UPDATE TO MEMBERS FROM WBA CHAIRMAN MIKE TUCKER
Please find below an edited version of the Chairman's Update sent to Members on 24th December.
The Wagyu Breeders Association (WBA) now has a full year of ‘trading’ behind it as a company in its own right and, looking back, I think we can all be proud of what has been achieved in such a relatively short time. WBA has grown to become an organisation of over 40 Members, has strong partnerships in place with the Australian Wagyu Association (AWA), Caisley and TL Biolabs with an industry-leading registration and DNA Interface and has its sights set on ambitious growth for the Wagyu breed in the next 5-10 years.
The WBA has managed to break even to the end of 2015 but this is thanks in large part to the interest-free loans made by the Directors to help put the Association on the road as the first new UK Breed Society in over 20 years.
Going forward, we have put a budget in place to cover our outgoings in the next 1-2 years (2016 & 2017) and then to hopefully make a small surplus in years 3-5 that we can plough back into WBA activity. The first target for 2016 is to double the number of Members and put through 500+ registrations (rising to 1,000 in 2017). Whilst ambitious, we believe it is also achievable given the momentum that Wagyu is generating within the industry, the extremely cost-effective £15 commercial registration, and with your enthusiasm and continued support.
DAY-TO-DAY RUNNING OF WBA
Richard Saunders will continue in the role of Company Secretary with WBA Director Jim Bloom’s Warrendale business taking on much of the financial administration and website/social media at no charge to WBA. I am personally extremely grateful to Jim for this generous offer which represents a sizeable cost saving and will help the Association to continue its important work.
The ongoing viability of WBA very much depends on the above membership projections being achieved both in terms of Full Members (generally speaking with cattle to register) as well as ‘Friends of WBA’ taken from the wider agricultural and food industry. You will also be aware that WBA was set up to include not only England, Scotland and Wales but also Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland and I am pleased to report that we have a number of Members now from Ireland. As mentioned in my August Update, in due course the WBA will look at expanding its Board to incorporate representatives from all countries.
REGISTRATIONS & INTERFACE
Key to the success of WBA in terms of both income and making a mark on the beef industry, is securing a big leap in the numbers of commercial registrations going forward. The pedigree side is, of course, still very important in terms of dissemination of genetics at the ‘top of the pyramid’ but, as a pedigree breeder myself with relatively few animals, it is the rise in crossbred, Wagyu-sired registrations over the next 5-10 years that will put us firmly on the map.
The Directors have looked again at the £40+VAT commercial registration figure and decided that it was a barrier to securing significant numbers of registrations from commercial farmers. From 2016 therefore, a commercial registration will be available at a cost of £15+VAT to include registration and tag (but without DNA sire verification) for animals registered through the WBA Interface from 1st January. Instead of compulsory DNA sire verification, the DNA sample will be stored and subjected to random DNA sire verification by TL Biolabs.
Please note, the £40 commercial registration (registration, tag and DNA) will remain as an option to those breeders wishing to sire verify their Wagyu crossbred stock but will not be compulsory. Please note further that the £50+VAT pedigree registration fee will remain in place with DNA parentage verification (both sire and dam) required by ourselves and AWA to complete the registration process.
Jonathan Shepherd of Yorkshire Wagyu (YW) has been instrumental in helping put together the Interface and I would like to record my thanks to him here as well as YW’s commitment to put all their registrations through it. I am pleased to note that two of the larger Wagyu enterprises (Highland Wagyu and Natural Wagyu) have also committed to register all their animals through the WBA Interface which will help give WBA that all-important firm financial footing.
The WBA Interface built by Fred Turner of TL Biolabs was launched on 1st September has seen quite a good uptake by Members but, as with any new system, myself and a number of other Members have needed some ‘hand-holding’! There are many fantastic advantages to this industry-leading online portal which links Members’ holdings automatically through to BCMS and allows quick and easy registration and invoicing so I would respectfully ask that you continue to help us get this right and working for you the Member.
We have seen quite a lot of animals come out of the woodwork which are to all intents and purposes ‘Purebred’ Wagyu but do not have the required paperwork or profiles to make them ‘Fullblood’. AWA has said that a Wagyu Content Test is at the prototype stage which will potentially allow animals with ‘missing’ papers to be registered as an F3 so that the next cross with a registered sire would be Purebred F4. This would be a much better and faster method to maximise Wagyu genetics rather than grading up from a base female.
Some of these registration issues have been compounded by the technology behind DNA. In short, there are two methods: STR (Microsatellites) and SNP (SNiP) but the two are unfortunately NOT interchangeable. Generally speaking, the industry is moving towards the newer SNP technology as it is both cheaper, more accurate and allows genomic testing to be carried out. However, many DNA profiles are still historically in the STR format. The industry is therefore at a bit of a crossroads but in due course these issues should be ironed out once profiles are in place for each Fullblood sire and dam. Profiles can usually be extracted from samples such as tissue, semen or blood and the good news is that they only need to be done once! It nevertheless means, at least in the short to medium term, extra work and some additional DNA testing cost. Whilst the onus is inevitably on the breeder to provide all the information required by WBA & AWA to allow a Wagyu registration, we will do all we can to help Members register their animals.
Fred Turner has worked extremely hard to iron out any glitches but it is true to say he has had his work cut out locating DNA profiles from various sires and dams around the world which - as mentioned above - may come sometimes in STR or sometimes in SNP format. This is not really his job and he has certainly gone the extra mile to help breeders. Could I therefore urge all Members to send in all profiles (both STR & SNP) of Wagyu sires and dams they may have in their possession to facilitate registration of progeny? On a positive note, there is now a protocol in place between the various international Wagyu associations for sharing DNA and pedigree information so the situation is expected to improve.
Could I also ask that any Member who has not as yet logged into the Interface please to do so? You should have received an introductory email in early September with full log-in details and temporary password. If you need this re-sending, please email Richard Saunders at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will send this out again. Please note also that free Caisley tag applicators are available to the first 20 Members who register cattle through the Interface.
In closing, I would like to thank you for your continuing support of the Wagyu Breeders Association and remain at your disposal to answer any questions you may have. May I remind you that January 1st sees the start of a new financial year for the WBA so it is planned that subscription invoices for £200+VAT will go out early in the New Year.
I believe the £15 commercial registration represents tremendous value-for-money and goes a long way to ensuring the traceability and integrity required by both your own individual business as well as the wider Wagyu and beef industry. Our aim must surely be to maintain Wagyu as a value-added ‘premium’ brand which has the potential to really break the mould in terms of taste, eating quality and very importantly financial return. If we can all work together and get as many registrations put through the Interface as possible we can make a giant stride towards achieving our ambitious goals for British and Irish Wagyu.