Wagyu around the World - Australia

History of Wagyu in Australia

The introduction of Wagyu cattle to Australia involved live imports through USA as there is no protocol for direct imports from Japan. The 001 Hirashigetayasu foundation Wagyu bullfirst Wagyu imports to USA were four bulls in 1976 and they were mated to females of other breeds. Three generations of crossing back to Wagyu is required to produce American purebred progeny which comprise 93.75% Wagyu (15/16). Purebred semen, embryos and one female were imported to Australia.

A shipment of five fullbloods (100% Wagyu) was exported from Japan to the United States in July 1993. These included the two bulls; 003 Kitateruyasudoi foundation Wagyu bullMichifuku and Haruki 2, and the four heifers; Suzutani, Rikitani and Okutani. These cattle were followed by three further shipments of live cattle. In 1995, there was a major shipment from the famed Takeda stud of Mr Shogo Takeda. The Takeda shipment comprised 35 heifers with some in calf and 5 bulls. Four of those bulls qualified for semen shipment to Australia. Another 45 black females and six black bulls were imported from Japan to USA in 1996.

Chris Walker of Westholme imported 25 black females and three black males to USA. The following year another 59 females arrived in USA together with semen from three black bulls - Dai 6 Seizan, Kitatsurukiku Doi and Shigefuku. The three imported bulls were slaughtered after the outbreak of BSE in Japan but the autopsies confirmed that they are free so the semen that had been stored is available. Their TF Itohana 1/2 Wagyu foundation bullsemen - Hirashige Tayasu "001" (Kedaka), Itomoritaka "002" (Fujiyoshi) and Kitateruyasu Doi "003" (Tajima) - has contributed largely to size in the Australian herd from milk and growth because of the diversity and Kitateruyasu Doi contributes high marbling. The females were exported to Australia and also brought diversity from 44 Shimane, 28 Kedaka and 12 Tajima. Dams which bred in Australia include: Hatsuko, Itoreiko, Kazuaki, Kitahikari 97/1, Kitakazu, Kitaokumi, Kitasakaedoi, Kitasekitori, Kitatizuru 2, Kunikiku 96, Masako, Masatoshi 2, Sakaehikari, Sekinakada 22, Sekiyuhou, Takakuni, Takashigedoi, Yamafuji, Yamaketakafuji 3 and Yuriyuho.

Simon Coates had been exporting F1s from purebreds to Japan since he formed Sumo Wagyu in 1991. After quarantine conditions had been met for the first shipment of Shogo Takeda's Foundation sires and heifers to USA, Simon exported 56 calves from six families as embryos from Mr Takeda in USA in deliveries in 1996 and 1997 to Australia. He subsequently purchased the Takeda herd in Australia:

Black Wagyu embryos imported by Simon Coates from USA to Australia in 1996 and 1997

Additional shipments of live Wagyu were consigned from USA to Australia and they supplemented the embryos and semen that had already been imported. Included in these was the export to Australia by Mannett/World K's of 16 Wagyu bulls and three Wagyu heifers from USA.

The performance of the initial USA purebred imports to Australia were considered to be inconsistent so many Australia breeders converted to fullblood Wagyu when they became available from USA.

More than 96% of registrations are of Black Wagyu. Red Wagyu have proved popular with northern commercial producers who have recognised their fertility and higher frame score over the blacks in addition to Wagyu carcass traits. Red Wagyu are being incorporated into composite herds.

Chart of number of regsitered Wagyu progeny from Foundation sires in Australia until August 2020

Population and production

A survey undertaken and published by the Australian Wagyu Chart showing joinings of Wagyu by grade being Fullblood, Purebred, F3, F2, F1 and baseAssociation in 2011 revealed that the breeding herd had exceeded the previous high of 2007. Adversities from 2008 reduced the number of Wagyu but after some consolidation annual growth of 10% were predicted. 18% of all Wagyu joinings are to fullblood and 12% to purebred. Even though 50% of offtake from finishing is F1, the core of the Australian Wagyu industry lies within the fullblood sector and it is growing in share by 1% annually.

It is estimated that there were 100 000 joinings in 2012. 15 000 head were exported live and 65 000 head processed in Australia. 85% of locally processed Wagyu product is exported to more than a dozen countries.

There were 169,000 joinings in 2014.

Photo of Wagyu in Australian Agricultural Company AACo feedlot at Goonoo

 

Grading

The following standard measurements are recorded for MSA grading:

Faces of Wagyu Fullblood steers chewing at trough in Australia feedlot

The following readings can be taken when requested:

When all the specifications are met and the cuts can grade under MSA, a carcase is scored "0". If the carcase does not meet all the specifications it is given a grade code which indicates which of the specifications were not met. They number from 1 to 9 (Meat Standards Australia).

The language and descriptors used in the Australian beef industry is currently under review.

MSA is based on quality and there has been increased uptake annually. The largest retailer Woolworths adopted MSA as their standard in 2012 and presently there are more than 100 MSA licensed brands across Australia. The number of carcasses graded to MSA exceeded 3 million in the year ending 30th June 2014.

Marbling grade and Wagyu

Image analysis data was compared to marbling score from AUS-MEAT grading. Pure (100%) Wagyu averaged 6.8 AUS-MEAT marbling score and 29.2% marbling area AUS-MEAT and MSA marbling refernce standards with intramuscular fat content by Wagyu Internationalthrough image analysis. F1 (50%) Wagyu scored significantly (P < 0.01) lower with 4.7 and 19.3% respectively. There is a high correlation between both systems (r = 0.88) except that AUS-MEAT marbling score has an inadequate range of values to evaluate high marbling breeds such as Wagyu. 30% of pure Wagyu grade in the top AUS-MEAT marbling score of 9 and many would exceed it if its range would be extended. This limitation makes the use of marbling percentage from image analysis more effective in determining marbling of Black Wagyu. Heritability of marbling using imaging is 0.54. This is higher than the heritability of 0.23 from AUS-MEAT marble score (Maeda et al., 2013).

The MSA marbling system provides an additional indication of distribution and size (Meat Standards Australia). There is a finer scale from 100 through to 1,190 and Wagyu carcasses attain the highest level.and beyond.

Winner of the 2017 Wagyu branded beef competition of a F1 50% Wagyu steer after 375 days on feed had 49% IMF. This is more than double the official score that can be measured by AUS-MEAT and is equivalent to BMS 9 in Japan.

Minimum intramuscular fat % are documented for Marble grades in Japan, Australia and USA and are illustrated below, to the left, The use of digital imaging of carcasses during processing enables the IMF% to be determined within each BMS and AUS-MEAT marble grade in Japan and in Australia. There can be 20% variation within each marble score and when the vagaries of domestic grading by eye is overcome by the use of digital imaging, heritability of marbling is virtually doubled to 0.54. Another constraint is that 30% of Fullblood Wagyu grade higher than the highest AUS-MEAT and MSA marbling grades. During digital imaging of Wagyu carcasses for genetic evaluation and in recording of Branded Beef competitions, it is not uncommon to encounter IMF% exceeding 50% in Australia. Data from the first 510 carcasses that were digitally analsysed is illustyted in the chart below to the right:

Chart of Marbling (IMF) % by BMS in Japan, by Marble Score in AUS-MEAT in Australia and in Prime, Choice and Select from USDA in USA on Wagyu International

The difference in average IMF% for each marble grade (BMS in Japan and AUS-MEAT in Australia) is virtually 20% through the spectrum. For example, BMS 5 in Japan has an average IMF% above 45%, while AUS-MEAT marble score 5 has an average IMF% just above 20%. Therefore it is misleading to refer to marble score in Australia as 'BMS' instead of 'AUS-MEAT marble score'.

Highest quality 100% pure Australian fullblood Wagyu beef is available from export to Japan and USA.

Genetic evaluation

The limitations of the grading system to evaluate marbling through the full spectrum of production in Wagyu in Australia led Dr Joe Grose, President of the Australian Wagyu Association, to implement carcass digital imaging. Despite the cost, this technology is replacing conventional ultrasound scanning which only had an accuracy of 30% for measuring marbling in Wagyu. in 2014, the AWA released the first Research EBVs after the analysis of the first 2,000 carcasses by AGBU/ABRI.

A year later, the carcass EBVs are incorporated into Wagyu BREEDPLAN during the monthly runs. For 30 years, EBVs for growth, birth weight and fertility traits have been generated by BREEDPLAN.

Subsequently, as in Japan, Single Step BLUP analysis was introduced and Genomic EBVs presented.

Estimated Breeding Values for those Foundation Black Wagyu that have the highest number of registered progeny are illustrated below:

Estimated Breeding Values for Black Wagyu bull Fukutsuru 068 charted by Wagyu InternationalEstimated Breeding Values for Black Wagyu bull Haruki II chart prepared by Wagyu InternationalEstimated Breeding Values for Hirashigetayasu chart prepared by Wagyu InternationalEstimated Breeding Values for Black Wagyu Itomoritaka chart by Wagyu InternationalEstimated Breeding Values for Itoshigefuji charted by Wagyu InternationalEstimated Breeding Values for Itoshigenami charted by Wagyu InternationalEstimated Breeding Values for Itozuru Doi TF151 charted by Wagyu InternationalEstimated Breeding Values for Kikuyasu 400 charted by Wagyu InternationalEstimated Breeding Values for Kitateruyasu Doi charted by Wagyu InternationalEstimated Breeding Values for Black Wagyu Michifuku charted by Wagyu InternationalEstimated Breeding Values for Yasufuku Jr charted by Wagyu International

Estimated breeding values from Breedplan are shown in white bars. Those to the left are 'maternal' and associated with growth and milk, while those to the right are 'carcase' traits. EBVs that are above the midpoint are considered to be favourable for each animal.
The Australian Wagyu Association has recently published Indexes from ABRI Breedplan and they are the Self Replacing $Index, the Fullblood Terminal $Index and the F1 Terminal $Index which are illustrated here in red bars. The new Self Replacing Breeding $Index estimates the genetic differences between animals in net profitability per cow joined in a commercial Fullblood or Purebred self-replacing herd. Heifers are retained for breeding and steers and surplus females are sold as feeders for feedlot finishing. The Fullblood Terminal $Index estimates the genetic differences between animals in net profitability per cow joined in a commercial Fullblood or Purebred self-replacing herd in which all progeny are sold as feeders for feedlot finishing. The F1 Terminal $Index estimates the genetic differences between animals in net profitability per cow joined for an F1 production system using Wagyu bulls and non-Wagyu females where all progeny are sold as feeders for feedlot finishing.
To assist overseas readers, weightings to the characteristics that are either 'Maternal' or 'Carcase' have been applied by Wagyu International to produce two distinct indicators. The first is the Maternal indicator which is primarily driven by growth, size, milk, fertility and low birth weight. It is shown in the yellow bar to the left of centre. Next to it, also in yellow, is the Carcase indicator which is a weighted economic integer from marble score, IMF%, marble fineness, eye muscle area, backfat, etc.. These charts give a quick visual impression, but the details of each animal should be viewed on the Australian Wagyu Association website as accuracies should also be considered jointly with the EBVs.

Even though limited carcase data from 100% Wagyu joinings from registered pedigree is available from the small Red Wagyu/Akaushi population base, Breedplan EBVs are presented for reds to enable some ranking. 58 Red Wagyu have genomic EBVs out of around 1,000 Red Wagyu with EBVs in Australian Breedplan. In the charts below, EBVs of these Red Wagyu are charted relative to the midpoint and range of the entire Red Wagyu/Akaushi population for which there are EBVs in Australian Breedplan. Effectively, reds are ranked with reds. These charts are presented to give a visual indication but the EBVs and their accuracies should be viewed on the Australian Wagyu Association website in order to make breeding decisions.

The two Red Wagyu/Akaushi sires in Japan that had been inseminated to several of the Englewood heifers prior to their export from Japan:

Breedplan EBVs for Red Wagyu/Akaushi sire Dai 10 Mitsumari Breedplan EBVs presented by Wagyu International for Japan sire Namimaru Red Wagyu/Akaushi sire in Japan

Red Wagyu/Akaushu foundation sires that were exported from Japan in 1976:

Breedplan EBVs presented by Wagyu International for Red Wagyu/Akaushi foundation sire JudoBreedplan EBVs presented by Wagyu International for Red Wagyu/Akaushi foundation sire Rueshaw

The Red Wagyu/Akaushu foundation sires that were exported from Japan in 1994:

Breedplan EBVs prepared by Wagyu International for Red Wagyu/Akaushi foundation sire Hikari Breedplan EBVs presented by Wagyu International for Red Wagyu/Akaushi sire ShigemaruBreedplan EBVs presented by Wagyu International for Red Wagyu/Akaushi foundation sire Tamamaru

The Red Wagyu/Akaushi heifers that were imported in the 1990s, are shown below. Predicted EBVs are shown as shadows:

Breedplan EBVs presented by Wagyu International for Red Wagyu/Akaushi foundation heifer 27 Homare imported by JVP Breedpolan EBVs presented by Wagyu International   for Red Wagyu/Akaushi foundation heifer Akiko Breedplan EBVs presented by Wagyu International for Red Wagyu/Akaushi foundation Dai 8 Marunami Breedplan EBVs for Red Wagyu/Akaushi foundation heifer Dai 9 KoubaiBreedplan EBVs from Wagyu International for Red Wagyu/Akaushi foundation FuyukoBreedplan EBVs for Red wagyu/Akaushi foundation heifer HarukoBreedplan EBVs for Red Wagyu/Akaushi Namiko Breedplan EBVs for Red wagyu/Akaushi foundation heifer Ume presented by Wagyu International

There are no EBVs for Dai 3 Namiaki may also have below average growth and milk, but have above average carcase traits. Naomi may have below average growth, small birth weight, but give above average carcase traits (apart from high backfat). Both she and Dai 10 Mitsumaru share Mitsutake as grand-sire. Kunisakae also may have below average growth rate and milk when compared to the Red Wagyu/Akaushi population.

Inevitably a new generation of Super Sires is becoming proven from progeny from the initial Foundation population. The exceptional breeding merit attributed to popular Australian Red Wagyu/Akaushi sire, Ashwood X014, owned by Westholme, is illustrated below:

Breedplan EBVs for Red Wagyu/Akaushi sire Ashwood X14 presented by Wagyu International

 

Nutrition

The Wagyu breeds of cattle have unique qualities that are attributed to origins from the Fourth Eurochs and they were isolated for almost the first two thousand years after arriving in Japan. This has enabled Wagyu to have retained key differences from other breeds while they are classified to be on the extreme within the Bos taurus pool.

Most Wagyu producers that introduced Wagyu cattle onto their cattle properties around the world had prior experience with beef production. Outside Japan, nutrition recommendations for Wagyu generally follow common practices that are applied within each country and there is a strong bias towards the principles that have evolved for the dairy industry. Most of the advances that have been made with genetics in Japan - such as the single step genomic predicted breeding values - have been adopted by progressive bodies outside Japan (such as Australian Breedplan). However, the philosophy that applies to fattening Wagyu in Japan has been more elusive to understand.

Establishment of Wagyu International principles for Wagyu nutrition

Initially research data over 20 years from Japan was analysed and some preliminary principles were adopted by Wagyu International. Subsequently the translation of the Japanese Beef Feed Standard 2008 provided additional information. Net Energy was incorporated into the tables that I generated from the Japanese requirements for Wagyu breeds.

The Japanese cattle industry requires a large component of feed that is imported and ongoing increases in production costs for beef have increased subsidies by prefecture for fattening (牛マルキン). In March 2015 the policy of Modernizing Dairy and Beef Cattle Production was announced by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. Changes are necessary to strengthen competitiveness of beef cattle production by shortening the fattening period. LIAJ estimated that shortening the fattening period by each 1 month will reduce expenses by about 5%. I read in one survey that the average age of processing in 2015 had decreased to 28.5 months. However, it has been acknowledged that shortening the fattening period will have an impact on carcass weight and meat quality.

Historically there are abundant data from calves in Japan when they are sold to the fattening industry between 8 and 10 months of age depending on strain/prefecture.  The use of digital imaging enabled additional carcass traits to be measured. Although there are differences of sex and strain of Black Wagyu, the weight for age at the calf markets is a useful indication of upbringing. The traits related to yield tend to increase when there is a higher weight for age. The average is 1.0 kg per day of age or approximately 0.9kg/days ADG from Hokkaido (Osawa et al. 2008). Individuals who exceeded this had invariably been overfed and meat quality was disadvantaged.

In order to minimise the impact on quality by the mandate to reduce age as implemented in 2015, research on feeding has been carried out extensively throughout Japan. The numerous results have been reviewed by Wagyu International. To illustrate the effect of ADG and the time to reach the same end-point,  different growth rates are charted through to reach processing weight by predicted marbling (IMF%):

Chart showing marbling IMF% versus ADG and age of processing Wagyu

An increase in growth rate towards the left of the chart reaches slaughter weight at a younger age but this reduces IMF% concurrently towards the left in the different coloured lines. The darker shaded lines have lower IMF% and the lighter lines have higher marbling.

The white line shows the conventional 2008 feed standard applied to Australian conditions. Of course, marbling to this extent is not rewarded by the prevailing price grid outside Japan except for isolated niche markets. Shifting to the left reduces cost but the economics in every enterprise will dictate which coloured line will bring in the highest return.

Fundamental principles of Wagyu International's "pre-2015 Japanese feeding model"

The primary energy sources for beef cattle are starch and cellulose. They are fermented by microorganisms in Pathways during carbohydrate fermentation in the rumenthe rumen to produce volatile fatty acids and gases. The major VFAs produced are acetate, propionate, and butyrate and the type of diet, microbial species present in the rumen, and ruminal pH are the major factors that influence the percentage of each VFA produced.

The loss of energy in heat and methane during the conversion of starch and cellulose to VFA makes the process of fermentation inefficient. When acetate is produced in the rumen there is a loss of one carbon as CO2which can be used to form methane. Butyrate is produced when two acetate molecules are combined so even though butyrate does not produce CO2 which can be converted into methane directly, the CO2 is produced when the acetate molecules were formed. Propionate is the only VFA that does not release an extra carbon that can be used for generation of methane. Because of these differences in carbon, the energy values for the VFA are approximately 109% for propionate, 78% for butyrate, and 62% for acetate. Therefore, increasing propionate within the rumen will decrease methane production and increase animal performance for beef production.

The Wagyu breed thrives on roughage and Japan was traditionally supplied at an age that exceeded 30 months. The balance of forages and grain that provided optimum performance and beef quality culminated in propionic acid fermentation during finishing. On the other hand, the dairy industry relies on butterfat production and this is favoured by acetic acid fermentation.

The acetate:propionate ratio is important but there is a negative trend between NDF and IMF%. Research data from fattening trials in Japan have been reviewed by Wagyu International from the last ten years and more recently the focus has changed. Promising developments are rolled out to Wagyu Internataional clients. As always, the economics and end points are different in every enterprise. Determination of the desired eating quality and carcass size will enable Wagyu International to recommend the growth profile and feeding program that will be based on local resources and feed components.

Pricing for Wagyu beef

The pricing grid is determined by the AUS-MEAT marble score and varies between processors but some market prices are:

AUS-MEAT marble score $ per kilogram
3 $5.00-$6.00
4 $6.00-$7.00
5 $7.00-$8.00
6 $7.50-$8.50
7 $8.50-$9.50
8 $9.50-$10.50
9 $11.50-$12.50
9+ $12.50-$13.50

Wholesale price of loin cuts: Fullblood 100% $80-$130 and Wagyu crossbred $40-$8

Retail price for 5 kilograms F1 rump marble score 4-5 is $20, and $49 per kilogram as single steaks.

Pricing for F1 Wagyu feeders

The price downturn in 2013 caused by drought and distorted internal flows caused by live export disruption has not impacted on prices offered for F1 Wagyu out of Angus with the correct genetics. 300-310 cents per kilogram live weight is earned for a 350-420 kg steer entering the feedlot. This price has been steady for a couple of years and the demand for finished Wagyu continues to grow.

Prices have been increasing with declining kill rates. Turnover in the last week of June was lower than the record low in February. In July 2015, Wagyu-Angus weaner steers of 242 kg averaged 557 c/kg. Wagyu- Angus weaner heifers weighing 225 kg averaged 547 c/kg. Other breeds below 250 kg averaged 313 c/kg while yearling steers of 300-350 kg averaged 293 c/kg.

The larger feeders of Wagyu are AACo with 34,000 on feed (including some fullblood), then Rangers Valley with 10,900 and Stanbroke with 10,000.

380-480 kg Angus quality steers are fetching 195 cents while lighter feeders were at a low of 170 cents in May (Beef Central 2013).

Unfavourable conditions have resulted in ongoing high offtake rates and strong bookings continue. South East Queensland prices are holding relatively firmly on 330 cents for milk and two-tooth, best cow is 290. 375 cents has been quoted for MSA and EU grassfed steers.

Some buyers of Wagyu feeders are: Australian Agricultural Company Limited (AACo), Cabassi & Co, Direct Meats, Elders Limited, HW Greenham & Sons/Greenham Tasmania, JBS Australia, Caroona, Macquarie Downs, Margaret River Premium Meat Exports, Mayura Station, Rangers Valley, Stanbroke, Warmoll Foods Pty Ltd.

Prices for Wagyu breeding stock

Embryos from identified Fullblood Wagyu parents range between $250 and $500 excluding GST. Embryos from elite genetics that has been proven by analysis Photo of Wagyu heifers in yards at Sunland Cattle Company in Central Queenslandof progeny data will command $750-$1,000.

Semen can start at $15-$20 and reach $150 per straw. Export semen starts around $30 plus freight.

Records were smashed during the Australian 2019 Elite Wagyu National Sale held during the closing stages of the annual conference in Adelaide on 10th May 2019. Fullblood females peaked at a new Australian all-breeds female record price of $280,000, while embryos sold to a new national record of $10,200 each.
Three females in the sale exceeded the previous Wagyu female record of $95,000 set at the auction in 2017.
Some passed-in lots were negotiated after the sale, but the published results indicated that 15 of 17 Fullblood females offered had been sold, for an unprecedented average of $69,000. Within the bull offering, 13 of 23 lots were sold, averaging $26,577. The sale represented a truly international exchange of genetics, with vendors and buyers active from across Australia as well as South Africa, the United States, Wales, Canada and New Zealand.
Prior to 2016, sales at Elite Wagyu auctions were local but in that year a UK breeder chased high marbling semen to an unprecedented price of $3,050 per straw. This was followed by a South African in 2018 with a bid of $185,000 for a heterozygous polled Purebred bull, and $280,000 was been paid this year for a Fullblood heifer by an American syndicate.

This 17 month old heifer is an October 2017 Fullblood calf and was offered from Scott de Bruin’s Mayura Wagyu from Millicent, South Australia. Surpassing the previous all-breeds beef cattle record of $190,000 held by an Angus heifer, she was knocked down for a record $280,000 to Brian Stamps from Oklahoma in the USA. Second highest Wagyu heifer price also exceeded the Angus record and went to Trent Bridge K0034, a September 2014-born cow, sold in calf, from Armidale, NSW and bought for $200,000 by GeneFlow, a recently-launched IVF company based out of Tocumwal in southern NSW. The Trent Bridge cow has the highest marbling score (+2.4) of all registered Wagyu females recorded on BREEDPLAN and is from parents bred by the Perry family.

The Elite Wagyu Genetics Sale turned over $1.74 million in 2019 from 101 Lots. Despite the record prices, some excellent genetics didn’t get a bid as buyers were spoilt with options. Demand for Polled genetics appeared to be waning but many Fullblood purchases were driven by the need to increase marbling in polled Wagyu herds.

The record breakers have been mentioned. Charts have been complied to illustrate trends that were expressed between EBVs with bids.

Chart showing association of bid price at Australian Wagyu Association Elite sale in Adelaide on 10th May 2019 with $Indexes and Wagyu International indicatorsChart showing association of bid price at Australian Wagyu Association Elite sale in Adelaide on 10th May 2019 with Maternal Traits from Australian Wagyu BREEDPLANChart showing association of bid price at Australian Wagyu Association Elite sale in Adelaide on 10th May 2019 with Carcass Traits from Australian Wagyu BREEDPLAN

 

AWA recently improved the Fullblood Terminal $Index and introduced another two. The association between $Indexes and Bid prices for Fullbloods in the recent 2019 auction are generally weakly positive overall with the strongest found for F1 Terminal $Index. Wagyu International uses different weightings for traits that are considered to be of economic significance and these are expressed as a Carcass Indicator (wiCI) and a Maternal Indicator (wiMI).  wiCI has incorporated Marble fineness since it was first reported in BREEDPLAN and Subcutaneous fat thickness is negative in the Indicator - as it is in Yield Score in Japan. The analysis of the statistics reveals that the correlation between Fullblood Terminal Index for Fullblood bulls with Bid Price of + 0.72 was the highest. Second highest was + 0.68 for F1 Terminal $Index for bulls. Correlations between bids and $Indexes for embryos were low but the overall association across all lots was for Wagyu International Carcass Indicator (wiCI). The wiCI is the weighted ranking of economic carcass traits and this had a closer fit to demand on the day amongst the Indices. The implications are that the weightings used by Wagyu International for the Carcass Indicator are more closely aligned with those that were used by the highest Bidders for Fullblood semen, then F1TI$, and finally FT$I. Second was F1T$I and third was FTC$I. Maternal traits overall were not very influential because of the negative association with Wagyu Internal Maternal Indicator (wiMI). The influence of Maternal Traits from Wagyu BREEDPLAN - birth weight, growth rates, milk and scrotal size EBVs - in determining demand was negative - especially for semen and embryos.

The major individual EBVs in value were Marble Fineness, Marble Score and Eye Muscle Area EBVs. Carcass Weight and Retail Beef Yield EBVs were neutral so of no importance. Subcutaneous fat thickness EBV was strongly negative on value of semen.

Marble score and Carcas weight EBVs with Bid price for Polled bulls at Australian Wagyu Association elite auction in May 2019 in AdelaideThree out of eleven batches of Polled Purebred genetics were successfully sold, with 30 straws of semen selling for an average of $533; but all females, bulls and embryos were passed in. Despite the low numbers involved, strong associations were found with Bid prices for Polled Purebred bulls. However, bidders were not prepared to reach vendors’ expectations. Regression between bid prices was highest with wiMI (maternal traits) but the correlation was strongly negative (R = - 0.90). This confirms that there is no interest in growth or milk in the evolving Polled Wagyu herd and is exactly as expected as it is terminal. The second highest regression was with wiCI (R = + 0.83) and this was positive. Third was F1 Terminal Index, and finally Fullblood Terminal Index and Self Replacing Index had lowest bearing.
There was no premium offered for homozygous polled (PP) genetics over heterozygous polled (PH) genetics. Strongest associations of bid prices were with the following carcass traits: Marble score (R = +0.74), Marble fineness (R = +0.60) and EMA (R = +0.96).  Maternal traits were strongly negatively associated: 400 day weight (R = - 0.84) and Carcass weight (R = - 0.64). Associations of Bids for Polled bulls with $Indexes and Indicators is shown to the left above, and with Marble Score and Carcass Weight EBVs in the chart to the right.

In 2017, 12 out of 20 polled Purebred Wagyu bulls sold for an average of $9,077 with a top price of $15,000. The following year, Poll Wagyu Midnight had greatly improved carcass EBVs and exceeded expectations with the record price of $185,000. The breeding merit of some lots was higher in 2019 than the previous year, but, despite this, bids did not reach reserve price. Highest offer in 2019 reached $30,000 for Poll Wagyu Nightfall. His full brother, Poll Wagyu Midnight M0775, sold for $185,000 in 2018 and they are both heterozygous polled so half of their offspring from horned dams are expected to be polled. They both have genomic EBVs with similar EBVs but Nightfall has superior carcass traits. His Marble Score EBV is +1.7, which is 30% higher than that for his brother Midnight. Nightfall has an advantage of 35% of F1 Terminal $Index over Midnight, while Marble Fineness EBV is 47% higher and Eye Muscle Area is 64% higher. Despite this, buyers were not prepared to meet the vendors’ expectations on the day.

The charts showing the top carcass EBV polled bull in each year is shown below.
Chart of estimated breeding values for Poll Wagyu MN123 that was sold for $15,000 in 2017Chart of estimated breeding values for Poll Wagyu Midnight M775 heterozygous polled Wagyu bull sold for $185,000 in 2018Chart of estimated breeding values for Poll Wagyu Nightfall heterozygous plooed bull that didn't sell at auction in 2019
Midnight semen sold for $1,700 a straw last year and for $533 in 2019.

Prices in the market are:

Description Price + GST
Fullblood cow 3-9 year old, in-calf $3,250
Fullblood cow 10 years +, in-calf $2,750
Fullblood cow with calf at foot $3,750
Fullblood cow with calf at foot and proven with progeny data $5-$6,000
Fullblood cow 10 years +, with calf at foot $3,400
Fullblood cow, dry and empty $2,750
Fullblood cow, 10 years +, dry $2,000
Fullblood heifer in-calf $2,750
Fullblood yearling heifer, 15 month $2,000
Fullblood bull, 18-24 month old $5,000
Fullblood yearling, 12-15 month, 300 kg steer $1,200

 

Truth in labelling: Wagyu content

The Australian Wagyu Association announced the Wagyu breed trade description which has been endorsed by the Australian Meat Industry Language and Standards Committee. It is recommended for use by the industry:

WAGYU FULLBLOOD 100%: The offspring of a Wagyu Fullblood sire and a Wagyu Fullblood dam whose forebears originate from Japan and whose pedigree shows no evidence of crossbreeding.

WAGYU PUREBRED F4 (93+%): Greater than 93% Wagyu content and the result from at least four generations of crossbreeding with a Wagyu Fullblood sire.

WAGYU CROSSBRED F3 (87+%): Greater than 87% Wagyu content and the result from at least three generations of crossbreeding with a Wagyu Fullblood sire.

WAGYU CROSSBRED F2 (75%): Has 75% or higher content and the result from at least two generations of crossbreeding with a Wagyu Fullblood sire.

WAGYU CROSSBRED F1 (50%): Has 50% or higher Wagyu content and the first generation of crossbreeding with a Wagyu Fullblood sire.

Photo of Wagyu mob about to drink from MacKenzie River in Central Queenland

Australian Consumer Law is upheld by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) and they carried out an investigation of Waguyu beef. The matter appeared to have been resolved when the Wagyu breed trade descriptor was published by the AWA. However it needs to be implemented through the market. A piece of beef labelled Wagyu was purchased from ALDI supermarket. There was no Wagyu content on the label and it was also missing in the eating. This reflects very poorly on the producer and the industry.

Unless the Wagyu industry takes a lead in truth of labeliing of Wagyu in Australia, some other body might.

World Wagyu Conference

The first International Wagyu Conference in Australia was held on the Gold Coast in Queensland in 2000.

The next "World Wagyu Conference" wwas held in Yepoon, near Rockhampton in Queensland after Beef Week from May 8-10, 2015.

 

References

AUS-MEAT Limited
Australian Wagyu Association
Cameron, W. 2011. Economic drivers of Wagyu Production in Australia. Australian Wagyu Association Genetics Improvement Workshop, 30th April, 2011.
Grose, J. 2011. Wagyu genetic improvement = Objective, accurate & repeatable carcass measurement + BLUP. Australian Wagyu Association Genetics Improvement Workshop, 30th April, 2011.
Meat & Livestock Australia. 2013. Australia's beef industry. MLA website/Cattle-sheep-and-goat-industries/Industry-overview/Cattle.
Meat Standards Australia
Osawa et al., 2008. Image analysis of carcass cross-section in Japanese Black Genetic analysis of traits and meat-producing ability traits. Report posted in Japanese by Department of Bioproduction Science, Graduate School of Agricultural Sciences, Iwate University.
Lone Mountain Ranch website
Maeda, S., Grose, J., Kato, K and K. Kuchida. 2013. Comparing AUS-MEAT marbling scores using image analysis traits to estimate genetic parameters for marbling of Japanese Black cattle in Australia. Animal Production Science