Cagayan De Oro, Philippines
The Wagyu Operations of the company was jump-started in May, 2000 when a small herd of twelve male and twelve female pure Wagyu cattle were imported into the Philippines from Australia. Until then, the two farms, Umalag and Sumilao, both in Bukidnon, were dedicated to the care and breeding of its registered Brahman cattle. While these are select animals themselves whose original herd came from Australia, a re-determination of the farms’ directions caused their ultimate output to be in the production of premium beef.
Having been pre-selected personally by the company’s farm manager from among the Wagyu herds of the Hammond Farms of Tasmania, Australia, those first twenty-four animals could boast of lineages of the Itohana, Takasakura, Fukutsuru—all revered lines for their marbling and large rib-eye area traits.
Management recognized the considerable initial challenge which was keeping the animals alive first and foremost. Being the temperate climate animals that they were, adaptation was key. And in order to ensure that the next generation of calves will be equipped not only to survive but to thrive in Bukidnon, cross-breeding was implemented between the pure Wagyu herd and the registered Brahman cows.
From sheer patience, willful single-mindedness and considered science, this program prospered and allowed for the furtherance of the Wagyu content of subsequent issues thus allowing the admirable traits of the Wagyu breed—marbling, flavor, tenderness etc—to emerge and at the same enjoy hardy adaptation to the rains and summers at the farms.
With the intention of enhancing the genetics even more, the first embryo transfer exercise was conducted in 2001. Although the harvest was modest, this infusion added characteristics from illustrious sires such as the Michifuku and Tajima. By then, the ranches had achieved enough confidence that the cross-breeding program was going to succeed.
With moderate expectations to achieve a marbling rating of 2 or at best 3 on the Japanese grading scale, especially since the fattening period was limited to merely 6 months, the initial and trial slaughters, to everyone’s surprise, were graded at 4 and 5.
Bolstered by the success of the cross-breeding program, which by then was already at the level of growing 75% to 80% Wagyu crosses, as well as the consequent improvement of marbling up to grades 7, another embryo transfer was conducted in 2009.
Also in 2009, all slaughters for Umalag Farms, Inc. began to be conducted in-house in its NMIS double AA Certified Slaughterhouse with its state of the art chiller rooms for dry-aging, walk-in freezers and other equipment.