Stone Axe Pastoral claims 2020 Wagyu branded beef crown

Jon Condon, 16/05/2020

Eye muscle image captured by the Meat Image Japan camera from the 2020 Australian Wagyu Association branded beef competition grand champion, exhibited by Stone Axe Pastoral Co.

AUSTRALIA’S largest Wagyu branded beef competition concluded yesterday, with first-time exhibitor, Stone Axe Pastoral Co claiming the grand championship with a Fullblood Wagyu entry.

This year’s competition hosted by the Australian Wagyu Association attracted a record 31 entries across Fullblood, Crossbred and Commercial (marbling score 5-7) Wagyu classes. In total the competition awarded 14 gold medals, and 28 gold, silver and bronze medals in total.

Entries came from Queensland, NSW, Western Australia and Tasmania. All entries were chiller assessed using the Japanese MIG imaging camera.

Stone Axe’s championship-winning entry, scoring 799 points out of a possible 910, produced an intra-muscular fat (marbling) percentage of 39pc, digital marbling fineness score of 58.4, and eye muscle area of 92sq cm, at a slaughter age of 30 months.

The entry received a barley-based ration over 450 days including molasses, cottonseed, cereal straw almond hulls and corn silage at the Yarranbrook feedlot neat Inglewood, on the Southern Darling Downs. Stone Axe last year took a 50pc stake in the Yarranbrook feedlot developed over the past 40 years by the Hart family, which provides a service kill for Stone Axe at its John Dee export abattoir near Warwick.

The winning entry carried Westholme paternal genetics, and Stone-Axe’s own maternal Fullblood lines.

Scott Richardson

Stone Axe managing director, Scott Richardson said his company was humbled and excited to be crowned 2020 AWA branded beef champion.

“This is great recognition for all the blood, sweat and tears that have gone in over the last couple of years. I can honestly say this was not on our target list last year, when we were all going through the drought and fires,” he said.

“But through the dedicated of the Stone Axe team and support of our shareholders and investors, we continue to build our business, which we now operate in WA, Victoria, Queensland and NSW.

“This result would not be possible without the dedication of our great team,” he said

Stone Axe was founded in 2015 by Matt Walker, whose father Chris was one of the pioneers of the Australian Wagyu industry through his Westholme Wagyu and importing Fullblood animals from Japan, before selling the herd to AA Co in 2016.

The company’s vision is to build one of the world’s largest ultra-premium Fullblood Wagyu herds, and currently runs around 4000 Fullblood breeders in four states.

In 2017 Stone Axe received a cash injection from Roc Partners, a spin-off of Macquarie Group’s private markets business. Roc’s investment has helped the company accelerate growth through herd acquisitions and organic growth, using embryo transfer, artificial insemination and natural breeding.

Last year Stone Axe took equity in the Hart family’s Yarranbrook feedlot near Inglewood, on the Queensland/NSW border, where it now feeds many of its cattle. Another recent Stone Axe transaction was a 10-year lease of a 6486ha Cobunga cattle property in Victoria, bought last year by Rural Funds Management.

A record eight entries were received in this year’s AWA Fullblood Wagyu branded beef class.

Other gold medal winners in the Fullblood class included:

  • Mayura Station, Millicent SA: Mayura Signature Series
  • Mort & Co, Toowoomba QLD: Master Selection
  • Stockyard, Brisbane QLD: Kiwami
  • Rangers Valley, Glen Innes NSW: Rangers Valley Infinite

A panel of 16 judges, including Beef Central’s Jon Condon, appraised this year’s entries in April, judging on tenderness, juiciness, flavour and overall liking in the cooked state, and visual raw appearance.

Crossbred class

Crowned champion in the crossbred Wagyu class this year was a purebred entry from Jack’s Creek Wagyu in NSW.

Producing an IMF of 34pc and marbling fineness score of 58.6, the steer was fed 400 days at the MacNamee family’s Lemontree feedlot on Queensland’s Darling Downs, and processed at Northern Cooperative Meat Co, Casino.

Other gold medallists in this year’s crossbred class included:

  • Stockyard, Brisbane QLD: Stockyard Black
  • Pardoo Beef Corp, Perth WA: Okan Wagyu
  • Jack Wagyu: Lewis Olive-fed Wagyu
  • Poll Wagyu, Smithton, TAS: Poll Wagyu
  • Mort & Co, Toowoomba QLD: Master Selection

Commercial Wagyu class

This year’s Commercial Wagyu class, designed for entries marbling score 5-7 targeted at the mid-tier food service trade, produced a championship win for Western Australia’s Pardoo Beef Corp, which won the event’s overall grand championship title in 2018.

The carcase was produced from an F2 steer provided by the Hughes family’s Georgina Pastoral Co out of North Queensland. Another Georgina-bred F2 steer provided Pardoo’s second gold medal winner, in this year’s crossbred Wagyu class (mentioned above), while Georgina also bred the gold-medal winning crossbred champion entry exhibited by Jack’s Creek.

Other gold medallists from the Commercial Wagyu (MS 5-7) class this year included:

  • Stockyard, Brisbane QLD: Stockyard Silver
  • Mort & Co, Toowoomba QLD: Master Selection

Single highest marbling carcase this year was a crossbred class entry from WA’s Pardoo Beef Corp, exhibiting an IMF of 48pc after 450 days on feed, at 29 months of age.

While performance comparisons in results from year-to-year can be difficult, the 2020 competition showed some evidence of generally lower intra-muscular fat (marbling) levels than previous years, especially among Fullblood entries.

Past AWA competitions have seen multiple entries in the Fullblood class expressing IMF of well above 50pc, and in one case above 60pc. Last year’s grand champion entry, for example, carried an IMF of 54pc.

This year’s gold medal winning Fullblood entries displayed IMFs ranging from 37pc to 44pc, averaging 40pc, with the grand champion carrying an IMF of 39pc.

Despite marginally lower marbling scores, there was great consistency among Fullblood entries this year, with most scoring in excess of 700 points, including all five gold medallists, two silvers and a bronze.


The annual AWA branded beef competition results announcement is normally a highlight of the association’s annual conference, but was held remotely via webinar this year due to COVID-19 restrictions. Click here to view the presentation






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  1. Joseph Banicki, 10/06/2020

    Please send me your catalogue “Wagyu beef” by email.

  2. Paul Franks, 18/05/2020

    When looking at these pictures of heavily marbled pieces of meat. What comes to my mind is coronary heart disease and I could imagine the average consumer thinks the same thing.

    I am sure it tastes lovely, but it cannot be healthy for people to eat so much fat given our rather sedentary lifestyle. Taste is not everything.

    Not too many people can afford to live on highly-marbled Wagyu beef permanently, Paul. Think of it like a piece of chocolate – an occasional reward, rather than something to sustain life. And Wagyu’s fatty acid profile is different from conventional beef – considerably lower in saturated (bad) fat, and considerably higher in omega 3 and omega 6 (good) fats. Editor

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