Dairy and Wagyu

- only closer with time


After investing time, money and effort in genetic improvement for 30 years with no significant result, the Australian dairy industry came to a crossroads in the early 2000s – to continue, or concede that enough is enough?

Fortunately, it took the former route. An enduring persistence coupled with an incredible advancement in technologies since 2010, in a way that’s unheard of in the 100-year history of breeding, has seen the industry make remarkable advancements in cow improvement; from new traits to new features, functions, and ways of operating.

There’s now more than 200,000 animals in the reference population for the dairy industry. A hair sample from a dairy cow gives an estimation of a Balanced Index with 80 percent accuracy. The industry is working with an 88 percent accuracy predicting production from a DNA test, and 70 percent accuracy for fertility.

With any animal, anywhere in the world with a DNA test able to get an Australian Breeding Value of these accuracy levels, Dr Nation reflects on the enormity of the advancements.

“When I started in the genetics industry, our capacity to improve genetics was 300 young bulls purchased every year, semen collected and distributed, and we’d wait for their progeny to come through, and prove their merit through their progeny – a six to seven year adventure, with 300 bulls at a time,” he says.

“Now we routinely screen with genomics, 5500 animals, young males, every year from anywhere in the world.”

Eighty percent of the genetics utilised by the Australian dairy industry are imported from overseas. It’s a huge global engine intent on screening bulls, finding the best genetics, and bringing them home. While the dairy industry as a whole has created the platform, the commercial sector is driving the industry forwards. The national industry benchmark parameter for getting cows in calf is 110 for fertility, meaning 10 percent more cows in calf in six weeks. With the commercial sector putting that amount of pressure on young animals coming to Australia, the economic benefits are far-reaching.

As the results continue to grow, so too does the overlap between the Wagyu sector and the dairy industry. Young females are being genomically tested so economic decisions can be made based on their genetic merit.

Selectively using sexed semen and elite genetics on the best young stock and rearing dairy replacements from those frees up the rest of the herd to think about how the two industries partner.

“This is real, this is happening, we are seeing it and It is a genuine scenario, where 60 percent of a farmer’s future calves will be expected to be dairy beef and have a viable part in the beef sector going forwards,” Dr Nation says.

“Our future only gets closer together and the sustainability of both our industries all happen together simultaneously.”


Dr David Nation
Managing Director, Dairy Australia

WagyuEdge 2022 Conference keynote speaker. Watch the video of his full presentation explaining the challenges the Dairy Industry faced in the 2000s and how they went about to solve for it. 

Important Notice and Disclaimer

It is very important that you appreciate when viewing the AWA database that the information contained on the AWA database, including but not limited to pedigree, DNA information, Estimated Breeding Values (EBVs) and Index values, is based on data supplied by members and/or third parties.

Whilst every effort is made to ensure the accuracy of the information reported through AWA, AWA officers and employees assume no responsibility for its content, use or interpretation. AWA disclaims all liability (including without limitation, liability in negligence) for all expenses, losses, damages and costs you may incur as a result of the use by you of the data on this AWA database and the information supplied by ABRI and AGBU being inaccurate or incomplete in any way for any reason.

Regarding EBVs and Index values, it is very important to appreciate, and you need to be aware that:

  • EBVs are derived using Wagyu Single Step BREEDPLAN technology developed independently by the Animal Genetics and Breeding Unit (AGBU), using the information contained within the AWA database.
  • AGBU is a joint venture of NSW Department of Primary Industries and the University of New England, which receives funding for this purpose from Meat and Livestock Australia Limited.
  • AWA relies solely on advice provided by AGBU and ABRI in accepting Wagyu Single Step BREEDPLAN software.
  • EBVs published in Wagyu Single Step BREEDPLAN are estimates of genetic potential of individual animals and may not reflect the raw animal phenotype.
  • EBVs can only be directly compared to other EBVs calculated in the same monthly Wagyu Group BREEDPLAN analysis.

Regarding pedigree and DNA testing results submitted to the AWA, it is very important to appreciate, and you need to be aware that:

  • Pedigree and DNA data submitted and supplied to AWA may have errors in it which cannot be detected without further DNA testing.
  • Technology may have advanced since a particular test was undertaken so that previous inaccuracies which were not detectable are now able to be detected by current testing technology.
  • AWA estimates that less than 1% of the pedigree entries, ownership or breeding details in the AWA Herdbook may have errors or which may be misleading. For this reason, users ought to consider if they need to obtain independent testing of the relevant animal (if possible) to ensure that the data is accurate.

Regarding prefectural content, it is very important to appreciate, and you need to be aware that:

  • Prefectural content is based on the estimation of prefectural origin from Japanese breeding records of 201 foundation sires and 168 foundation dams.  As genotype-based parent verification is not used in Japan, and full Japanese registration certificates are not available for all foundation animals, exact prefectural composition for these sires and dams cannot be validated.
  • The calculation of prefectural content for Australian Herdbook animals relies on the accuracy of pedigree records and DNA samples provided by AWA members.
  • The reporting of prefectural content for animals within the AWA Herdbook relies on the calculation provided by ABRI.

If you consider that you do not understand or appreciate the nature and extent of the data provided on this website or the EBVs of a particular animal, then AWA strongly recommends that you seek independent expert advice.