Where’s the wagyu? | News, Sports, Jobs – Maui News

May 27th, 2020 11:57 am

Kyle Caires takes a selfie with prized wagyu cattle. Photos courtesy of Kyle Caires

Animal scientist Kyle Caires and a research team have found a way to nearly double pregnancy rates in wagyu, a Japanese breed of cattle that typically has low rates of reproduction but is prized for its meat.

By using technologies, such as artificial insemination, and pairing them with nutrition, management techniques and healthy and controlled environments, ranchers can improve their cattles reproductivity for less costs.

And meat lovers and chefs can have more access to high-quality beef.

Outcomes are much better when you work with Mother Nature, instead of against her, and the same is true when raising livestock, said Caires, the Maui extension agent for the University of Hawaii-Manoa College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources. Therefore, choosing genetics with production levels calving ease, growth rate, milk production to fit a ranchs forage resources, rainfall level and availability of labor, is a great approach for all ranchers in Hawaii.

Caires, who works in the Department of Human Nutrition, Food and Animal Sciences, recently published his research on how to improve the reproductive rates of the Japanese Black. He also spent the last six weeks setting up programs for ranchers and beef producers across Maui County.

Kyle Caires, Maui extension agent for the University of Hawaii-Manoa College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, analyzes cattle embryo samples.

CTAHR programs include educational programs and outreach assistance to ranchers that want to consider estrus synchronization, artificial insemination, semen testing and pregnancy checking. He said that embryo transfers will be offered in the near future.

Excellent pregnancy rates are achieved with integrated approaches that combine genetic improvement strategies with good management practices on a case-by-case basis, not a one-size-fits-all approach, he said.

These safe procedures are no different than what would happen naturally in cattle reproduction, he said. For example, for ranchers breeding first-calf heifers, artificial insemination could help improve productivity because semen from bulls are proven to produce low-weight births, which makes the birthing process easier for first-time mothers, which in turn is better for the cows longevity and health.

Likewise, the semen used in artificial insemination protocols also must pass biosecurity measures to eliminate disease transmission, an added bonus, he said.

In collaboration with researchers from Washington state and Brazil, the article titled, The outcome and economic viability of production using IVF and SOV techniques in the Wagyu breed of cattle, was published May 1 in Veterinary Sciences.

The methods showed a 70 percent decrease in cost compared to typical genetic improvement strategies, Caires said.

Seven ranches on Maui, as well as several on Molokai, Oahu, Kauai and Hawaii island, are utilizing wagyu genetics already. However, due to their lower productivity, Caires said that most ranches maintain wagyu cross-breeds, not pure-breds.

Successful conception rates are between 75 and 80 percent following a single round of artificial insemination, he said, which is much greater than the national average of 60 percent for cows.

Other tips to improve beef reproduction include good nutrition, lowering stress, routine vaccinations, pasture and grazing management, as well as scoping out cows with genetic potential.

All the little things add up to a strong foundation that pays big dividends to set ranchers up for success when using technologies, like artificial insemination, where they can also utilize elite genetics from across the country at a fraction of the cost, he said. In order for AI to be consistently successful at the ranch, reproductive management protocols are used to help ranchers better time the delivery of semen in to match the ovulation event in the cows.

Moving forward, Caires plans to continue his applied research in order to improve genetics, reproductive efficiency and overall productivity for local farmers.

The main goal of our research is to help Hawaiis ranchers remain competitive in a dynamic, ever-changing global beef industry, he said.

To review the results of the study, visit mdpi.com/2306-7381/7/2/58/htm. For information about CTAHR programs on Maui, visit ctahr.hawaii.edu/Maui/pages/Programs.aspx.

* Dakota Grossman can be reached at dgrossman@mauinews.com.

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