The first embryo’s were imported from the Australian Westholme Wagyu to the farm of Domaine du Tilleul in 2005. The farm is a ten minutes drive away from the land and consists of 138 acres. Breeder Stéphan Heyse lives and works there. He is responsible for the daily care of the herd Wagyu’s. Wagyufrance is an intensive project of Johan Hemelaere, his brother Stefaan and breeder Stéphan. The team considers the aiming at top quality of paramount importance .
The instructions for the development of the wagyu meat take up an entire life route. They cover everything from the birth to the fattening up and even what to do after the slaughtering. Wagyu’s need to be raised in an unstressful, natural environment starting from the day they are born. The Holstein heifer of a farmer from Dentergem was selected as surrogate mother for the embryo’s. Wagyu’s only weigh thirty kilograms when they are born and because of this, it was always possible to have a natural birth. The newborn calves stay with their mother during the first six months. After this period, the bulls are castrated. The slow process of fattening them up is done with grass and a diet with little proteins until they are 2 years old. A strict and natural diet is of the uttermost importance because the feed determines the taste of the meat. During the last six months, the animals get a richer diet with appetizers like malt as so let the marbling take place in the deepest fibres of the meat. The animals are fit for slaughter when they are 30 to 33 months old. At this age, the animals weigh about 700 or 750 kilo. Once in the slaughterhouse, the animals get the change to lose some stress in the grasslands then they are slaughtered according to traditional methods. The meat needs to ripen for 21 à 24 days in the refrigerator. Then it’s cut to pieces and quickly frozen.
Beer and massages for the Wagyu: fact or fable?
Johan Hemelaere tells: "It’s of the uttermost importance that the cattle grow up in a relaxed atmosphere, but beer and massages? Those are pure fables. Japanese farmers once served beer as appetizer. Because of a shortage of grasslands to pasture the cattle, the animals were sent to the barn when fattening up. The fact that Wagyu’s got bored there and thus lost their appetite, doesn’t surprise me. Even Western farmers served their cattle malt as to rouse the lust. The myth about the massage goes back to the life of Japanese cattle in the barn. To improve the comfort and relieve the stress, the animals were brushed with rice stalks. This also improved the construction of the fat and the meat.”