EBVs beef up Wagyu returns

20 Mar, 2015 01:00 AM
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Wagyu cattle in a NSW feedlot.
We will see very rapid rates of genetic gain
Wagyu cattle in a NSW feedlot.

WAGYU is known for its ability to attract a serious price premium, but new work around identifying top carcase genetics could help producers capture as much as $250 a head more than the average Wagyu carcase.

Breed association chief executive officer Graham Truscott said because of the age Wagyu are slaughtered, conventional carcase scanning methods, such as live ultrasound scans, have not been accurate for the breed.

"As a result people were nervous to move away from the original sires which came out from Japan and we're still using some of those original sires. (Because of this) the breed hasn't made strong genetic progress," Mr Truscott said.

"But it has very high potential, so what we've done in this last two-year period is run a research project to ... measure end point carcase (performance) at the point of slaughter and then use that to genetically predict the carcase potential of (individual) Wagyu."

This included marble score and marbling fineness using digital imagery and Ausmeat assessment, plus carcase yield.

Each increase in marble score is worth about $1 a kilogram extra, and the ability to marble, as well as fineness of marbling, are highly heritable traits.

Mr Truscott said the work identified progeny of the top performing sires were worth anything from $250/hd to $1000/hd more than progeny of average performing sires.

For a 450kg carcase with a marble score of nine, he said a producer was looking at about $11/kg (carcase weight), making the animal worth close to $5000.

"So it matters hugely with this breed that we get that carcase identified so people can identify the best sires ... and we're estimating now that because we can do that we will see very rapid rates of genetic gain," he said.

"That then has profound potential for the Australian beef industry because this breed is delivering, even at the crossbred F1 (first-cross) level, between 40 per cent and 50 per cent premium over Angus at that feeder steer level."

Stage one leads to Breedplan EBVs

The research - now at the end of stage one - has been funded by the Australian Wagyu Association and (dollar for dollar) by the Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) Donor Company, with a total of $270,000 having gone into the project so far.

The data produced has been used to create Breedplan estimated breeding values (EBVs) for carcase weight, marbling and marbling fineness, which the Wagyu association approved on Monday.

DNA samples were also taken to develop genotype performance linkages to assist the EBVs.

This includes the development of a genomic relationship matrix, which enables related animals to be linked, allowing the sharing of performance predictions via associated DNA for particular measurable traits, such as marbling, and has scope for predicting the performance of commercial, as well as stud, animals.

This would allow a producer to feed animals according to their potential profitability based on predicted performance.

Mr Truscott said time on feed for Wagyu varied from 300 days to 600 days and at a cost of about $4 a day per head, a producer could therefore save about $1800 a head in feed by not feeding the non-performers for 450 days.

Wagyu carcase performance will be just one topic at the upcoming Wagyu Performance Field Day at the Bishop family's Kuro Kin Wagyu stud at Wootton near Scone, NSW, on March 26.

Principal Peter Bishop, whose family has bred Wagyus for 17 years, said the field day would include representatives from Stanbroke Beef, Australian Agricultural Company, Elders International, Rangers Valley and newcomer to the Wagyu market JBS Swifts, all of whom would be keen to establish relationships with potential suppliers.

The field day is a precursor to the 2015 World Wagyu Conference at Yepoon to be held on May 8-10 in Queensland following Beef Australia, Rockhampton, Queensland.

The Bishop's field day kicks off with coffee from 8.30am on Thursday, March 26.

To RSVP, email Kerrie Parsons, at least one week prior.

Fairfax Media is a platinum sponsor and media partner of the 2015 World Wagyu Conference.

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Andrew Norris

Andrew Norris

is the editor of The Land

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