Crossbred cattle

Crossbred-commercial

Breeding crossbred commercial Wagyu

Crossbreeding Wagyu with other breeds is alternative to fullblood Wagyu breeding. The aim of crossbreeding is to introduce the Wagyu characteristics to enhance the carcass traits and other desirable traits of the Wagyu breed. Although introducing Wagyu into a herd is traditionally done to increase marbling and eating quality of the carcase, several producers in Australia have introduced Wagyu to increase fertility in their herd also.

Breeding up

The first cross of a Wagyu fullblood 100% bull over another breed is referred to as an F1 e.g. a fullblood Wagyu bull over an Angus cow is referred to as F1 Wagyu/Angus. Further crossing of Wagyu are generally referred to as breeding up.

The below table shows the result of consecutive generations of crossbreeding.

Cross number Level of Wagyu content Definition
First cross 50% Wagyu Crossbred Wagyu F1 50% Has 50% or higher Wagyu genetic content. For
example the first generation of crossbreeding a
Wagyu fullblood sire and the dam of another breed.
Second cross 75% Wagyu Crossbred Wagyu F2 75% Has 75% or higher Wagyu genetic content. For
example is the result of at least two generations of
crossbreeding, using a Wagyu fullblood sire and a
crossbred Wagyu F1 dam.
Third cross 87.5% Wagyu Crossbred Wagyu F3 87+% Has greater than 87% Wagyu genetic content. For
example is the result of at least three generations of
crossbreeding, using a Wagyu fullblood sire and a
Crossbred Wagyu F2 dam.
Forth cross 93.75% Wagyu Purebred Wagyu F4 93+% Has greater than 93% Wagyu genetic content. For
example, the result of at least four generations of
crossbreeding using a Wagyu fullblood sire and a
crossbred Wagyu F3 dam.
Fifth cross 96.875% Wagyu
Sixth cross 98.4375% Wagyu
Seventh cross 99.21875% Wagyu
Etc..
Purebred Wagyu F4 93+% Has greater than 93% Wagyu genetic content. For
example, the result of at least four generations of
crossbreeding using a Wagyu fullblood sire and a
crossbred Wagyu F3 dam.

Notes:
The above table show crosses are the result of using a Wagyu fullblood 100% bull. If crossbred bulls (less than 100%) are used the resultant offspring will not be the same classification as if a fullblood bull was used. The percentage of Wagyu by content determines the classification in this instance.

A purebred is referred to as a crossbred animal with 93+% Wagyu by content. Further crosses are also referred to as purebreds. No amount of crosses can result in a fullblood Wagyu being produced. fullblood animals can only be produced a result of a fullblood Wagyu male (100%) over a fullblood Wagyu female (100%).

Pros and cons of crossbreeding

Crossbreeding with Wagyu can give massive improvements in carcase attributes such as marbling in the first cross. Additionally hybrid vigour assists the carcass weight to remain high.

As more Wagyu content is introduced the hybrid vigour is reduced, gain of marble is less pronounced and the carcase weight tends to reduce. Another major component to be considered is the milk production of the crossbred cow is slowly reduced as the Wagyu content is increased if high marbling is sought after. For this reason many crossbred Wagyu producers are breeding to F1 or F2 stage only and lot feeding both male and female progeny.

If further breeding up is the aim, more planning must be considered to maintain a stable maternal line with the following characteristics from the bull in mind –

  • Frame size
  • Milk production

Choice of base females

Some breeds traditionally used for crossbreeding with Wagyu are Angus, Holstein and Brahman. Some key criteria for the selection of base females used for breeding up are:

  • Suitability to the breeding environment
  • Marbling potential
  • Frame size
  • Milk production

Bull selection

The high Tajima line off Wagyu bulls is desirable for first crosses due to their high marbling characteristics passed on to the progeny.

Many producers breed F1 or F2 progeny as terminal offspring using the Tajima genetics. If ongoing Cross breeding or breeding up is the aim a more long term approach is required as would be used in a fullblood breeding operation, with increased focus on milking ability and growth. Also, multi-generational breeding requires the use of other Wagyu blood lines to reduce the inbreeding co-efficient.

Animal husbandry

Another important factor in producing a highly marbled carcass is keeping the animal on a rising plane of nutrition throughout its life. An animal’s foetal stage is the first stage affected by nutrition; this is called ‘foetal programming’. After the organs of a foetus have formed the muscle structure is next to develop during the pregnancy. In this stage the foundation for the ability of the animal to express intra-muscular fat (marble) is developed. This means keeping the cow in good condition is essential during the pregnancy, not only for her ability to conceive again after giving birth but also to give her unborn calf the best chance to achieve its highest marbling potential.

After birth any setback in condition of the animal can also affect its ability to express marbling later in life.

Record keeping

For best results in breeding Wagyu full parentage recording is always recommended. With an animal’s pedigree known the following can be managed accurately:

  • Future sires to be used over females to attain optimal genetic makeup
  • Feedback can be recorded from carcass data and linked back to pedigrees of individual animals
  • Culling of animals with undesirable traits.

In large scale breeding operations DNA parentage tests can be utilised via hair or tissue samples submitted to the AWA. For more information on DNA testing see the DNA parent verification testing process [link].

Marketing

The Wagyu production chain can be categorised into the following stages –:

  1. Breeding
  2. Backgrounding (most crossbred Wagyu are inducted into feedlots at 340 – 400 kg live weight)
  3. Lot feeding (450 days in a feedlot is common for crossbred Wagyu in Australia)
  4. Carcase sales (finished lot fed cattle are usually sold based on carcase traits, mainly marble score and weight)
  5. Meat sales (packaged meat is sold domestically and in many overseas markets, with 80% – 90% of Wagyu based product being exported)

Participants in the Wagyu production chain can get involved in any or a selection of the above stages dependant on their ability to influence suitable outcomes.

Commonly stages 1 and 2 are carried out by the breeder. There are operations that will purchase suitably bred lines of backgrounded cattle and carry the animals through stages 3 and 4. Stage 3 is a high cash flow demand stage. Stage 5 is a specialised area which is carried out by very few operations as it requires managing multiple costumers in various countries with a wide variety of appetites and trading currencies.

Other markets for crossbred Wagyu include:

  • The growing live export market principally for heifers of approximately 300kg
  • The live export market for steers. Some 13,500 crossbred Wagyu are shipped to Japan annually for finishing and meat sales in Japan. These are typically fed for 500 days in Japan.

See F1 Wagyu Bring More Money for further information.