Meet the quiet heroes in the King River Wagyu value chain
Lotus Park Feedlot is one in the chain of feedlots throughout northern Queensland that host our Wagyu beef cattle for 100 – 300 days. Lotus Park, in the good hands of third-generation owners the Kemp family, provides a great example of how a feedlot should operate to produce consistent, premium quality Wagyu products.
In a recent interview with Harry Kemp, Lotus Park Feedlot Manager, we gathered some wisdom about why they do what they do. It’s not so much about chasing the latest and greatest in technology, or about volume and profitability.
The conversation revealed a strong culture of excellence in doing even the smallest and most mundane tasks, and in investing in people who are happiest when caring for the animals, doing everything in their power to keep them calm and healthy. Harry explained,
“It really comes down to the people that work here and that they feel part of the family, so to speak – people taking pride in what they do and caring about the outcomes.”
All King River cattle spend the majority of their lives roaming huge tropical northern Australian pastures, freely grazing on rich grasses. But as a country that can experience massive swings in climate – from drought conditions to flooding rains, and everything in between, grass condition can and does change. The feedlot becomes an essential part of ensuring the cattle reach the same standard of healthy growth, no matter what time of year they enter the feedlot.
Under the watchful eye of the consulting nutritionist, feed is formulated and adjusted to transition the cattle onto a grain-based diet. The simple beauty of finishing Wagyu on steam-flaked grain delivers optimal energy, adjusted with trace elements, minerals and fibre for maximum nutrition. It is the reason that King River’s discerning customers can count on consistently perfect marbling and flavour in every product.
Harry is the first to say that the steam-flaked ‘porridge’ is expensive to produce flawlessly and takes intensive maintenance, a full inventory of spares and expert technicians available 24/7 year-round to keep it that way. But at Lotus Park, capital and maintenance is always a worthwhile long-term investment. They don’t compromise on any aspect, to make sure the process is smooth and seamless, and that the cattle receive the best possible standard of feed with no interruptions.
Through the cooking and rolling process, steam-flaking grain maximises the surface area of grain exposed to rumen microbes. Heat and moisture treatment softens the grain, improves the digestibility of the starch and unlocks more energy from the grain.
The nutritional mix gives the cattle optimal energy levels for growth and at the same time allows the herds to be active without extending themselves too far, housed in shady large pens, with plenty of room to move, buck, lie down and play.
The stress-free feedlot life for King River Wagyu
Keeping each beast as calm and happy as possible is the Lotus Park mantra. As well as the feed expertise, that means that every contact with animals is planned, precise and executed with meticulous attention to detail. Every team member’s job is important to the welfare of the beasts – from the truck driver who maintains high standards in transporting the animals, to the pen riders who physically move through every pen every day to check that each animal is fed, properly socialised and has access to clean water and space to express normal behaviour.
Good farmers have always known that animal welfare is a key factor in producing good beef. Science has only ‘caught up’ fairly recently to the point where stress can be quantified as a quality factor in the beef product.
Feedlots – playing their part in the upcycling economy
Aussie farmers are the last people to boast about their accomplishments – they much prefer to get on with the job. But their story deserves to be told – and King River’s customers deserve to understand the origin of their Wagyu meat.
An Aussie feedlot like Lotus Park predominantly uses agricultural by-products for their feed mixes, using non-human consumption grains, cottonseed and molasses, to name a few products. These simple and complex starches and lower-grade proteins are converted through cattle feeding into the highest quality beef protein, sought after all around the world.
This is a great example of upcycling crop by-products that were once discarded or had a really low value, using them instead to produce valuable export-quality products that are in high demand. The manure produced is composted and used in the cropping program on the farm, completing the cycle.
The Lotus Park difference
Meticulous maintenance, exemplary animal welfare and no compromises on quality and consistency at every step all have one thing in common – none of it happens without the all-in, heartfelt commitment of dedicated staff.
At Lotus Park, the relatively small crew of 15 is a family in all the ways that count. There’s no such thing as ‘closed’ – the facility and the surrounding farmed crops are operating continuously. And while they do use available technology and automation to assist in some aspects of feedlot management, it’s their expertise in their roles, their animal handling skills and the attitude of genuine devotion to the beasts that shines through. The job is hands on for each and every person – and they love it.
As Harry commented,
“There are 27 operating mines within 100km of Lotus Park, and we’ll never compete on work conditions. But with staff staying on for decades, we know it’s because they truly love what they do. And that makes all the difference for our consumers.”