The evolution of the famous Wagyu breed we know today began in 1868 when native Japanese Mishima cattle were crossed with imported breeds. This period was characterized by a shift in Japan’s government which saw an influx of Western products and culture to the country (commonly referred to as the Meiji period).
During this time British, European and Korean cattle breeds such as Brown Swiss, Devon, Shorthorn, Angus, Simmental, Holstein, Ayrshire and Hanwoo Korean were imported and bred with local native Mishima cattle until 1910 when borders were closed.
During the development of the Wagyu breed four main bloodlines emerged, each with their own characteristics.
The dominant strains of Wagyu in Australia are the black bloodlines of Tajima, Shimane (Fujiyoshi) and Tottori (Kedaka). These bloodlines make up 90% of the national Japanese herd with the remaining 10% being the red bloodlines of Kochi and Kumamoto.
Originating in the Hyogo Prefecture of Japan, this strain is renowned to produce carcases with very high marble scores. Tajima Wagyu are characterised by smaller frames with high marbling qualities, however typically cows have lower milking and lower growth rates than other strains. Famous Tajima sires include Michifuku and Terutani.
Originating in the Shimane Prefecture of Japan, this strain is characterised by well-balanced qualities including good growth, fertility and milking rates. Dai 7 Itozakura is probably the most famous of the Shimane line. He was an outstanding sire with high marbling capabilities and excellent growth rates. His female offspring are excellent milkers.
Originated in the Tottori Prefecture of Japan, this strain is characterized by larger framed cattle with good growth rates, good milk supply and overall balance. The famous Tottori bull Kedaka was born in 1959 and is considered to be one of the outstanding sires in this Tottori strain.
4. Kochi & Kumamoto (Red Wagyu)
Originating in the Kumamoto Plateau in Kyushu Japan, these strains were strongly influenced by the Hanwoo Korean breed and European Limousin breed. These animals are characterized by their red colour with large frame size and good milk supply. These strains still produce marbling however are generally not as highly marbled as black strains such as Tajima.
In the late 1990’s Japan declared “Wagyu” to be a living treasure and banned any further exportation of bloodlines.
As from 2002, no further exportation of Wagyu genetics (embryos, semen or live animals) were allowed out of Japan due to the outbreak of Mad Cow disease & Foot and Mouth disease.