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Wagyu around the World - Canada

In the fall of 1991, the inaugural meeting of the Canadian Wagyu Association took place in Calgary. It took two years of intensive lobbying before the Association was incorporated.

Almost immediately, the Canadian Simmental Association was contracted to maintain the Canadian Wagyu Registry. At the 1994 Annual General Meeting, 84 animals had been registered and there were 54 members from breeders.

'Wagyu Sekai Inc.' was established by Ken Kurosawatsu in Puslinch, Ontario, when the Holstein dairy enterprise diversified.

The search for Wagyu bloodlines to import began in early 1992 in Japan. The animals were hand selected by Ken's father based on their physical conformation with a strong emphasis placed on the strength of the maternal pedigree of each animal.

The pedigrees contain the most famous Wagyu sires in Japan such as Yasufuku, Monjiro, Shigeshigenami, Kikutani, Tanifuku Doi, Dai 7 Itozakura and Mitsufuku.

Since the Wagyu are considered to be a National Treasure in Japan, the Japanese were very reluctant to let these animals leave Japan. Finally in 1993, the first shipment of fullblood Wagyu left Japan to form the nucleus of the breeding herd in Canada after serving quarantine in USA.

Wagyu Sekai Inc. is proud to be the home of the first fullblood Wagyu born outside of Japan and the home Wagyu bull Takamichiof the first fullblood Wagyu herd in Canada.

Ken spent four years in Japan learning the pedigrees, breeding combinations and feeding techniques.

His post secondary education was with Kenichi Ono learning the pedigrees and breeding combinations while working for Mannet Company Ltd in the shipment of exports from Japan. He also learnt the intricate art of feeding Wagyu while living on the farm Numata Chikusan feeding over 1,500 head of Wagyu Cattle in Hyogo Prefecture home of “Kobe Beef”.

“Kurozawagyu" is the brand name for the 100% Wagyu beef supplied by Wagyu Sekai in Canada. The final beef product is based on 70% genetics and 30% feeding technique so the cattle are selectively mated to ensure a quality beef product. All cattle are carefully raised from birth using special techniques developed in Japan and adopted in Canada.

As the animals are allowed to reach maturity naturally, no growth hormones or implants are used in any of the cattle and to ensure the highest quality Kurozawagyu, they are raised in a clean environment on a specially formulated diet produced on the farm. To go along with the high quality feeds, pure clean water is essential in the programme.

All aspects of the production of Kurozawagyu Beef Wagyu beef Kurozawagyu brand from Wagyu Sekaifrom conception to the “finished product” in an all natural feeding ration and rigid standards with proper genetic selection make Kurozawagyu Beef the ultimate dining experience.

Black Wagyu and Red Wagyu/Akaushi embryos and semen are offered for purchase.

Patrick and Kimberley McCarthy are owners of "Canadian Wagyu Inc." in Camrose, Alberta. F1 and F2 Wagyu cross feeders are raised from predominantly Angus cross females.

The cattle are raised by Canadian Wagyu Inc. or by other producers under their programmes. Finishing is carried at selected feedlots and animals range from 20 to 34 months of age at slaughter. A special feeding program has been designed to resemble Japanese style feeding. Selected feed ingredients utilized in that ration are oats, barley, beet pulp, alfalfa pellets, supplement, barley straw, silage, salt, minerals, and fresh water. Vitamin E has been added to the ration to enhance shelf life and appearance of the post slaughter beef. Cattle are raised free from added hormones.

Boneless beef packs and carcasses are sold.

Genetics

High quality Wagyu genetics is bred in Canada. Exports come from Australia and USA and those producers also import from Canada.

The Canadian Wagyu Association no longer functions so breeders there are members of either the American Wagyu Association or the Australian Wagyu Association or both. Look at both those associations to locate Wagyu members in the provinces of Canada where you are looking for genetics or breeders.

Nutrition for Wagyu production

The Wagyu breeds 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 other beef breeds or in milk 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.

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.

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%. However, it has been acknowledged that shortening the fattening period will have an impact on carcass weight and meat quality.

Calves in Japan are typically sold to the fattening industry between 8 and 10 months of age depending on strain/prefecture.  Although there are differences of sex and strain of Black Wagyu, the weight for age at the calf markets is a useful indication of finishing potential. 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 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 taken on a different perspective. The numerous results have been reviewed by Wagyu International and any findings that have implications for either pasture or grain finishing of Wagyu in the global arena are applied. The effect of ADG and the time to reach the same end-point on marbling (IMF%) is illustrated below:

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

An increase in growth rate towards the left of the chart allows slaughter weight to be achieved at a younger age but this reduces IMF% in the lines that are darker in colour. The lighter coloured lines have higher marbling from lower growth rates.

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 CO2 which 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 highest for propionate, intermediate for butyrate, and lowest 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 is continually monitoring progress in Japan and applying it through collaborations with producers in the northern and southern hemispheres. 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.

Many producers are content to follow their neighbours. Those that want excellence contact Wagyu International.

 

References

Canadian Wagyu Association
Canada Wagyu Inc. website
Wagyu Sekai website

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