We finally found it dry aging in a meat room in France.
A new project
For a number of years we had been searching the world for a breed of cattle that would complement our Wagyu beef products. After discussions with our existing customers, we learnt that they were seeking pasture fed beef that exceeded existing products in texture, tenderness, flavour and importantly consistency.
On the farm we needed a breed that was large, robust and hardy, had a good constitution, high fertility to have a calf each year, and have good milking characteristics to raise a calf naturally.
This animal needed to have a good temperament and be quiet to handle, as we know that a happy contented and stress free cow makes great beef.
In 2011 when visiting our European meat distributor, we saw an incredible piece of Shellion dry aging in their cool room. It was the size of the loin and eye muscle that initially attracted our interest. Then we marvelled at the meat and fat texture, and the amount of intramuscular fat.
We started asking questions and confirmed it was pasture fed, how it was raised and where it was from. Before they shared all the information, they invited us back to their home for a barbecue lunch, bringing with them some steaks from the piece of meat we had admired. Upon eating the beef it confirmed all our hopes, the beef was tender, juicy and the flavour was unbelievable. It was only then that they told us the breed.
It was Rubia Gallega, originating from the Galicia region in Spain.
Begin the research
On returning to Australia we immediately started researching the breed, its history and if it was possible to import genetics of this breed to Australia. We learnt that Rubia Gallega is the most popular of seven native breeds’ indigenous to Spain.
We had considerable experience with pioneering the Wagyu breed in Australia and found we were met with similar obstacles with Rubia Gallega as we had with the Wagyu importation into Australia. Some farmers were reluctant to export the genetics and lobbied the Spanish Rubia Gallega Breed Association to restrict the export of the genetics. They wished to keep the breed exclusively for Spanish farmers. However like Wagyu, it was decided that the economic advantages to Spanish breeders by opening the Rubia Gallega breed and its beef to the world, opened the world to this great breed.
We arranged contacts in Spain and made a plan to source the best genetics, with the strongest history from the most successful breeders. We made contact with a prominent embryo vet Dr. Daniel Martinez Bello and Manager Puri Lopez Ramil of Embriovet and Embriomarket, whose guidance, knowledge, expertise and professionalism was outstanding. We based ourselves in the historical city of Santiago de Compostela in the North West of Spain and started visiting farms, breeders, the Artificial Insemination (AI) centre, abattoirs and restaurants.
One of the first things that surprised us were the amount of eucalyptus tree plantations in Galicia, they were everywhere. Then we saw that the terrain, climate, rainfall and pastures were very similar to our farming region at Alexandra, so we knew the cattle would adapt easily and perform on our farm.
The embryos selected come from breeders with a strong philosophy of breeding. Just to preserve the ancestral quality of the Rubia Gallega breed, such as maternal quality, milk production, dairy form and flat bone, and special attention to calving ease without renounce to high weaning weights and outstanding conformation. These farmers had chosen their foundational herds by searching and purchasing cows and bulls of very antique genealogy related with cattle used to work in the fields for hundreds of years. In parallel, special care was taken to keep the level of inbreeding at a minimum that is sometimes is an issue for breeders with small populations.
The lack of good data retrieval from bull proofs complicated the selection process. For this reason we visited farmers around the herds of origin who used many bulls in the AI stud to better select their genetic source for their breeding program, and preserving the most important qualities of the ancestral Rubia Gallega animals. We discovered calving ease is an important topic to consider when selecting Rubia Gallega animals. Despite their big mature size there is a great difference in birth weight and calving ability of dams between different genetic lines. Many herds pay special attention and care to the birth of the calves as a consequence of high birth weight.
The philosophy of the farms we selected was just the opposite. They want to breed animals that can do well by themselves while grazing, needing as little attention as possible. Special care in using calving ease bulls for heifers in this breed is mandatory. So after many generations of breeding in purity and with clear selection goals they had achieved the objective of healthy herds with plenty of good calving ability dams and good performance of calves.
The shipment arrives
After arranging donor quarantine, meeting the strict Australian health protocols, arranging the embryo collection and freezing, and the shipping of the embryos to Australia, the first of two shipments arrived in Australia in January 2017 and we started transferring the embryos into our surrogates with our first calves being born in October 2017. We imported embryos from 18 different donor cows and semen from five different sires.
In 2017, Rubia Gallega beef from Galicia in Spain had two winning entries in the World’s Best Beef Steak Challenge, cementing our choice to seek out and import this amazing breed into our program.
Now in 2021 after a ten year process, we will be offering the first Rubia Gallega beef, bred and produced in Australia.