It was five years ago, following a research programme which took me to Kobe in Japan, that I started on the road to producing England’s first herd of Wagyu cattle. The Japanese government won’t allow the export of their native cattle, but it’s possible to get frozen embryos of pedigree Wagyus via Holland, and I arranged for some to be inserted into my own pedigree Belted Galloways at my farm on the Duddon Estuary. The embryos all had unpronounceable Japanese names except one, which was called Yoko Ono, and I remember the look of alarm on the face of the reporter from Cumbria Radio when he heard me say, in a live broadcast at breakfast time, that as a lifelong Beatles fan nothing gave me greater pleasure than seeing Yoko Ono being inserted up the rear end of a cow.
The first embryo programme produced three bulls which I named John, Paul and George. Paul died, mysteriously, a year later but gradually the herd increased to 12. Then came the sale of the farm, but I held onto my Wagyus in the hope that one of these days I could start farming properly again.
Unbeknown to me, at the same time as I was planning my Wagyu herd, a retired businessman, Andrew Deacon, was doing the same thing in Suffolk, after travelling to Australia to see how they do things there. He set about the establishment of a Wagyu herd in a much more businesslike way than me and soon had enough to be able to sign an exclusive deal to supply Raymond Blanc at Le Manoir au Quat Saisons. Andrew saw my Wagyus on Countryfile, came to see them and made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. I’m saddened by the end of my dream but there’s something special about the thought that my little pieces of Cumbria will eventually find themselves being served in a place as great as Le Manoir.