Dairy Cows Serve as Surrogate Moms for Wagyu Beef Cattle

JAPAN - A start-up in Mie Prefecture is attempting to beef up the breeding of famed "wagyu" cattle through surrogate birthing by Holstein dairy cows in Hokkaido.
calendar icon 24 May 2017
clock icon 2 minute read

According to The Asahi Shimbun, if calves are efficiently bred, the project could help stabilize the prices of wagyu beef, which have soared to their highest levels ever.

Mie Prefecture is the production area for Matsusaka beef cattle, one of the best-known brands of Japanese beef cattle collectively known as wagyu.

Under the project, wagyu beef cattle with genes for high meat quality will supply the egg cells and sperm. Each month, about 10,000 fertilized eggs will be created and sold to farmers in Hokkaido who are keeping Holstein surrogate mothers for the calves to be bred.

The calves will be raised into Matsusaka beef cattle and Iga beef cattle, both being specialty brands of Mie Prefecture.

AG Trading, a stockbreeding venture operated by a veterinarian in Suzuka, Mie Prefecture, has set up a group company, AG Embryo Support, specifically for this project.

“The plan will allow us to create a new production platform for Matsusaka beef cattle,” said Junichi Nagamune, 33, president of AG Embryo Support, which is based in Obihiro, Hokkaido.

Wagyu beef cattle can be marketed under the brand of the area in which they were grown for a certain period of time, regardless of where they were born.

Matsusaka beef cattle refer to female calves of the Japanese Black breed that were bought from calf-breeding farmers across Japan and were raised by farmers in and around the city of Matsusaka, Mie Prefecture.

Calves of the Japanese Black, however, have decreased in number, partly because aging farmers have withdrawn from breeding. According to figures of the Agriculture and Livestock Industries Corp., only 310,000 such calves were traded at markets in 2016, down 20 percent from 2009.

Trading prices of a calf soared more than twofold to between 800,000 yen and 900,000 yen ($7,100 and $8,000) during the same period. ALIC figures show that the retail price of wagyu beef shoulder stood at 789 yen per 100 grams on national average as of March, up 20 percent from three years earlier.

In late April, a fund set up by Hyakugo Bank, Mizuho Bank and other parties invested 50 million yen in AG Embryo Support’s project.

“We hope the plan will help increase the number of Matsusaka and Iga beef cattle,” said Yukimasa Kimura, head of the Regional Revitalization Division with Hyakugo Bank, a regional bank based in Mie Prefecture.

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