Grass Cattle Company
Grass Cattle Co is owned and operated by Rob Cumine, who lives and works in Wales. Grass Cattle Co operates its own herd of Fullblood Wagyu cattle under the prefix of Tyddewi. Rob also has a partnership with longtime friend Will Prichard in the branded beef line Natural Wagyu Ltd. In this partnership they have established a Holstein x Wagyu F1 program, and sell Wagyu beef under their own branded beef label. The partnership began on a whim in 2008, over a dinner of Wagyu and wine in North Pembrokeshire, Wales. The partnership aimed to work backward from plate to paddock, looking first at what would be the target market for the beef, then developing the supply chain to produce it. Rob said they have a very targeted market with the average consumer in the U.K. “not even picking up anything of a marble score six or greater and has a heavy preference for grass fed beef.” With this end market in mind, Rob and Will collaborated to establish a business that worked with both partners strengths to provide a premium product for this market. Rob, as Grass Cattle Co, currently provides the fullblood Wagyu genetics from his Tyddewi Wagyu herd, and Will and his family business farm an F1 contract for Natural Wagyu to produce the beef. The resulting grass fed F1 Wagyu beef is marketed under the label Natural Wagyu and the majority sells through Whole Foods grocery stores in the United Kingdom.
One of Rob’s strengths that the Natural Wagyu partnership utilizes is his background in premium food retail. Recently, Rob had 5 yrs. of experience in supply chain management of the red meat department for a major premium food retailer in the U.K. The U.K. commercial beef market has no premiums for meat quality, therefore Rob’s background has been integral for developing the branded beef line (Natural Wagyu) and the market (Whole Foods grocery stores) used to market their beef.
Will, on the other hand, has a strong background in the opposite end of the supply chain: live cattle management and grazing. Will’s family owns and operates a 1,200 cow seasonal grazing dairy herd. The farm consists of 647 hectares (1,600 acres) in North Pembrokeshire, Wales with the land rising from about 200ft to 900ft above sea level. Will’s experience in growing premium grass for grazing and the management of the dairy herd are utilized to raise their F1 Wagyu cattle from birth to slaughter. The F1 Wagyu are entirely grass fed and finished. With such a large demand, the Natural Wagyu partnership is now contracting out fullblood bulls and semen to other dairy producers for grass fed Wagyu.
One of the major obstacles that he had to address in developing their plate to paddock plan was the extremely high cost of land in the U.K. This cost made it essentially impossible to plan on running traditional cow-calf beef pairs, as is common around the world. The solution was to use Will’s dairy herd to make F1 Wagyu x Holstein-Fresian calves, to then raise and finish on grass for beef. They have used both AI and natural service to breed the dairy cattle to Wagyu sires for F1 production. F1 cattle work well for their target market because a BMS 4-5 is a very achievable goal on F1 Wagyu.
Rob had a plan in place to target a BMS 4-5 on grass fed and finished F1 Wagyu cattle using Will’s dairy herd to produce the cattle. The focus then shifted to securing the Wagyu portion of the business plan. Rob had first bought a few Wagyu cattle that he had seen advertised in a newspaper. However, he soon realized they were only percentage Wagyu and not ideal for making F1 calves and they were sold. Rob then managed to purchase a total of about ten fullblood Wagyu cows in the U.K. to use for the business.
Rob, at this point began to realize that the fullblood Wagyu genetics available in the U.K. were very limited. It was around this same time that Rob had the opportunity arise to move and work in Australia for a large super market chain. Rob saw this as a great way to also source better genetics for their growing Wagyu business from top herds in Australia. Grass Cattle Co made the decision to develop a nucleus herd in Australia of top notch fullblood Wagyu to export genetics from to the U.K. and improve their predominantly F1 business there. This fullblood herd of cattle is operated under the prefix of Tyddewi Wagyu.
In 2015 Grass Cattle Co purchased its first fullbood cattle in Australia at the Inaugural Elite Wagyu Sale, including four elite Westholme females in the sale, sired by Westholme Hiramichi Tsuru, Westholme B0039, Westholme Namiharu, and Westholme D0965. These elite females have been used as donors to form the base of the nucleus herd. Rob says he has been fortunate that these elite females still rank among the top of the breed in EBVs and now with the development of genomics their offspring are testing extremely well gnomically. However, Grass Cattle Co made the investment in proven Westholme genetics purposefully knowing it would minimize the risk.
A year later, in the 2016 Elite Wagyu Sale, Grass Cattle Co made another purchase that it saw as a great investment in the future; purchasing 10 straws of semen at $3,000/straw from the leading sire Mayura Itoshigenami JNR. Grass Cattle Co used this semen to flush three of the top Westholme females purchased the year before. They had great flush results and conception rates on transfers and now have a total of 20 live, yearling Mayura Itoshigenami JNR calves on the ground in Australia. Rob is extremely excited about these and is eager to have them form the base of their herd moving forward. Of the 20 calves, ten are heifers (still registration pending) and ten are bulls. Grass Cattle Co sold one of these bulls in the November Premium Wagyu Sale and he topped the sale, selling for $48,000 AUD to an American buyer.
Grass Cattle Co’s small nucleus herd in Australia is operating under the prefix Tyddewi and is gathering an astounding number of animals with top 1% EBVs and Indexes. Most are sired by Mayura Itoshigenami JNR and these young animals look especially exciting when you consider they are genomic enhanced EBVs already achieving accuracies over 60%. The elite EBVs are not their only attraction either, with amazing pedigrees consisting of top proven sires from the Westholme herd and more making up the foundation of the herd. For example, the bull Tyddewi N4431 is in the top 1% for all three Indexes at $241SRI/ $203FTI/ $187F1TI. This young bull also is in the top 1% for Eye Muscle Area, Marble Score, and Marble Fineness. His pedigree is impressive with Mayura Itoshigenami JNR x Westholme D0965 (Yasufuku Jr son) x Westholme Kitateruyasudoi “003” x the foundation cow Yoshifuji 8.
Another Westholme foundation female they are working with offspring from is the famous Hatsuhi cow. She is known for being one of the best Tottori/ Kedaka females to have left Japan. The Hatsuhi maternal line has produced popular and successful sires such as Kitahatsuhi 97/1, Longford F E0241, Westholme Hiramichi Tsuru, Peppermill Grove D139, and Goorambat Doublesixty K473 among others. One of the females purchased from the 2015 Elite Wagyu Sale, Westholme K5236 is from this maternal line. Grass Cattle Co sold her in the last (2018) Elite Wagyu Sale, where she brought $22,000 AUD. Rob says they are currently working with offspring from her by Mayura Itoshigenami JNR and Sumo Cattle Co Michifuku F126. The bull that Grass Cattle Co sold in the November Premium Wagyu Sale for $48,000 was her Mayura Itoshigenami JNR son. The offspring Tyddewi is working with possess an incredible pedigree of Mayura Itoshigenami JNR x Westholme Hiramichi Tsuru x TWA Shikikan x Westholme Kitateruyasudoi “003” x Westholme Itomoritaka “002” x the foundation cow Hatsuhi! A special pedigree with a bit of line breeding to Hatsuhi through Hiramichi Tsuru. The Hatsuhi maternal line is known for its growth while maintaining carcass traits. This crossed with Mayura Ithoshigenami JNR is truly one of a kind.
Pictured here is Tyddewi N7081, a Mayura Itoshigenami JNR son of Westholme K5236. He is a breed leading young sire, currently the highest Fullblood Terminal Indexed son of Itoshigenami JNR at $213. N7081 is a complete bull combining positive growth traits, a MS EBV of 2.1, and an EMA EBV of 3.0. He is even currently the 4th highest bull on Fullblood Terminal Index that has been tested free of all recessives. His picture shows he is a correct and phenotypically impressive bull for only being 15 months of age.
Grass Cattle Co has taken the time to source elite genetics and form them into an impressive young herd with extremely strong pedigrees and EBVs. Rob says that Grass Cattle Co’s goal with their elite genetics is to collect and send semen and embryos from the top animals back to the U.K. to improve the F1 Natural Wagyu program already in operation. Maintaining the elite nucleus herd in Australia helps maximize the value of the genetics by allowing Rob access to the large Australian Wagyu genetics market and the ability to utilize cutting edge Australian genetics in his breeding program. A huge advantage given Australia is one of the top countries in the world for Wagyu genetics.
The Natural Wagyu F1 program back in the U.K. looks to utilize these top genetics to help improve the program in a variety of ways. Currently, they are slaughtering between four and six head per week and these cattle are anywhere from 30-36 months of age at slaughter. The cattle are entirely grass fed and finished and average a BMS of 4-5 at this time. Rob says he has a goal of reducing age at slaughter to 24 months and still maintaining the BMS of 4-5, while also possibly seeing gains in EMA and Marble Fineness along the way. The Mayura Itoshigenami JNR sons in Australia are just reaching collection age and soon will have semen collected and exported to the U.K. for use to help achieve these goals.
The new year is full of opportunity for Grass Cattle Co and Natural Wagyu in the U.K. and the Wagyu industry with a strong demand for their beef. While looking to stay focused on the main business of selling grass fed and finished Wagyu beef to the U.K. consumer, they also see other opportunities. Such as, currently shipping their grass-fed Wagyu beef regularly to a long-term customer in Hong Kong, and the recent sale of their bull in the November Premium Wagyu Sale. This recent sale shows there is a demand for the elite genetics they are developing within their Australian nucleus herd. Pay attention to what Grass Cattle Co and Natural Wagyu does in 2019 and beyond, because it will involve their top-notch genetics and premium branded beef products!