CAN a bull deliver $1000 more value in each steer it sires, compared to a lesser bull of the same breed? In most beef cattle breeds, no. In Wagyu, apparently, yes.
One of the aims of the ambitious Australian Wagyu Association (AWA) program to develop Wagyu-specific EBVs was the prospect of identifying bulls in the Australian Wagyu herd that have gone unrecognised because of a lack of data to assess performance.
That goal seems to have succeeded, in spades.
AWA chief executive Graham Truscott said when the data was crunched on marbling percentages, for instance, “a bull stood out that is much more valuable than anything this industry has ever seen, including famous bulls out of Japan”.
And, Mr Truscott added controversially, “much more valuable than bulls from any other breed in Australia”.
The bull, Mayura Itoshigenami Jnr, is in one of Australia’s oldest Wagyu herds, Mayura Wagyu in South Australia.
Mayura Wagyu is owned by the De Bruin family; Scott De Bruin is president of the AWA.
The stud has rigorously performance-recorded and selected on those records for most of its 20-year history. Half the top 14 Wagyu bulls for marbling percentage, according to the new EBV rankings, carry the Mayura name.
The first Japanese import in the rankings appears in 20th spot.
Mayura Itoshigenami’s imputed value is due to the exceptional value of high-end Wagyu beef.
A draft selection index drawn up by Animal Genetics and Breeding Unit's (AGBU) Dr Rob Banks assumed the value of a Wagyu carcase increases by $1 per marble score per kilogram.
When the specs of the top 100 bulls were fed through the index to put a dollar value on their worth, Mayura Itoshigenami Jnr sat a handsome $1000 per steer ahead of the lowest-ranked bull.
“In the Angus Index, the difference is about $85 between bottom and top,” Mr Truscott said.
“Scott De Bruin reckons that on his own figures, the difference between the top and bottom bulls he’s used is $2700.”
In Wagyu terms, even the difference between an average bull and the top bull is marked; about $500.
“You could say that as a bull, he delivers half the genetics, so he’s delivering $250 per carcase better value than the average bull,” Mr Truscott said.
“As an AI sire he could easily sire 1000 progeny a year, so he could easily deliver $250,000 in value per year to the industry.
“It changes the way we think about the value of these bulls. The top bull we sold at the last auction sold for $8500, which says that we don’t know the real value of these bulls.”
Mr Truscott predicts the Wagyu stud business is in for a time of flux as it moves from marketing prefectural bloodlines to marketing based on performance data.
Those prefectural names will stay in circulation, he thinks, because they carry a lot of marketing power, but the even more formidable power of the dollar will ultimately carry Wagyu selection into a new era.