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Trial exposes big variations in Wagyu net feed intake

Jon Condon, 28/04/2021

Kerwee feedlot manager left, George Lubbe, with most profitable award winner Arthur Dew from Longford, Keith Hammond representing Peter Gilmore’s Irongate Wagyu, third placed Laird Morgan, Arubial Condamine, and AWA’s Matt McDonagh.

BIG variations were seen in results in the Australian Wagyu Association’s inaugural 2021 net feed intake  efficiency competition – a feature which excites geneticists, because it opens up possibilities to select for more efficient and profitable feeder cattle.

The Wagyu industry has been conducting net feed intake studies using a Growsafe feed testing station at Stockyard’s Kerwee feedlot near Jondaryan on Queensland’s Darling Downs.  Twelve cohort groups of steer progeny have passed through the trial so far, representing 56 different Wagyu Fullblood sires.

This year was the first time that awards have been presented for performance during the annual AWA conference on the Gold Coast.

The Kerwee trial represents the first instance that net feed intake has been measured in Wagyu cattle for industry benefit through the association outside of Japan.

This year’s results (see competition winners below, announced during the opening stages of this week’s AWA annual conference on the Gold Coast) showed a 0.8kg/day variance in residual feed intake efficacy between the best and worst performers – a massive gap, when it is considered that typical Wagyu steers are on feed for 350-500 days.

In essence, what that figure means is that the progeny average of the sires involved in the trial required 0.8kg more feed per day, for the same amount of weightgain, than other sires’ progeny average in the same cohort.

For the same amount of bodyweight gain, the poorest performing sire group this year was 0.4kg/day less efficient than the average of the group, and the best performing group, 0.4kg/day more efficient.

Data presented from this analysis by Dr Kirsty Moore from AGBU during yesterday’s presentation showed no signs of any unfavourable correlations between net feed intake and either marbling, or carcase weight.

Effectively, this means Wagyu breeders can safely select for feed efficiency in their cattle, without jeopardising marbling performance.

“But the point that was stressed was that everything breeders did was for multi-trait selection, taking marbling, carcase weight, growth and other traits into account,” AWA chief executive Dr Matt McDonagh said.

“Using all the tools that are available to us, it looks like breeders will be able to select for more efficient feeding Wagyu cattle, while also selecting for higher marbling and other desirable traits,” he said.

Awards were presented last night for first, second and third placed sires in the net feed intake ratings, as well as the highest overall profitability sire, based on feed intake as well as carcase traits  (see results below).

Significantly, three of the sires that topped the results were sons of one of the industry’s original foundation sires, Itoshigenami, who has the most progeny registered in the AWA herd book, outside of Japan, with 6000 progeny.

One of the interesting characteristics of Wagyu in Australia is that there is still a prevalence of foundation-era genetics used to produce sires. Itoshigenami has been universally recognised for throwing elite performing bull progeny.

His famous son, Itoshigenami Junior, set a world record semen price for Mayura Station recently.

AWA feed intake competition results:

Net feed intake –

  • First Placed Sire – Peter Gilmore, Irongate Wagyu Itoshigenami B0006 IGWFB0006
  • Second Place – Peter Gilmore, Irongate Wagyu Itoshigenami 2 L71 IGWFL0071
  • Third Place – Laird Morgan, Arubial Wagyu, Macquarie Prelude M0495 BDWFM0495

Highest ranking net profitability sire –

  • Arthur Dew, Longford Mr Awesome, LFDFD12558.

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