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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



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 InternationalGenomic EBVs for Haruki 2Estimated 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 InternationalGenomic EBVs for KitateruyasudoiEstimated 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


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. Photo of Wagyu heifers in yards at Sunland Cattle Company in Central Queensland

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.

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 and during collaborations with clients in several countries with grass and grain finishing the latest findings are put to test

Fundamentally, a slow continous gain in weight is required to develop the tissues and frame for a 350 to 450 kg carcass. Faster and early growth costs less but does not enhance eating quality or carcass weight.

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 International 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.

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.

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" was held in Yepoon, near Rockhampton in Queensland after Beef Week from May 8-10, 2015.


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

DISCLAIMER Wagyu International provides information that has been supplied by other parties and gives no warranty (express or implied) as to the data completeness, accuracy or fitness for a particular purpose.

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