CHICONI GRAZING CONTINUES TO BUILD WAGYU EMPIRE AT MUNGALLALA
The Chiconi Grazing team; Noel, Sam, Gary, Hailey, Jessie and Jo-Anne Chiconi with staff member Nikki King (back). Picture: Lucy Kinbacher
WHEN beef producers Noel and Jo-Anne Chiconi moved their 2000 head of grey Brahmans cows with them from North Queensland to Mungallala in 2003, they considered themselves open range cattle breeders running a simple, yet viable, operation.
Now, they are entering their third year as ‘Wagyu breeders’ with a focus on their genetic traits.
The Chiconi family currently run 6500 head on their 34,000 hectare property with a herd of full-blood and pure-bred Wagyus, a F1 herd, plus a commercial black Angus herd.
Some of their pure bred and full blood herd.
Their commercial cattle are turned-off as grass fed bullocks dressing 340kg, while the F1 and Wagyu herd are sold at 300kg live weight.
They have recently finished their first artificial insemination program with 54 heifers along with two embryo flushes of six donor cows, as they begin shifting to a registered female Wagyu breeding program.
"It’s a whole different concept to get the best eating experience out of a piece of meat," Mr Chiconi said.
Having traveled to Japan in September last year with the Australian Wagyu Association, Noel and Jo-Anne along with their son Gary and wife Jessie, know the sort of beast they want to breed and spend a lot of time researching animal traits and breeding values.
Jessie Chiconi said they aimed to breed a high growth and marbling beast in the top one per cent of Wagyu traits.
Noel and Jo-Anne Chiconi.
But she said it was the eating experience they were really striving to deliver.
“There are a few calves in the AI program, if they are successful, they will be +1.1 for marbling and be high growth as well,” she said.
“At the end of the day a lot of people breed for type, these cattle are not about type. There are some really nice of Wagyu cattle getting around, but that’s not what the game is about.
“It’s all about the meat and creating that meat without knowledge of what it is going to be before it’s slaughtered. It’s a big process and a lot of thinking goes in towards the steak.”
Some of the Chiconi weaners.
The family will sell their first full-blood and pure-bred turn off by November having previously sold F1 live export cattle to Japan.
While they didn’t see them during their visit, Noel Chiconi said they took away many valuable experiences including a visit to a meat market in Tokyo where carcasses were sold individually.
The family are taking samples from their cows and calves for the University of Queensland to genotype their cattle's exact genetic makeup.
“We saw various carcasses of full-blood and F1s (Wagyu/Holstein) up to 800kg dressed,” he said. “The top price we saw at the meat market was $28,000 Australian money for a carcass.”
“As the world population increase the people that can afford to have a good eating experience, I think there is no worry (selling the product), we won’t be able to produce enough in Australia," Mr Chiconi said.
Mr Chiconi never expected to be a Wagyu breeder himself.
He said while the premium cut was expensive per kilogram, the small quantity you needed to satisfy your appetite made it worth while.