The American Wagyu Association has established guidelines for data collection from which customized genetic selection tools can be created for the Wagyu breed. These selection tools are a statistical analysis of performance data submitted by AWA members, referred to as Expected Progeny Differences (EPD). These EPD will provide Wagyu breeders with tools and the opportunity to improve genetics for growth, reproductive, maternal, and terminal carcass traits within their herd and across the Wagyu population.
For data to be relevant to EPD production, standard data collection procedures must be outlined. Data collection and submission throughout the cattle production cycle will allow Wagyu producers to become more efficient at all stages of production. Collection of data points at the cow calf level affect the ability for Wagyu producers to measure the maternal traits of their cow herd, along with measuring heritable growth traits of the calf produced through weaning. Data collection beyond weaning will affectively measure the growth genetics of cattle from specific genetic lines, until terminal traits can be collected.
Genetic evaluations analyze the differences in the performance of animals due to the genetic differences of the animals. To properly account for this, we must measure differences in individual animal performance within sound contemporary groups that define a constant environment and allowing genetic differences to be observed. While measuring performance is simple in principle, it is important to keep in mind the proper age windows for measuring as well as general guidelines for contemporary group structure. These guidelines have been drafted to help insure the proper collection of objective measurements on the ranch.
It is important that we consider correct techniques when collecting data. For example, who should do the measuring? While it may seem that it doesn’t matter who reads the scales, it can result in the information being biased, one person may have a tendency to round numbers up while the other rounds down. For this reason it is important that the same person measure each animal in the contemporary group. Also, measuring scrotal measurements on bulls, one technician may pull the tape tighter than another. For these reasons it is important to use good equipment and to be as consistent as possible in the measuring technique and that all animals receive a fair measurement. This may include little things such as keeping the scales clean and balancing the scales before starting. It is also very important to verify the identification of each animal during processing; this will insure that each animal gets credit for its own performance.
These guidelines are intended to aid the Wagyu breeder when collecting and reporting performance and carcass data. The use of information is dynamic, with advancements in technology, accuracy of measurement, and as the ability to collect more data improves our ability to improve accuracy of selection also improves. An understanding of how to measure and collect performance data is essential to progressive performance programs. The Beef Improvement Federation provides standardized guidelines and procedures which can be applied. The AWA has used these time tested guidelines with adjustments specifically for Wagyu breeders to build a performance program to advance the Wagyu breed and Wagyu genetics. If you have any questions about collecting performance information please contact the American Wagyu Association. Additional information can also be found in the Guidelines for Uniform Beef Improvement Programs, published by the Beef Improvement Federation guidelines.beefimprovement.org