With the considerable and recent changes in GeneSTAR (which until now has been a cornerstone of our marketing strategy) – we are currently totally re-thinking the system by which we grade our animals.
We are constructing a spreadsheet reflecting a greater emphasis on both Breedplan results and frame scores – and with less emphasis on GeneSTAR, although it is still included in our calculations.
It is our belief that a new grading system will best serve Lone Mountain and the Wagyu community if based on real numbers: those provided by Breedplan (in the form of EPD’s) are derived from weights and ultrasound scans (as authenticated by CUPLAB). Frame scores are also fact-based numbers.
In this new scheme we will be giving GeneSTAR MPV's a lower weighting, since we are unsure of their reliability or what they mean. At some point in the future, the numbers of favorable alleles identified by the technology will reach a reliable and useable threshold. But for now, for example the percentile rankings that are assigned are for all the animals GeneSTAR-tested – not just Wagyu, but all breeds together. And no within-herd percentile rankings. The bigger question is what do these numbers mean specifically to Wagyu breeders, especially since we are not selling our calves on the commercial grid?
Wagyu are naturally tender – so how much weighting should a Tenderness MVP of -1.05 get? And what does it really mean? Should it carry as much weight as IMF% Breedplan EPD – if it is based on 35 ultrasound scans and if it exhibits a higher score than Michifuku or Sanjirou (based on 15 or 20 scans)? I think not.
Frame Score also plays an important role in the new scheme. I am noticing that Frame Scores vary from 3-6 on Sanjirou and Michifuku progeny and the same variation holds true for progeny of the Itozakura family. We know that variation is true for any siblings – no reason it should not hold true for Wagyu siblings. So it seems that the individuals need to be ranked according to their own physical stature.
It also seems important for the diversity of the breed that Wagyu breeders need to be aware of too closely breeding their stock – although we are firm believers that linebreeding plays an important part of stabilizing and improving our best genetics. We also recognize the importance that hybrid vigor plays in out-crossing with its potential for genetic gain. Therefore, Inbreeding Coefficients are included in our formula (although with a lesser weighting).
We intend to use this new formula as a decision-making tool to identify the best of our animals - and which Wagyu to steer and feed at an early age.
As always, we will be happy to share the details of our creation as soon as it is completely worked out and seems reliable.