Success for Wagyu Genetic Discovery Programme

AUSTRALIA - A unique and innovative Australian developed genetic discovery program has generated highly significant results for Wagyu breeders and is set to impact the international Wagyu population.
calendar icon 3 December 2014
clock icon 3 minute read

The Australian Wagyu Association in collaboration with Meat & Livestock Australia has taken a radical and novel approach to the traditional Beef Industry Nucleus concept successfully utilised by major beef breeds in Australia.

“Because Wagyu is one of the newest breeds in Australia, we needed to make up ground as quickly and efficiently as possible,” according to Wagyu Australia’s Executive Officer Graham Truscott.

“We have introduced specially developed digital carcase imaging cameras and genomic relationship matrix technology to produce accurate Estimated Breeding Values for traits that are significant to the Wagyu breed,” he said.

The result of the stage 1 work is the release of new research carcass EBVs for Fineness of Marbling, Marbling Percentage and Rib Eye Area generated from camera imaging and Carcase Weight and Marbling Score generated from AUS-MEAT and MSA data.

Wagyu Australia has released lists of over 100 of the leading sires in descending order for EBVs for AUS-MEAT Marble Score and Carcase Weight and for camera generated Fineness of Marbling, Marbling Percentage and Rib Eye Area. The lists are available at

Over 3000 Wagyu Fullblood and Crossbred carcases have been analysed using the specially developed Japanese digital imaging camera which can accurately score marbling at extreme levels of AUS-MEAT Marble Score of 9+ which can only be achieved in Wagyu carcases. In fact 17% of the Fullblood and Purebred Wagyu carcases analysed exceeded MS9.

Genotypes for over 2000 samples have been generated at the University of Queensland’s laboratory to produce SNP panels used by the Animal Genetics and Breeding Unit (AGBU) in ‘single step’ BREEDPLAN analysis to quickly and more accurately establish pedigree relationships.

The imaging by the special carcase camera has been valuable however it is expensive and more invasive on the highly valuable Wagyu carcases where certain cuts can retail at close to $200/kg.

Stage 2 of the program has been launched and this will move the encouraging Stage 1 genomically enhanced research EBVs and ‘single step’ BREEDPLAN through to incorporation in the production Wagyu BREEDPLAN genetic analysis.

Predictive genomic tests will be developed and commercialized for breeding and commercial slaughter animals. A new service is being developed to enable collection of large numbers of genomic and phenotypic records to build and maintain the accuracy of the genomically enhanced EBVs.

Promising young sires will be identified annually and their widespread use encouraged to provide further performance data, reduce genetic interval and increase genetic gain.

“This is an exciting time for the Wagyu breed which now has reliable scientific data that will give members more information on the genetics available and this will enable rapid genetic progress in the breed,” said Mr Truscott.

“Australian members are adopting the new technology and several overseas breeders are involved in the process. There are indications the Australian developed Wagyu genetic discovery program could be the basis of international genetic development for the Wagyu breed,” he said.

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