These carcass data collection guidelines have been written to guide producers through a process that can take up to three years from conception to harvesting carcass records. It is important that proper guidelines are followed throughout this process to ensure success of the program.
Data from both seedstock herds (by collection carcass data from non-replacement animals) and commercial herds are useful tools for genetic evaluation of carcass traits. The best avenue for Wagyu producers to collect data points regardless if it’s at the ranch or beyond the ranch is a well-designed plan. The intention of this document is to outline the standard data collection procedures for the AWA members collecting carcass data from within their herd or by conducting progeny testing to generate information for the genetic evaluation of their seedstock animals. For the AWA to recognize the information as valid for EPD production verifying parentage will be mandatory, along with collecting growth and terminal traits outlined in the sections below.
Breeding Herd Considerations
Both seedstock and commercial herds offer opportunities to participate in a Carcass Progeny Evaluation Program to evaluate carcass traits. However, there are special considerations for each so that the most accurate data can be collected.
All non-replacement individuals may enter the program, i.e. non-replacement heifers or bull calves (steers). To be included guidelines must be followed to correct for bias due to selection. When breeding herd replacements are removed from contemporary groups it is recommended that the weaning and yearling weights of all progeny in the initial growth contemporary group, not just the carcass contemporary group, be recorded and provided to the American Wagyu Association. For example, for a weaning and/or yearling contemporary group of 10 heifers 5 may be held for breeding herd replacements while the other 5 may be further fed for harvest and carcass data collection. It is important to report all the calving, weaning and subsequent data to the American Wagyu Association.
Producers may choose to collect carcass data through well designed breeding programs using commercial (or non-registered Wagyu) cows. This approach allows for the collection of large numbers of carcass records by using Wagyu bulls either through Artificial Insemination (A.I.), natural breeding, or a combination of both. It is important to keep accurate breeding records (A.I. and natural service). Under this approach cows should be randomly mated to sires to achieve an unbiased comparison of sires. It is important to include reference sires in these datasets. Reference sires are those established sires with carcass records in other contemporary groups across other herds and years.
The first consideration in progeny testing is creating contemporary groups, so that the producer has comparable data sets. The objective is to maintain contemporary group structure from birth to harvest which ensures equal opportunity for cattle to perform within the contemporary group under the same environmental conditions (environmental differences can exist in pastures adjacent to each other).
Contemporary groups should be managed to expose all cattle within the group to the same environmental factors (i.e. pastures/pens, feed, weather, etc.). A contemporary group must consist of two or more animals from the same ranch of origin, gender, management, and similar dam base. For commercial herds it is essential the contemporary group must have progeny by more than one sire and must also include a reference sire.
A reference sire is one that has historical data represented across multiple progeny tests within the Wagyu breed. All data will be collected and processed through the AWA database and then analyzed through the association's national cattle evaluation procedures.
Growth Trait Data Collection
Growth traits can be collected and submitted to the AWA for calculations measuring gain efficiencies. Submitting both weaning and yearling weight not only measures the growth potential of the calf but also contribute to maternal EPD for the cowherd. Weaning weights are used to evaluate differences in direct (WWT EPD) and maternal weaning traits (MILK EPD). Yearling weight is an important trait because it has a high heritability and substantial genetic association with post weaning gain, efficiency of gain, and yield of trimmed, boneless retail beef.
Submission of additional feeding performance test data will contribute to growth efficiency traits. The economic importance of intake as the largest non-fixed cost of beef production is well known. Genetic evaluation programs for feed intake and efficiency are developing, recognizing the economic relevance of cost-stream input traits to genetic improvement in profitability. See appendix for BIF guidelines to measure feed intake.
Pre-Harvest Data Collection
The following pre-harvest data is required to be processed through the AWA database prior to submission of harvest data:
1. Dam Identification
a) Registration number if registered
b) Individual ID
c) Date of birth (Year of birth if actual date not known)
2. Breed or breed type (breed codes are available upon request)
3. Sire registration number
4. Calf herd ID/tattoo/EID
5. Calf date of birth
6. Sex of calf
7. Calving ease score (optional)
8. Birth weight (optional)
9. Weaning Date
10. Weaning weights taken between 160 and 250 days
a) Desired by optional for commercial herds
b) Required for seedstock herds to account for selection bias
11. Yearling weights taken between 320 and 410 days (optional)
12. Yearling weigh date
13. Group and management codes
14. On feed and off feed dates
Carcass Data Collection
Carcass data traits are exceptional within the Wagyu Breed. Considering that the quality grade characteristics are unique to the breed, careful consideration must be made when setting the standard for carcass data collection. The goal when creating a carcass data collection standard is to design a system that captures the most applicable data points, while presenting a platform to the membership that is accessible. The AWA must do two things initially to proceed with a carcass data collection standard for the membership:
1. Establish data collection avenues
2. Create standard carcass data collection points
Some carcass data collection points can be subjective. To have an objective outlook on subjective matters, an outside un-biased source needs to be involved. The American Wagyu Association can assist in identifying third-party data collection companies. The third-party would be trained on a standard directed by the AWA and have the ability to collect all standardized data points necessary for carcass EPD. Once data collection has been completed by the data collection service a report would be sent to the producer and directly to the AWA.
Harvest Data Collection
Carcass data collected will need to include:
1) Calf herd ID/tattoo
2) Harvest date
3) Harvest plant and location
4) Hot carcass weight
a) USDA Marbling score and instrument grading data (E+V and MIJ Camera data points when available)
b) It is important to record and report the instrument grading technology that was used
c) As emerging technology is developed and validated procedures for evaluating marbling score will be updated.
d) If additional data points are collected using different technologies than listed above that information can be submitted to the AWA for possible inclusion in future evaluations.
5) Carcass maturity
6) Fat thickness –between 12th and 13th rib
7) Ribeye area – between 12th and 13th rib
8) Percent pelvic, heart, and kidney fat, if available
9) Optional data may be reported including quality grade and yield grade
10) Additional traits specific to Wagyu cattle may be included as validated technology becomes available.
Parent verification will be required to collect sire specific performance traits. A DNA sample can be collected by blood, hair follicle, or tissue sample and submitted to the American Wagyu Association.
General Information for Carcass Data Collection
The responsibility of obtaining reference sire semen will be between the test herd owner and the test sire owner(s).
All financial arrangements will be between the test herd owner and the test sire owner. The AWA recommends an arrangement where all or a significant portion of financial incentives paid to a test herd (if any) are paid based a carcass records being collected and reported.
Be sure it is understood that the test herd owner has the responsibility of accurately recording complete herd identification, breeding and calving records, and growth data.
Be sure the party responsible for feeding the cattle and making harvest arrangements keeps all parties current on harvest date with a minimum of 3-4 weeks advance notice of harvest date.
Be sure to contact the packing plant and make arrangements well in advance (4-8 weeks) of your intention to collect carcass data. A positive relationship with the packing plant manager helps ensure successful carcass data collection.
Be sure to contact and establish a relationship with the third-party data collection company (4-8 weeks advance). You will need to make sure their calendar is open for the date of harvest and when carcass data is to be collected. They can be very helpful building relationships with all parties including the packing plant manager.
If ownership is not retained to slaughter, the test herd owner and sire owner have the responsibility of ensuring that the buyer is completely aware of the testing procedure and that the cattle are finished and slaughtered in accordance with prescribed guidelines.
The American Wagyu Association can provide advisory assistance in all phases of the testing procedure but assumes no responsibility for agreements between parties or collection of data. The producer will be responsible for coordination of the carcass data collection through including agreements with the packing plant. Collected carcass data then may be submitted to the American Wagyu Association in an electronic format or on forms provided to the producer or entity assisting with carcass data collection.
Any parties interested in working as a test herd for collecting carcass data may contact the American Wagyu Association.