Page last updated at 12:54 GMT, Monday, 1 February 2010

Beer and massage for Powys farmer's rare Wagyu cattle

Wagyu cattle (generic)
Wagyu beef can cost up to 120 a kilo

One Welsh farmer is feeding his cows beer to help them relax, and he even throws in the occasional massage.

Ifor Humphreys is one of only a handful of UK breeders who keeps Japanese Wagyu cattle, and in a deal with a local brewery he gives them four pints a day.

Wagyu, also known as Kobe beef, is an expensive cut renowned for its taste.

The farmer, from Abermule, near Newtown, Powys, said beer helped relax the animals before slaughter, while massage improved muscle tone.

The beef is sold at some of London's most exclusive restaurants and by some of the city's top retailers, where a fillet can go for up to £120 a kilo.

They don't get drunk - they have a lie down and go to sleep
Farmer Ifor Humphreys

Mr Humphreys has 45 of the cattle and feeds them a tipple from Monty's Brewery, based in nearby Montgomery.

The beer he uses is a waste product, too high in yeast for people, but ideal for his animals.

"The brewery produces about four-and-a-half gallons of waste beer and I simply pour it in the trough and the cattle drink it," said Mr Humphreys, who farms 200 acres at Upper Bryntalch.

"They don't get drunk - they have a lie down and go to sleep. I'm sure you know it's very relaxing.

"It helps reduces stress, which in turn produces tastier beef. In Japan where they are kept on small farms, they are fed alcohol to stimulate their appetite in hot weather and a massage helps maintains muscle tone, especially for those in small stalls."

Mr Humphreys said he occasionally massaged his animals, but it was not a daily routine.

He explained that Wagyu beef was renowned for its "marbling", a sign of quality and something that gave the meat taste.

"I feed the cattle next in line for slaughter four pints of beer a day."

Russ Honeyman, of Monty Brewery, said Mr Humphreys received up to 80 litres of beer a week.

He also feeds them on grass and cereal produced at a neighbouring farm.

He now plans a tasting day at Coleg Powys in Newtown next month.

The cows are no stranger to Wales. Voelas Hall in the Lleyn Peninsula is regarded as one of the main breeding centres in Europe.

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