Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Lots of Talk… about Wagyu cattle (and Kobe beef)


Wagyu is an anglicization of the Japanese word sounds “Wa” and “Gyu” which is, literally, “Japanese Beef [cattle]”.     In Japan, there are four indigenous breeds of these cattle, whose origins are Chinese cattle brought in the 1600s for draft and fertilizer purposes (neither milk nor meat being consumed in China at that time).    In the 1800s some Bos Taurus (European type) cattle were imported and crossed with the native Japanese stock to produce four breed types in Japan;  now two of these breeds have had semen (and embryos) exported to western countries:

Japanese Black     (Kuroge Washu)  multiplying in the USA—solid black in color
More than 90% of Wagyus raised and fattened in Japan are from this breed.
Braunveih and Devon cattle were used to improve meat characteristics by the 1900s.

Japanese Brown   (Akaushi or Red Wagyu)  more recently entered the USA
Wagyus of this variety are approaching 10% of all cattle fattened in Japan.
A result of crossing Simmental with Korean Red (Hanwoo) cattle.

Japanese Shorthorn   (Nihon Tankaku Washu)  only exist in Japan
Raised mainly in the Tohoku region, a result of crossing Shorthorns with native Nambu cattle.

Japanese Polled   (Mukaku Washu)   also only exist in Japan
Result from crossing Japanese Black with Aberdeen Angus imported from Scotland.

What is the North American attraction for Black Wagyu cattle?

Fine strips of fat are found marbled in its lean meat.    The fat flavor is exquisite (almost “buttery”) and the muscle is “cut with a fork” tender.     The target age of slaughter is 28 to 30 months of age (fine-boned cattle with a gradual growth rate) at which time the marbling is optimized.

What is the North American attraction for Brown/Red Wagyu cattle?

Characterized by a lower fat content (around 12% or less) and as a “lean” meat it has a firm texture and a unique flavor.    The veins of marbling are finer, just there to give it flavor during broiling or grilling, and the muscle is very fine textured; this conforms to current “health food” concepts for beef.    Target age of slaughter is 25 months, again to optimize the level of marbling at desired market weight.

Do these cattle fit the existing commercial auction buyer?

No.   Commercial auctions sell on pounds and grade (commodity beef).   

Wagyu are specialty cattle—a premium option for the direct sale market.

If you are developing freezer beef sales, the moderate carcass size, a higher ratio of edible tissue vs total weight, the unique flavor and texture, all scream “sell me to a restaurant or to upscale freezer beef customers”.

There are feedlots developing the restaurant and specialty label markets who are contracting with producers for Wagyu feeder cattle, paying a desirable premium.    The Wagyu characteristics do show up in a first cross, even from Holstein cows.

So what is “Kobe Beef” ??

“Kobe Beef” is Wagyu beef, from the Tajima strain of Japanese Black cattle, only raised in the Hyogo Prefecture under rules of their local “Kobe Beef Marketing” Association.     The “Kobe” designation (like a patent or trademark) is based upon a regimen of feeding [rice beer, brewers grain] and massaging the cattle during the finishing period.     This enhances its flavor and texture beyond the qualities of the basic Wagyu cattle genetic character.

This is a labor-intensive process and so authentic “Kobe” might  cost $100/ pound equivalency in a Japanese steakhouse, if found here it was imported from Japan.


Wagyu  semen  available  currently from Mich Livestock Service, Inc

151KB 1612  Brown Wagyu  Lord of the Rings   (List $24)       Our Current price $20

Sourced through ST Genetics, comes in modern 1/4cc straws
Is also available in male sexed at a List price of $60.

54 KB 0029   Black Wagyu   24 Wagyu                 (List $20)       Our Current price $18

Sourced through Cattle Visions, comes in standard 1/2cc straws


Having seen several Wagyu sires in semen collection centers, generally owned by breeders and on-site for custom collection for their own use, I would predict you will get an animal in size/scale similar to English heritage breeds and with visual muscling and condition similar to meatier Texas Longhorns.    The calving ratings using these bulls on our range of dairy and beef cattle are generally “easy”.

Friday, February 26, 2021

The latest word on milk digestibility from measuring Beta Casein


CONCEPTIONS   Dairy Route Newsletter                Summer 2019


Another research validates that A2 Beta Casein milk is better

It started in New Zealand, and was suppressed by Fonterra, the monopoly Kiwi milk cooperative who lo-ball markets powdered milk all over Asia.   Just like we hear about whenever certain ideas about milk production or content go public, “We cannot allow that!    It might make someone not want to drink milk!!”  the Kiwi dairy industry challenged the first research into differences in Beta Caseins. Later the World Health Organization repeated the research in Eastern Europe and found the same results.    Still the dairy cooperatives and processors ignored the implications and continued a policy of pooled supplies and volume pricing favors to the biggest milk producers.    But people now often choose not to drink milk, otherwise why all the hype for Almond and Soy “milk substitutes”?    One of the key issues big dairy has ignored is those many people whose digestion is upset by lactose (milk sugar) and the newly identified issue of A1 Beta Casein allergy, as documented in these researches.     Dairymen looking to the future began to DNA test their cows, identifying the gene locus for Beta Casein, discovering that breeds and bloodlines differ in their possession of A2 (desired) vs A1 (undesired) variants.

The latest research findings come from China (after smaller studies in Germany and in Oregon that were specific to lactose intolerance vs A1 allergic reaction) and are printed in the “Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition”.    In this study of pre-school children it was found that A1 Beta Casein has negative effects on both digestion (affecting growth) and cognitive performance (intelligence).  In other words, you can expect that there will be increasing attention to the value of A2 milk over “generic” milk from pediatricians and general health professionals.

Gaining the ear of milk marketers and geneticists

The problem of milk marketing being based on “pooling” (one milk truck picks up everybody) rather than “differentiating” (keeping unique milk supplies separate all the way to processing and labelling) must be solved, and to this date, it is the smaller handlers with close communication to their members who are able to get products like “A2A2” milk to the market.    As more consumers find these labels, it recovers customers who had given up on generic jug milk.    These consumers are paying a 100% premium over the basic retail price of commodity milk.

Today, you have a wealth of information on Beta Casein (digestibility and flavor), Kappa Casein (cheese yield), butterfat %, protein %, somatic cell scores, as well as recessives (eg, “fishy flavor” found in Ayrshire and Skandinavian Red breeds) that all combine to determine the potential premium value your milk could earn as the future milk market evolves.     You will find our latest price lists sort for “values”.

The future “premium milk” genetic package

The “ideal” genetic composition for a sire to breed you the cows of the future may look like this:    A2A2 Beta Casein;  BB Kappa Casein;  + % butterfat;  + % protein; not only + DPR but from a cow line demonstrating multiple calvings over a longer lifetime as verification of strong natural fertility.    These are the key traits that can align your cow herd with the key desires of the enlightened consumer and reduce to a minimum the costs of transportation and processing on the way to the store.


Just as you have seen famous, nationally and internationally recognized AI studs be absorbed into mergers during this period of milk price setbacks and oversupply you may also begin to see realignment and mergers of milk cooperatives and milk bottling brands suffering from the same declines in the price of their products and the cash flows generated.     More dairymen lost their milk market to older plants closing and milk haulers retiring than to any real desire by consumers to buy milk from bigger farms rather than smaller farms.

Producing what consumers are willing to pay for remains the long-term answer to success in food production just as is true in any other industry.    Choose sires  that add value to the milk makes more sense than continuing down the road that has led to financial misery for all dairy farms, large or small.    We will do our best to provide information for you to make profitable choices in genetic selection.  

Mich Livestock Service, Inc    “For the Best in Bulls”    ph (989) 834-2661

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Why do we recommend aAa (Weeks) Analysis over linear-based mating ?


CONCEPTIONS   Dairy Route Newsletter                Summer 2019

“aAa” is a universal language, by which you can directly compare sires from all over the world (USA and Canada studs analyze 3x yearly, European studs 2x, and Oceania [New Zealand and Australia] 1x yearly.)     While linear data profiles are designed to compare bulls against each other in the current generation, only “aAa” is designed to manage what changes from this generation to the next generation—how genotypes combine to produce a new phenotype.   

Friday, February 19, 2021



CONCEPTIONS   Dairy Route newsletter                                  Spring 2019

The choices have increased as this newsletter highlights.    In addition to those sires listed inside, do not overlook 525 HO 117 Ja Bob REX PP Red a homozygous polled “Red” sire who is A2A2 Beta Casein, calving ease, and noted fertility.

We are now seeing the first of polled Fleckveih sires in the dairy type lines as well.   In all, we have polled sire choices in Holstein, Red & White, Jersey, Brown Swiss, Ayrshire and Fleckveih.

Polled is the ultimate “convenience” trait, once combined with other genes that have value (such as A2A2 Beta casein) your breeding program can align with what is most attractive to consumers and animal activists.



We are currently featuring  80 HO 338  Hulsdale B MACNUTT PP 99%   (aAa 243615)   (A2A2)

MACNUTT PP is owned by Browndale Specialty Sires of Ontario, and is currently #1 Type of all
homozygous polled sires (+14 Conf CDN), is the #1 LPI (3172) both for A2A2 Beta Casein and all polled sires, and is the #1 rated Feet and Legs bull (+16 CDN); not bad at +11 Mammaries.

CDN rates him +1050 kg Milk EBV with outstanding +0.25% butterfat and +0.12% protein.  His young dam “Hulsdale B Science Malaki P” is already VG-88 at three years of age, and her dam “Hulsdale B Windbrook Mahalo” is scored EX-90 at six years of age.

Think of all the points at which “MACNUTT” offers you a premium value both for convenience of guaranteed POLLED calves that will produce premium value butterfat and protein, walk on correct legs and feet, with “robot ready” udders, and he is that rare A2A2 Beta Casein source.


We also remain pretty excited by 777 HO 408  Falonasprings Jacot HULK P RED   (aAa 345216) whose unique dam is seven generations of EXCELLENT mature scores and has a lifetime 4.9% butterfat with 3.6% protein, milked in both Ohio and Alberta.     His sire “Jacot” is high type, high bf%, high pr% and no longer available in the USA—so “Hulk” offers access to rare blood.

No longer must Holstein breeders sacrifice anything to acquire the POLLED trait.   The best of cow lines, the best current sires, the best type, combines with long lifetime productivity at a premium milk price within our POLLED sire choices.


International Protein Sires has made a serious commitment to polled:

JERSEY:   566 JE 106   Golden Dream American PHARAOH P    (aAa 456231)  (A2A2 Beta casein)
This guy is 100% pure Jersey (not a JX) and ranks #1 for DPR and LIV, #8 for PL among Polled bulls.  Note his 17-year-old grandam is alive, still milking, with a multiplying maternal line.

JERSEY:   566 JE 108   Dutch Hollow OSCAR P         (aAa 234165)  (A1A2 Beta Casein)
This guy is 100% pure Jersey also and is maternal brother to the famous Duch Hollow Oliver P.   Their dam just finished a 305 day lactation begun at 7 yrs 8 months of 27650 lbs milk.    He is an elite type (#2 polled Jersey) with highest Jersey Udder Index of all polled sires.

JERSEY:   566 JE 109   Wetumpka Listowel NIGEL PP    (aAa pending)  (A2A2 Beta Casein)
Homozygous polled with +.07% butterfat and +.03% protein values.   +1.40 type as well.   100% Jersey pedigree, first four maternal dams all 5.2% to 6.0% butterfat

HOLSTEIN:  566 HO 1205  CLOUD NINE P *RC (aAa 216345)      7.8% calving ease                  

HOLSTEIN:  566 HO 1214  SIREN P                     (aAa 351426)      6.8% calving ease

HOLSTEIN:  566 HO 1228  LETS DEAL P *RC     (aAa 456231)      7.8% calving ease

HOLSTEIN:  566 HO 1234  PICK ME PP              (aAa 243156)      7.9% calving ease      A2A2

HOLSTEIN:  566 HO 1243  NEW DEAL P            (aAa 342516)      6.4% calving ease

HOLSTEIN:  566 HO 1249  FREEDOM PP           (aAa 243156)      8.3% calving ease       A2A2     

HOLSTEIN:  566 HO 1259  RAMP UP PP *RC    (aAa 432516)      6.7% calving ease       A2A2

HOLSTEIN:  566 HO 1285  CHILE PP                   (aAa 351426)       8.2% calving ease      A2A2

HOLSTEIN:  566 HO 1289  PRIME RIB PP *RC  (aAa 213465)       6.4% calving ease

HOLSTEIN:  566 HO LOYAL P RED                      (aAa 213645)       6.9% calving ease       A2A2

 New Generation Genetics now offers its first Polled Brown Swiss choice:

54 BS 586  Double W KADE *NP           (aAa 432)   A2A2 Beta Casein  and   BB Kappa Casein

+.10% butterfat  +.05% protein  with 395 pounds of milk  2.87 SCS and +3.0 DPR

+0.80 type with consistently plus linear traits on  udders           New options in polled choices

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

A Time of Change

 It is said there are three kinds of businessmen: those who make change happen, those who watch change happen, and those who wonder what just happened.


It is also said that every couple generations, we try to reinvent the wheel—which is a droll way of saying we fail to see that what is needed may already be here.


When it comes to restoring profitability to the business of breeding meat cattle, we need to understand the trends in meat consumption (so we target growing market sectors over those sliding into commodity price mediocrity) as much as we need to be able to figure our production costs under competing scenarios.


There is no doubt that planting a high energy digestible perennial grass pasturage and then training ourselves to manage cattle to graze it optimally, cuts farming cost costs significantly compared to annual row crop production and confinement feeding, in which the ruminant functions are inhibited.

Friday, February 12, 2021

The Bill Hodge interview

 From the Fall 2019 Beef Newsletter

Bill Hodge with his wife Di own Sustainable Genetics which has a long history in the selection and breeding of sound pasture cattle, adaptable to grass-fed growth and finish, including the importation of semen and embryos from the Pinebank Angus cattle of New Zealand.    They are based in Carrolton, Georgia, where I visited them in late July.


Bill’s journey in our industry started within extension and mainstream selection during the era of EPD  development (which has led to Genomic trait implementation).    Close observation of trends across cattle generations during the era of “cheap corn” (1970s-80s-90s) which spawned overexpansion in the feedlot industry, seeing cattle phenotypes change and cattle breeders in a struggle to maintain profitability at commodity beef prices, led him to change his views on what the industry needed to do to regain its health.


His first epiphany: Cattle evolved as ruminants to eat grass while grazing.    The most efficient cattle thus are capable of growth, reproduction and longevity on grass management.    Those more modern cattle that require corn and oilseed supplements to grow, reproduce and finish actually are not as efficient, given they generally fail to thrive when returned to grass.


The modern North American Angus cow (whose genes are in 70% of beef cattle fed due to the phenomenal success of “certified Angus beef” with meat retailers) has lost soundness in foot and leg structures, leading to chronic lameness in cow herds and failure to sustain breeding desire in natural service bulls.     A high percentage of the fastest-gaining Bulls in feedlot trials prove to be sterile (or at least non-freezable for semen storage) caused by fat deposits in the testicles that are similar to the fat buildup in the pelvic of their sisters, reducing female fertility as well.     Selection emphasis on EPD values for rates of gain post-weaning have failed to sort out the difference between edible “meat tissue” and  inedible “fat storage” in bloodlines.


More of Bill’s observations


Cattle bred for success on grass feeding and pasture management can adapt to and succeed in a corn-feedlot environment, whereas cattle bred for the North American focus on corn feeding and feedlot finishing will often fail when returned to a grass-based management system.


Within each breed, especially the English-type (Angus, Red Angus, Hereford, Shorthorn, Devon, Red Poll, Murray Grey) you have bloodlines that are more feed efficient in meeting all nutrient needs from a quality forage base.    But many of the Continental breeds were also developed on grass (which includes alpine breeds:  Swiss Simmental, Braunveih, Fleckveih, Piedmontese, and some French breeds) --  via selection of bloodlines with adaptable phenotypes,  feed-efficient, naturally reproductive cattle can be identified and propogated.


While the major beef packers have gravitated to a system favoring the largest carcass weight breeds and steers (have every hook hanging a heavy carcass) – which until recently placed the dairy-cull fed Holstein steer nearly on “par” with the beef breed steer—the feeding industry is now less generous in purchasing dairy sector steers, the fault of genetic selection that mostly grows bones and hide before it fills out meat tissue underneath.    It is logical and provable that when dairy cows are selected to make milk on high corn and oilseed rations without gaining any meaningful body condition (thus increasingly requiring OvSynch reproduction), their brothers and sons entering the feedlot world often take 24-30 months to reach a premium finish.    Thus breeders in other dairy breeds and all beef breeds, returning to grass-based management and selecting breeding animals according to grass finishing ability in 18-24 months, now earn the highest premiums for their feeder calves entering feedlots, a high percentage reach premium grades in that time frame.


The custom packing industry, seeking the “best” carcass for premium pricing instead of the ‘heaviest” carcass for commodity beef processing, will be your best option for profitable sales of cattle.    The grass-fed market will continue to grow at premium prices, while the mainstream corn-fed cattle will set the commodity prices—any growth in supply lowering prices against the challenge of static demand from big box and chain food retailers.


Use of sexed semen, after Genomic testing has “ranked” commercial dairy herds, has reduced the supply of dairy-breed feeder steers, while increasing the supply of dairy-beef cross  steers from the use of beef sire semen on the genetic lower half of production dairy cows.    The price premiums for dairy-beef cross steers over straight dairy steers proves the feeding industry has known the difference in feeding efficiency—but this only increases the opportunity for beef breeders to fine-tune their cow herd to produce calves that will maintain this superiority when cattle are put into the grass pasture environment, reflecting the majority management of beef cattle in the rest of the world where cattle feeding is a growing source of human protein.    At the same time, the operating costs for your cow-calf operation will be sustainably reduced, as we emphasize in the name of our business” “Sustainable Genetics”.

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Time to review the results from 2018: some basic “$/c” philosophy

 From the January / Febuary Beef Route Letter

All my life with cattle we have been remorsely hammered with articles and advice telling us we must get more “efficient” and more “productive”.   How did we do?


Hippocrates, the famous Greek originator of scientific medicine, is quoted:

I defy you to name a disease that does not go back to poor nutrition.”     

Today, with all the emphasis on looking at the DNA to find excuses for poor performance, and as much as I am a “genetics” (selection and mating) sort of guy, I am seeing more articles from noted ranchers in publications like Stockman Grass Farmer that demonstrate that nutritional support on a consistent, daily basis is the best preventative to problems in that most unique ruminant digestive system that is capable of all the “efficiency” in feed resources we needed.

Is  “infertility”  a  disease ?

For any cattle operation, your forage program is the foundation of the feed ration, the source of nutrition on which health (and therefore fertility) is based.    No amount of grain and other supplements (originally identified to stimulate weight gain) can replace what is lacking in our forages.    As for the potential feed value of any forages we grow, the basis is in the biological health and mineralization levels of the soil.

So  what  role  does  genetic  selection  play  in  fertility ?

We have not been consistent in our industry in correlating animal genetics with plant genetics.    There is as much difference in grass varieties as there is in alfalfa, wheat, soybeans and corn, the only variability being where in the world the breeding emphasis is placed for each species.   For the cow-calf operator, especially those who are also grain farmers, it is surprising how many are exacting in their choice of grain seeds, but indifferent to the potential of improved forages.

Inherited factors will make some animals better, and others worse, in the fertility results you may see from the baseline of your average experience.    But that baseline is mostly affected by the health of the soil and the quality of forages both when grazed or when harvested.

The emphasis in the DNA area is to cull the lowest (chronic) reproductive failures, assuming this eliminates future low-fertility heifers from propogating.    However, our data always seems to show that new animals step up to “fail” in the place of those we cull (er, “harvest for meat”).    This could prove that infertility is as much environmental as genetic, and you need a strategy for sorting between the two, perhaps forgiving the cow whose failure is “not her fault”.

Drug and hormonal aids to fertility, promoted through veterinarians as more “efficient” tools to insure maximum reproduction, besides increasing out of pocket costs, tend to accept a level of failure as “normal” (ie, not moving your annual baseline average compared to natural repro).   

How  big  a  role  does nutrition play  in  fertility ?

The key to ruminant nutrition is to meet the energy requirement for growth, reproduction and health every day.    The Eubiotic population in the rumen that digests the various forms of fiber and starch (producing proteins along the way) has to be fed every day to remain viable and for microflora populations to reproduce and grow.     Anything that produces a variable feed energy intake (as in fluctuation in forage quality) is going to have a negative impact on fertility.   When feed intake is inadequate to the genetically-programmed energy demands, some aspect of the cow will suffer—usually reproduction first, growth second, health third.

Many ranching-oriented advisors from around the world (the late Gearld Fry, the well-travelled Johann Zeitsman, et al) focused on “body condition” as one of the key genetic selection traits.   Their ideal cow would have the same body condition score all year long, and this sort of cow is proven to be the most consistently fertile.    Cows who milk down supporting a growthy calf are recognized as slower to rebreed.     The variation within breeds is greater than the differences between breeds, suggesting that some of our linebreeding for performance measured primarily in feedlot rate of gain could have negative impacts in maintaining optimal maternal quality, of which even-tempered dispositions and responsive fertility character is observed to go together.

In other words, genetics may create the possibility of a positive (or negative) result individually, but your overall herd performance (maximizing live calvings and cow retention for rebreeding) determines your profitability, whether weaning 550 pound calves or 700 pound calves.   If one cow herd can produce 550 pound weanlings on grass alone, while another produces 700 pound weanlings with the aid of a ton of supplement per cow-calf unit, who made more money?   But for the grain farmer, having cattle to utilize surplus grain makes those highest genetic ranking cattle lines of more value to him.    In other words, “one size fits all” just doesn’t fit reality.   In the meantime, genetic choices do affect whether the right cattle are being utilized to adapt to the total environment you are creating for them.

Do  you  desire  more  profitability  from  your  forage  base ?

Byron Seeds  is a forage-oriented seed distribution company, drawing from seed sources around the world to acquire better varieties of grasses, legumes, forbs, small grains, and feeding corns.   Even more importantly, they provide training to their Dealers to understand the biology within the soil, a key element in insuring consistent plant performance;  the functions of soil organic matter in water-holding capacity and assimilation of humics from any applied manures;  cover crops that stimulate fertility capture and lead us to 365-day field crop productivity.   

If you sense a need to restore pastures that no longer meet your animal’s needs, ask us for the seed combinations that can accomplish this.     The best corn ever grown is in its first season following a spent hay field or pasture.     Weedy corn fields can be restored from forage crops.   

There is some remaining discount available (through March prepaid orders) on your spring seed needs.    Ask for a copy of the Byron Seeds’ “Winter Pre Pay Guide”.