The goal of seedstock breeders should be to take advantage of superior genetics and breeding opportunities. But it has became more apparent in the US that many Wagyu & Akaushi breeders are simply getting taken advantage of!
Below is a discussion of common areas I see breeders being taken advantage of in the marketplace:
Grade of embryos- the quality (I.e., grade) of the embryo directly affects conception rates. Period. The highest conception rates (and most reasonable chance to recover your investment) in embryo transfer are with higher grading embryos (Putney et al., 1988; Bényei et al., 2006; Ferraz et al., 2016). Grade 1 is the highest quality followed by Grade's 2 and 3. Embryo grade is a significant factor in conception rate no matter if the embryo is fresh or frozen-thawed (Hasler, 2001).
In-Vitro vs conventional flushed embryos- IVF frozen embryos have VERY low conception rates. You need to understand that first and be cautious. I hardly ever handle frozen IVF embryos unless on a rare or unavoidable occasion. IVF fresh embryos and conventional (both fresh and frozen) are viable options and we use all three in all of our operations.
When embryos are marketed they should be accompanied with collection type and grade. Folks, I do NOT buy or sell embryos unless the embryo grades and collection type are known. If it feels like you're buying genetics at a flea market or getting taken advantage of, you probably are.
Cull level animals/genetics selling at a premium- It amazes me the amount of poor quality animals and unproven genetics that breeders are being marketed as 'elite' and 'donor'. A donor should only be a cornerstone caliber female, not a female with two ovaries that can be aspirated.
The point of selective culling is different in all herds due to differing herd goals, resources, etc. Culling potential breeder animals to the feeder pen is a subjective call and typically lowers the animals value...so typically breeders are apprehensive. Growing herds and hot markets usually lower the line of culling and this exposes higher volumes of lower quality animals on the marketplace.
Every herd needs to cull poor doing and low quality animals just to maintain it's level of quality. To improve your herd's performance you MUST cull deeper and be more selective....otherwise you are staying put or going backwards believe it or not.
The Wagyu breed associations across the globe have chose to not prioritize educating breeders on proper phenotypic selection of breeder cattle. As a result, breeders are less equipped to make investment decisions for their herds and resort to believing hearsay and hype rather than quality and type.
**I must give props to the Wagyu Society of South Africa as they hold field days and events with a selection course (and exam for certificate of completion) for any producer or enthusiast for very little cost. Live animals are viewed and marked on to illustrate points.**
There will come a day where the top premiums are paid for frozen genetics that are accompanied with images depicting their marbling merit and breeding quality (I.e., some visual proof of genetic potential). Even though Wagyu and Akaushi are high marbling breeds, not all of them produce marble score 7+ carcasses. In fact, there are frozen genetics sold that produce few, if any, offspring that are truly keeper quality from a marbling and/or phenotypic outlook. My consulting clients know my list of semen sires I endorse them to use is short....for a good reason. The proof is in the pudding.
15%+ for online sales commission-
Huh...?! There are online sales companies that are charging breeders over 15% sales commission when 6-12% seem to be the reasonable rate to livestock producers in other breeds and industries. Competition and market maturity should moderate these rates in the future.
Now there are other perks involved for paying these higher sales commissions including zero commissions due on lots that do not meet reserve price levels (you would be surprised how many lots appear to have sold online but did not meet the sellers reserve price 🤔). Also included is a generic and often inaccurate write-up about the genetics and lineage is provide by the marketing firms at no cost to the seller. What a deal!
There are some feed companies, embryologists and semen collection stations that will rack up a bill on you before you know what happened.....so always be on the lookout.
In closing, the best way to combat overpaying or simply getting your money's worth is to (1) ask around to other cattlemen for referrals and reputations and (2) reduce and ultimately stop doing business with those that are tough to deal with.
Bényei, B., Komlósi, I., Pécsi, A., Pollott, G., Marcos, C.H., de Oliveira Campos, A., Lemes, M.P., 2006. The effect of internal and external factors on bovine embryo transfer results in a tropical environment. Animal Reproduction Science, 93(3–4):268–79.
Ferraz, P.A., Burnley, C., Karanja, J., Viera-Neto, A., Santos, J.E.P., Chebel, R.C., Galvão, K.N., 2016. Factors affecting the success of a large embryo transfer program in Holstein cattle in a commercial herd in the southeast region of the United States. Theriogenology, 86(7):1834–41.
Hasler, J.F., 2001. Factors affecting frozen and fresh embryo transfer pregnancy rates in cattle. Theriogenology, 56(9):1401-15.
Putney, D.J., Thatcher, W.W., Drost, M., Wright, J.M., DeLorenzo, M.A., 1988. Influence of environmental temperature on reproductive performance of bovine embryo donors and recipients in the southwest region of the united states. Theriogenology, 30(5):905–22.