Herdbook breeding in Japan
Originally, Wagyu were used as working animals for mining and transport as well as for forestry and agriculture. Selection was based on work performance; standardized breeding goals did not exist. In the second half of the 19th century, the consumption of meat was allowed. As a result, many bulls of different breeds were imported in order to obtain more meat from the originally very small animals. It was soon realized that the desired quality characteristics, especially marbling, suffered as a result. Therefore, crossbreeding was very quickly banned again in 1910.
In 1919, a selection and registration system was started for the first time - the start of herdbook breeding in Japan. However, in the beginning, selection was only based on the prefectures, which still have a very great influence today. At the Wagyu-Zenkyo, which takes place every 5 years, the prefectures compete with each other - females are classified, and the carcass results of the bulls are evaluated. A folk festival with great participation of the population. In the meantime, there are also national breeding targets for the various breeds in Japan. The breeding progress is now documented.
Cradle of Wagyu breeding!
Since Japan is of high importance, but not accessible to us, it is now necessary to take a closer look at the other herdbooks. The worldwide breeding is based on about 220 animals - the first exports went to the US and Australia.
The breeding organizations of both countries have very good documentation about the pedigrees of the animals. However, unlike Japan, the respective breeding organizations list the Japanese Black (Kuroge) and Japanese Brown (Akaushi) in one herdbook - the Wagyu herdbook. While it is still illegal to cross these two breeds in Japan, internationally crossbred animals of black and red Wagyu are considered purebred.
Herdbook breeding in Australia
The Australian Wagyu Association (AWA) is based in Armidale. In 2020, a total of over 100,000 mother cows and almost 12,000 bulls are registered - for many of these animals, supplementary values are available for carcass weight, rib eye, marbling and fineness of marbling, for example. The EBV values (BLUP analysis), which used to be based on observations of the progeny, have now been replaced by a so-called "single-step breeding plan", into which all values that are additionally obtained are incorporated. In particular, the results of the genomic breeding value estimation, which is now based on the data of more than 60,000 animals (SNP test).
EBV stands for Estimated Breeding Value. The breeding values obtained by the SNP test improve the accuracy of EBV - especially for young animals that do not yet have offspring. By adding data over time, the accuracy of the prediction then increases - as shown in examples below. Half of the values applicable to the respective animal are then used in a new mating.
Comprehensible representation - total transparency
For me, the Australian system has been the world leader for years because of its transparency and extensive data. Here, individual animals are not praised or claims are made, but a comprehensible presentation is made. Therefore, I have already been involved with the Australian herdbook for many years and have meanwhile established a large network of breeders from whom I regularly import genetics to Germany. This allows a better prediction for matings that are planned to achieve the respective goals. It is important to understand that this allows a better planning, but nature still influences reality - so an animal may show higher actual weighing weights despite a genomically predicted lighter weight!
Examples of Australian bulls
Herdbook breeding in the USA
The American Wagyu Association (also abbreviated AWA) is based at the University of Idaho. It also maintains the herdbook for the entire Wagyu population in the USA. Access is available to non-members - similar to Australia.
If you go to "Find a breeder...." in the "Animal Search" section via the top task bar, you can enter the registration number of the animal you are looking for via "Reg#". In the USA, this registration number is already used to distinguish between:
FB12345 - FullBlood
PB12345 - PureBred (from 4th generation or 93.75% Wagyu blood)
PC12345 - Crossbreeds below the PureBred level
The presentation includes a 5 generation pedigree and other details about the animals. If you want to go deeper, you can also look under DNA at the results of the pedigree tests, genetic features and SCD/tenderness (if available). There are quite a few tests done with the animals - but a systematic and transparent recording like in the Australian herdbook does not take place to my knowledge or is still in the beginning. Therefore, many American breeders have also gone to the Australian herdbook with their animals. The Americans have agreed on a cooperation with the Australians.