For the Japanese Black producer, single trait selection focussed on marbling outcomes is a recipe for commercial mediocrity. By far the most important determinant of success is gross $$$$ carcass value. Heavy, high yielding carcasses with good maintained marbling easily outperform small (often high Tajima) exceptional marbling carcasses in dollar returns. A simple example table is provided in the ‘Value of Growth’ subsection below.
This section reviews the key value components of Japanese Black production, then performance prediction tools, starting with a snapshot of modern Japanese practice and then looking separately at western Crossbred (XB) and Australian Fullblood (FB) production segments and predictive tools. Australia is now the second largest Wagyu producer in the world, now with a predictive toolbox to include genomically enhanced EBVs (GEBVs). However, at the 2014 stage of rollout (2014 Research Sire/Dam Summary) researchers stress that results ‘should not be used in marketing’ and ‘no responsibility is accepted for any outcomes relating….’ (to the use of the research EBVs). There are good reasons for caution at this early stage, as noted below.
Although Japanese EBVs are based exclusively on carcass data, the Australian Research EBVs are a breakthrough in Western production of Japanese Blacks – the first time Australian Wagyu EBVs have been based on actual carcass results. Critical: because in no other cattle breed is accurate prediction of carcass outcomes as economically important. The foremost objective remains accurate estimation of marble score or intramuscular fat (%IMF) – the single most important Wagyu carcass value determinant.
Growth/carcass weight is the second most economically important trait. However, in the global market in which most Australian product is distributed, other crucial traits include yield, marbling fineness, REA, texture, fat colour, and other considerations of the Japanese (JMGA) grading system, some of which are entirely missing from the AUS-MEAT ‘language’ currently used for most Australian FB carcass assessment.