Accelerated AWA Board and breed renewal. To re-empower the silent majority of AWA members and restore effective AWA member representation in breed development. Enhance breed sustainability with more accessible to breed development programs. With strategies for expanded, stable domestic livestock and global genetics markets.
These are our shared, Independent ‘directions for action’ in 2020-21:
With the adoption of AWA Carcass EBVs in 2014 (President S. de Bruin/secretary G. Truscott) many medium to small Fullblood Wagyu herds were substantially disenfranchised from making fully effective contributions to WAGYU BREEDPLAN carcass metrics. Without known AWA membership consultation, or known consideration of Australian herd demographics, generic ‘all breeds’ practice for BREEDPLAN contemporary groups was adopted. A few (not all) large vertical Wagyu breeders were enormously advantaged. Most innovative smaller breeders were severely disadvantaged within this brand-new AWA breed development program, which had a huge impact on some Wagyu livestock values. Concise member advice on this situation was not delivered until the 2020 AWA EBV Review webinar series. We believe the situation has to change, and it can, with innovation in new AWA progeny test and other programs from 2021 to enhance AWA BREEDPLAN EBVs.
We start with the TCI (Terminal Carcass Index), which was adopted without member consultation in 2015 under the same Board leadership (President S. de Bruin/secretary G. Truscott) as the Carcass EBV introduction in 2014. The Wagyu industry then had the sole choice of one, single-trait-focussed (Terminal) index for about three years. ‘Terminal’ meaning that the target outcome was the slaughter of all progeny. High TCI animals became very valuable. The average size of animals in the Top Published sires list shrunk. Inbreeding increased, and many diligent animal breeders might have seen this as an excellent ‘Terminal’ route to effective breed suicide. Since 2018, we’ve turned it around with a range of Indexes with clearly differentiated targets, saving the most versatile (Breeder Index) for last in 2020. The Carcass weight EBV is still not included in AWA Indexes, but a full Index suite can now be selected from. More work is needed to enhance AWA BREEDPLAN Indexes.
DIFFERENTIATED F1 SIRE AND FULLBLOOD BREEDING:
Breeding fullblood bulls for F1 herds is a very different enterprise to producing fullbloods for fullblood commercial feeder or breeder production. AWA metrics needs to come to terms with, and explicitly recognise this to assist both side of the industry. Crossbred data programs underway will help. Focussed, clearly identified tools would also assist. We need to drive development of these.
MEASURING AND MANAGING BREED DIVERSITY:
A key tool in Japanese management of genetic diversity, prefectural sub-population analysis, was introduced by AWA during 2020. For our science partner, AGBU, the analysis can provide a structure or roadmap for breed genetic evaluation. For breeders, it’s a simple tool for managing diversity. With AGBU’s help, we will now optimise our investment in this new ‘knowledge platform’.
In 2020, the AWA Board was obliged to deal with a substantial number of complaints, the large majority of which were carried forward from 2018 (President Gilmour) and 2019 (President Winter). Obstacles were encountered. It was discovered that the inaugural AWA Governance Charter and Complaints Policy (President Gilmour, 2016-17/Secretary G. Truscott) contained legal flaws. The Board acted decisively. In August 2020, a comprehensive new Governance Charter, Complaints Policy and Director Deed were developed with external legal consultants. The legally compliant policies came into force in mid-September 2020. (See AWA announcement here) For the first time, the AWA suite of Governance documents is now available to members on the AWA website here. Good governance can now be seen to be done, and this will continue.
MEMBER SERVICES OVERSIGHT:
The first ever review of member services and competitive breed society performance was conducted in December-February 2020. A series of performance benchmarks are now available to the Board which will enable ongoing review and maintenance of optimised service standards.