Like much of the purebred herd in New Zealand, our purebred cattle trace their origins to embryos that were imported from Australia in the early 1990s. These embryos in turned trace back the bulls that were exported from Japan in 1976 - Mazda, Mt Fuji and Judo.
We embarked on a genetic improvement program and have invested heavily in Artifical Insemination (AI) and Embryo Transfer (ET) processes right from the start. ET in particular is complicated and costly, but allows maximum genetic gain and full control over the herd composition. We have a small number of dairy cross surrogate/nurse cows, and have partnered with a local dairy farm to provide surrogates for our ET program.
In 2017 we decided we needed to widen our genetic base and imported frozen fullblood embryos from the noted producer David Blackmore in Australia. The Blackmore herd is built on the famous Takeda Farms genetics as well as Tajima sires such as Yasafuku Jr. And Michifuku.
In terms of maternal influences our purebred female herd is influenced by the foundation bull Hirashigetayasu J2351, through his son Ginjo Marblemax Hiranami B901. Hirashigetayasu is known for passing on growth, balance and maternal strength. Our fullblood females are influenced by the foundation bull TF147 Itoshigefuji through the Blackmore Hikohime dam line and the bull Dai Ichi Kikuzakura. Itoshigefuji is arguably the best known bull for providing maternal qualities, with his offspring typically being gentle and well balanced with a good growth rate.
We have a range of AI and live service bulls available which capture the major Japanese Black lines. We have both 'size' and 'marbling/carcass' bulls to complement a given cow's breeding.
Our breeding philosophy for our breeding cows generally follows the Takeda Rotational Breeding plan (Wagyu International has a good overview of the system here). We recognise that the way Wagyu cattle are raised in New Zealand is different to that in Japan. All our animals need to perform in a pastoral system and we place a huge amount of value in maintaining maternal traits in our breeding cows. We are firm believers that great cows raise great calves, which in turn make excellent beef.
In addition to the prefectural bloodines, we also look at Estimated Breeding Value (EBV) data where it is available, consider the recessive genetic conditions present in each animal, and plan our rotations to manage inbreeding coefficients. Finally we take each animal on its merits; there can be considerable variation even between full siblings and we will tailor the program to the cow as required.
Special consideration is given to heifer bull selection; although wagyu are known for easy calving there is a large variation in calf weights. Generally high Tajima content 'marbling' bulls are the best option, often producing calves in the 28-30kg range.
We strive for best practice when it comes to recording and testing of our animals. Weight measurements are regularly taken from birth and all calves are DNA parent verified through Zoetis NZ (purebreds) or the AWA (fullbloods). The fullblood animals are all genomically tested and registered with the AWA and the purebred animals will be registered with the NZWBA once the facility becomes available.