The introduction of Wagyu cattle to Australia involved live imports through USA as there is no protocol for direct imports from Japan. The first Wagyu imports to USA were four bulls in 1976 and they were mated to females of other breeds. Three generations of crossing back to Wagyu is required to produce American purebred progeny which comprise 93.75% Wagyu (15/16). Purebred semen, embryos and one female were imported to Australia.
A shipment of five fullbloods (100% Wagyu) was exported from Japan to the United States in July 1993. These included the two bulls; Michifuku and Haruki 2, and the four heifers; Suzutani, Rikitani and Okutani. These cattle were followed by three further shipments of live cattle. In 1995, there was a major shipment from the famed Takeda stud of Mr Shogo Takeda. The Takeda shipment comprised 35 heifers with some in calf and 5 bulls. Four of those bulls qualified for semen shipment to Australia. Another 45 black females and six black bulls were imported from Japan to USA in 1996.
Chris Walker of Westholme imported 25 black females and three black males to USA. The following year another 59 females arrived in USA together with semen from three black bulls - Dai 6 Seizan, Kitatsurukiku Doi and Shigefuku. The three imported bulls were slaughtered after the outbreak of BSE in Japan but the autopsies confirmed that they are free so the semen that had been stored is available. Their semen - Hirashige Tayasu "001" (Kedaka), Itomoritaka "002" (Fujiyoshi) and Kitateruyasu Doi "003" (Tajima) - has contributed largely to size in the Australian herd from milk and growth because of the diversity and Kitateruyasu Doi contributes high marbling. The females were exported to Australia and also brought diversity from 44 Shimane, 28 Kedaka and 12 Tajima. Dams which bred in Australia include: Hatsuko, Itoreiko, Kazuaki, Kitahikari 97/1, Kitakazu, Kitaokumi, Kitasakaedoi, Kitasekitori, Kitatizuru 2, Kunikiku 96, Masako, Masatoshi 2, Sakaehikari, Sekinakada 22, Sekiyuhou, Takakuni, Takashigedoi, Yamafuji, Yamaketakafuji 3 and Yuriyuho.
Simon Coates had been exporting F1s from purebreds to Japan since he formed Sumo Wagyu in 1991. After quarantine conditions had been met for the first shipment of Shogo Takeda's Foundation sires and heifers to USA, Simon exported 56 calves from six families as embryos from Mr Takeda in USA in deliveries in 1996 and 1997 to Australia. He subsequently purchased the Takeda herd in Australia:
Marbling of Wagyu
Wagyu is renowned for its marbling in the form of intramuscular fat (IMF) which appears as fine flecks within the muscle. The presence of marbling has a very positive effect on the eating quality of beef in terms of tenderness, juiciness and flavour, giving Wagyu an exceptional eating experience.
The marbling score is a component of the AUS-MEAT beef quality grading system, and refers to visible fat found between muscle fibre bundles and is assessed within the rib eye muscle. Marbling score is assessed visually by an AUS-MEAT qualified grader during the process of carcass grading using the scoring range 0 to 9 as shown below. The distribution and texture of the fat flecks, referred to as fineness are also assessed.
To give a more precise result, intramuscular fat may be measured by chemical extraction of lipids from a thin facing of the exposed rib eye muscle. Therefore, the percentage of intramuscular fat is an objective measurement that quantifies the total fat content within the rib eye muscle. Camera technology developed by Meat Image Japan specifically for Wagyu can also be used to quantify Wagyu marbling and is used by the AWA for Australian Wagyu.
Wagyu cattle that are Fullbloods have the highest level of marbling of any beef breed. Through its higher marbling, Wagyu beef possesses a higher proportion of monounsaturated fat, compared to other beef. According to Tim Crowe, Ph.D., senior lecturer of nutrition at the School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences at Deakin University in Australia, the monounsaturated fatty acid to saturated fatty acid ratio runs up to three times higher in Wagyu beef than other beef. Crowe says half of all marbling in Wagyu is comprised of monounsaturated fats. Wagyu beef can therefore be eat in place of other breeds within the recommendations of overall red meat intake as part of a healthy and balanced diet.
Marbling potential is determined by both genetics and nutrition. To attain the highest level of marbling, Wagyu is fed on a diet of straw for roughage and grain for protein and carbohydrates. While Wagyu will develop considerable marbling from quality grass feeding, most are feedlot fed on carefully designed rations of straw for roughage and grain for protein and carbohydrates.
In Australia Wagyu Fullbloods are fed for 400 – 650 days with the aim of producing marble score at least 8+, achieving carcase weights of 300 – 450 kgs.
Crossbred Wagyu are fed for 350 – 450 days with the objective of producing marble score 5 – 7+, achieving similar carcase weights as Fullbloods but with much greater marbling variability.
Estimated Breeding Values for IMF (intramuscular fat) may be used to select Wagyu Fullblood and Purebred males and females to improve marbling levels. Refer to our news item on discovering Wagyu’s best marbling genetics.