,” he said.
“To quote Brendan, ‘The finest marblers deserve the finest pastures,’ and he is certainly providing the finest level of service to us.
“Dr Courtney Stevens from the Scenic Rim Veterinary Service does a terrific job for us, Dover & Sons look after our irrigation work and Hayes & Co Auctioneers and Beaudesert Gates & Steel also come out regularly. If we outsource any mechanical work it’s through local operators, and any contractors we get in are through the local networks because that district knowledge is invaluable. Everything we need, day-to-day requirements and beyond, is at our doorstep, and that’s what makes the Scenic Rim great.”
Mr McVicker said going forward, investing in genomics would be key to giving Goshu Wagyu the market edge.
“We are genomically testing, recording and analysing the data from our wagyu and identifying our top producers to then confirm our elite cows so we can focus on that top 10 per cent,” he said.
“Wagyu are all about marbling, and the marbling score, at the end of the day. Under the current system, it’s a bit of hit and miss. You can follow your bloodlines and you can look at the sires you use and say in all probability that when the progeny go to the abattoir they’ll be a nine-plus marbling or a six or whatever it might be, but genomics eliminates the guess work and gives you the live probability of marbling score. It’s critical, I think, for the future of the wagyu industry, to know well in advance.
“We’re looking for the edge, and genomics will help with our genetics sales. Whilst we get very strong and good enquiries and sales from overseas – the likes of Asia and Europe – the genomic testing will help set us apart. Goshu is well-known for industry benchmarking and we aim to keep that going.”
Mr Matts said the vision was to build Shamrock Vale Station’s success gradually, for lasting economic benefits in the region.
“Robert looked at this and saw the opportunity. He’s got vision beyond vision and he looks at the big picture and what’s on the way 10 years down the track – not just what’s in front of us today. He sees unlimited potential and opportunity in our people, our livestock and our assets,” he said.
“To see the return on wagyu, you don’t look at next year’s return on trade cattle prices, or the year after, you’re looking four to six years down the track. Shamrock Vale, as a business model and entity, is always evolving and the only way to look at it is what it’s going to be in five to 10 years’ time. It’s about what’s being created for future generations, effectively.”