Originating from Asia, Bos Indicus breeds of cattle are a natural fit for humid, tropical regions like northern Australia. Their slick, short haired coats and naturally occurring chemicals in their sweat repel cattle ticks and other parasites. Some Bos Indicus breeds also produce a chemical in their tails, so that when they swat flies, they are also applying their own insect repellent.
Bos Indicus cattle generally have a larger frame and longer legs which allows them to easily cover the large and sparse areas of land in search of food and water – they are also natural foragers which makes them adaptable to harsh drought conditions.
Cattle with Bos Indicus bloodlines can be distinguished by a hump on their back, which sits across their shoulders. This is a fat store kept for tough times, similar to a camel. They also have large, floppy ears and dewlap (the saggy skin in front of their briskets) which help to keep the cattle cool.
Common breeds include
- Santa Gertrudis
- Brangus (a cross of Angus and Brahman)
- Braford (a cross of Hereford and Brahman)
Bos Taurus cattle originated in Europe and are often referred to as ‘British breeds’ – they prefer more temperate climates and as such are mostly found in the Southern regions of Australia. They have thicker coats to weather cooler winters and do not have the notable 'hump' of their Bos Indicus relatives.
With a smaller frame, they mature more quickly and grow muscle bulk more rapidly that their Bos Indicus cousins.
Arguably the best known Bos Taurus breed is the Angus, which originates from Scotland. The Angus is a breed that carries remarkable adaptability and quality genetics and they are regularly used to strengthen other breeds of cattle through crossbreeding.
Common breeds include
- Murray Grey
Wagyu is a Japanese breed of cattle derived from native Asian cattle – ‘Wa’ means Japanese and ‘gyu’ means cattle. Despite their Asian cattle origins, they are actually classified as Bos Taurus.
Wagyu were used for centuries in Japan as hardworking draft animals, selected for their physical endurance – the large amounts of intramuscular fat cells provided a readily available source of energy.
Australia now has the largest Wagyu heard outside Japan although 80-90% of domestic production is exported. Traditionally, wagyu are raised on pasture and then spend a considerable amount of time in high tech feedlots – anywhere from a year through to 600 days; wagyu production is therefore a considerably longer process than grass fed or grain fed beef.
Wagyu is unsurpassed for its marbling which results in tender and juicy beef with rich textures and flavour. Wagyu tends to have a softer fat composition and a finer meat texture than other beef.