SUSTAINED premiums for Wagyu content in slaughter cattle is fuelling a sentiment towards increasing the grade of Wagyu within feedlots and ramping up the pressure for an escalation of fullblood numbers.
The breed’s leaders now believe the next four years could see already-buoyant forecasts of fullblood Wagyu joinings pushed even higher.
While Wagyu prices have declined in line with the general correction in young cattle prices, the solid premium has held.
Market analysts Mecardo say Wagyu steer prices have spent most of the past year trading 78 per cent higher than the Eastern Young Cattle Indicator.
That narrowed slightly from the year before’s 85pc.
As a result, parts of the Australian Wagyu industry were now transitioning towards more consistent production of higher grade carcases with increasing quality as the average Wagyu content of slaughter stock increases, Australian Wagyu Association (AWA) chief executive officer Matthew McDonagh told Fairfax Media.
Grading up refers to retaining F1 Wagyu females and crossing them back to fullblood Wagyu bulls.
The Wagyu explosion has been nothing short of phenomenal - around 20 per cent per year for the past five years and expected to continue at that rate to at least 2022.
The growth in numbers from 100,000 joinings to 300,000 joinings from 2011 to 2016 was driven by a large increase in F1 turn-off, Dr McDonagh said.
“This has established Wagyu F1 feeding as a major part of many of our large feedlots,” he said.
Wagyu F1 joinings in Australia are now sitting at approximately 230,000, forecast to lift to 500,000 by 2022.
But the push to increase the grade within feedlots to F2 or higher is forcing a rethink of what is likely to unfold on the fullblood side.
Current estimates for total fullblood and purebred joinings are approximately 70,000 females and the forecast was to 200,000 by 2022.
It has now become clear that number is conservative and based on single joinings, Dr McDonagh said.
“There are a number of large embryo transfer programs underway with more than 25 per cent of matings occurring by ET,” he said.
“The increase in fullblood numbers by 2022 could be far greater than currently forecast, up to 260,000.”
AWA’s annual conference, to be held in Mackay, Queensland, during the first week of May will have a strong focus on fullblood production
Dr McDonagh believes the now-cemented premiums, the work done by established and developing international brands and the maturation of premiums for proven Wagyu seedstock genetics has driven the breed’s growth.
There is limited global competition, outside of Japan and Australia is seen as the international market leader in development of Wagyu genetics, again outside of Japan, he said.
“The AWA Wagyu Breedplan platform is now the globally recognised source of objective information regarding Wagyu genetics and our Wagyu genetics are highly sought after by other countries”, he said.