The development of a Wagyu seedstock breeding herd can occur a number of ways.
Before you enter the industry the decision needs to be made as to which entry level to start. This may be a matter of how much financial input you are willing to commit or may be based on what your breeding aims are. The options are plentiful and will require some pre-planning and a strategic breeding plan.
The Australian Wagyu breed consists of Wagyu fullblood 100%, purebred Wagyu F4 93+% and crossbred Wagyu animals. Guidelines for assessing Wagyu cattle in Australia can be found here.
A new breeder may choose to commence with Wagyu crossbred animals which produce commercial steers for slaughter and females for slaughter or grading up towards purebred status.
The grading up from crossbred Wagyu F1 50% takes 4 generations and is a long term project. Of course you can have F1, F2 or F3 females and simply produce commercial Wagyu beef without grading up and simply replace the females from other breeders when they need replacing.
The second option is to purchase registered fullblood or purebred females from other breeders to get started. This has the advantage of reducing the time taken to breed up and you gain full pedigree records by purchasing AWA registered animals.
There are plenty of Wagyu breeders that have either or fullblood or purebred registered females for sale and will guide the new breeder in the individual selection process. This option is the fastest way to get a fullblood or purebred breeding operation underway.
Discussion should be held with established breeders to get a greater understanding of the different Japanese prefectural history of the breed and how each prefecture varies the style of Wagyu produced.
The third option is to purchase genetics from other breeders. Normally this applies to the fullblood or purebred category of Wagyu and generally is through the purchase of embryos or pregnant recipients carrying fullblood calves.
Embryos can be purchased for transfer into your own recipients (ie cows or heifers of other breeds you already own) or to be put into female cattle run by specialised recipient farms. Using this option you have an initial lower financial outlay than purchasing live animals but you do wait longer to get your breeding herd together.
This option does widen your genetic scope as you can purchase embryos internationally and bring different breeding into your herd.
The fourth option is to use Wagyu semen over females of other breeds to produce an F1 progeny. These F1 progeny can then be sold commercially into the F1 market.
Once you have decided on the level of participation in the Wagyu industry, the next question is how to move forward genetically. The AWA has been prominent in genetic advancement through its ongoing research and breed development as seen in the Wagyu BREEDPLAN system.
Selection of females and males can be greatly assisted by using this genetic tool as a measuring stick to predict the performance of individual animals and where their strengths and weaknesses may lie.
As seedstock males and females are produced it is recommended that they be registered with AWA to provide independent certification of their pedigree and so maximize their value.
Genetic performance analysis of your herd is also recommended through Wagyu BREEDPLAN to estimate the genetic breeding potential of your animals.
There are a number of methods of increasing your herd’s genetic potential. The use of artificial insemination (AI), embryo transfer (ET) and in vitro fertilisation (IVF) are all methods regularly used throughout the world livestock industries to advance the level of genetic gain in a herd.
All the above mentioned technologies are available in Australia to Wagyu breeders from a number of commercial companies View Artificial Breeding Services.
For those wanting a more traditional method, many Wagyu seedstock breeders have registered fullblood Wagyu bulls for sale with BREEDPLAN figures and pedigree information available to help you in selection.
A more recent selection tool for the widespread livestock industry has been the use of genomic selection using a SNP based system of predicting animal performance from very young stock. This is only just becoming available to the Wagyu breeder, firstly in Australia, but within a short period of time will be used more widely to decrease generation interval using the methods as described above.