Wagyu Beef History
Wagyu in Australia and Japan.
Wagyu cattle originate from Japan, the first Wagyu imported into Australia was a cow in 1990 and then in 1991 a shipment of frozen semen and embryos. In 1993 there was a shipment of five full blood animals from Japan to the USA, these animals have had a huge influence on the genetics in Australia.
There have been three other imports of Wagyu genetics into Australia and all have been long term and costly as there was no protocol for imports from Japan directly to Australia.
Wagyu were originally used as draft animals for plowing rice fields and pack animals for transporting supplies through the mountains. Animals were selected for there sustainable energy, this energy was stored in their intra-muscular fat cells ‘marbling’ which provided a readily available energy source. This selection process favoured animals that could work harder and longer and that meant animals with more marbling. The distinctive marbling feature of Wagyu cattle has resulted from this selection process. The Japanese government, realizing their unique product, banned any further exporting of their Wagyu genetics and declared them a national treasure.
In Japan all sires are progeny tested. Only the sires that produce the best performing progeny are used in the breeding of Wagyu, most of which is by artificial insemination.
Australia has been lucky to have some of the best Wagyu genetics possible outside of Japan. Australia is free from the exotic diseases that many other countries have and which restrict their exporting capabilities. The clean green image of Australia is an advantage when it comes to exporting both live cattle and meat products. Wagyu and Wagyu cross cattle now make up most of the live cattle shipments to Japan that were once dominated by other breeds of cattle such as Angus.
Wagyu have become a popular breed in Australia because they are:
- easy calving with their low birth weight calves making them ideal sires for first calving heifers.
- easy handling.
- have excellent meat quality, winning numerous paddock to plate competitions and commanding premium prices relative to other breeds.