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The Wagyu Breed

Wagyu were originally draught animals used in agriculture, and were selected for their physical endurance. This selection favoured animals with more intra-muscular fat cells ‘marbling’ which provided a readily available energy source. Japanese Wagyu derive from native Asian cattle. There is some evidence of genetic separation into the Wagyu genetic strain as much as 35,000 years ago. There were infusions
of British and European breeds in the late 1800’s, but the breed was closed to outside genetic
infusions in 1910.

The variation of conformation within the Wagyu breed is greater than the variation across British and European breeds. These differences have produced a Japanese national herd with compromises 90% black cattle, the remainder being red.

    • Tajiri or Tajima ?these cattle are descendants of the Tajiri, a sire born in Mikata District of the Hyogo Prefecture. This is a large, influential sire line to which almost all strains within the Hyogo prefecture are related to some extent. The Tajiri line has outstanding genetic excellence of meat and finely marbled beef but in combination with smaller frame and lower growth rates. This line is famous for good temperament, transmitted by a large number of sires as well as cows. Famous are the names of “Kobe Beef?or “Matsuzaka-beef?from beef produced in Hyogo Prefecture using Tajiri bloodlines.
    • Fujiyoshi (Shimane) ?this line of cattle is well balanced and produces calves with good growth rate and meat quality. They are also quiet in temperament and exhibit a strong maternal ability in dams, which also have a high fertility. The bloodline started in the Tomada District of the Okayama Prefecture. While the number of key sires is relatively small compared to other lines, the line is listed, as one of the major bull strains because of the excellence of its beef Dai 7 Itozakura is a Fujiyoshi line bull, probably the most famous of the line.
    • Kedaka (Tottori) ?this line formed in the Tottori Prefecture from the descendants of the sire Kedaka born in 1959. Typical characteristics of the line include good growth, larger frame type, good topline and overall balance. They are known for their fine, loose skin. Dai 20 Hirashige is an important sire of the Kedaka line. His semen is still used although the price per straw is over US$1000. He gained 84.7 points as an ‘Ikushu-Taroka?bull which was the highest honor in Japan at the time. The number of registered sons of this bull is very high.
    • Kochi and Kumamoto ?these are red strains, and have been strongly influenced by Korean and European breeds, especially Simmental.
  • Realising the value of their unique products, the Japanese Government originally banned the export of Wagyu and declared them a national treasure.

    The production of Wagyu beef in Japan is highly regulated and progeny testing in mandatory. Only the very best proven genetics are kept for breeding.

    However, 1976 four bulls were exported to the USA, and cattle were upgraded into an essentially crossbred Wagyu herd from the American cowherd.

    Since 1993, with the diplomatic pressure from the US Government, import of Seed stock and genetics have been allowed into the USA, and thence to Australia.

  • Australia received it's first Wagyu genetics in 1990, a Wagyu female.

    Frozen semen and embryos followed in 1991. Australia was greatly influenced by a shipment of five full blood animals from Japan to the USA in 1993.

    Three other major importations of Wagyu genetics into Australia took place, all of these importations being costly long-term projects since there were no protocols for direct imports from Japan to Australia.

    Australia is now in the unique position of having the best accumulation of Wagyu genetic material outside of Japan in a country free of those diseases, which restrict exports from other countries.

    Australia has become the Clean Green Wagyu supplier of the world.

    The Australian Wagyu Association protects the integrity of this unique genetic base by insisting that all Wagyu Seed stock submitted for the registration must undergo DNA parent verification.

    The Australian Wagyu Association has also developed a Wagyu Group Breed Plan, an objective system of genetic evaluation.

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