LEXINGTON, KENTUCKY – Wagyu breeders from around the country, as well as Australia and Mexico, convened in Lexington, Kentucky on October 14 for the Annual Meeting of the American Wagyu Association. Ralph Valdez, President of the Association, announced the hiring of Michael Beattie as the incoming Executive Director. Beattie, the former Executive Officer of the Australian Wagyu Association, will assume the position on January 1, 2011.
During the business session, one new director was elected to the Board: Don Brown of Texas. Jerry Reeves and Ted Davis were re-elected to the Board for a new three-year term. In addition, during the three-day convention, a number of expert speakers addressed the members. They included Dr. Temple Grandin, Colorado State University; Dr. Jonathan Beever, University of Illinois; Dr. Tera Eerkes, co-founder of iGenix, Inc.; Burt Rutherford, BEEF Magazine; Dr. Gregg Rentfrow, University of Kentucky; and Dr. Jeffrey Lehmkkuhler, University of Kentucky.
The topics addressed were focused on Genetic Testing for Disorders in Cattle, but also included: an introduction to the newly adopted ILR2 ABRI Registry System and database and the associated BREEDPLAN performance reporting system; humane animal care and handling; cattle nutrition; carcass evaluation; and marketing pointers.
In addition, the membership was informed about the progress of the Wagyu progeny test by Dr. Jerry Reeves, Chair of the Breed Improvement Committee – and the introduction of the Branded Beef Task Force, chaired by Don Brown.
The Wagyu Producer of the Year was given posthumously to Dr. Kenneth Seeber, an active Wagyu breeder and nationally acclaimed harness racehorse trainer and veterinarian. Dr. Seeber passed away unexpectedly August 23, 2010 at the age of 66. His son, Kenneth Jr., was on hand to accept Dr. Seeber’s award and did so with quiet graciousness.
Michael Beattie, the incoming Executive Director, spoke to the membership about his background which included not only his five years as presiding staff at the Australian Wagyu Association, but fifteen year affiliation with ABRI (Agricultural Business Research Institute) in genetic extension work with Angus BREEDPLAN and South American development and Ultrasound scanning accreditation. Beattie also worked for two years at CSIRO (equivalent to USDA) in Controlled Release Technologies in New Zealand. His family of four (Belinda and three children) will relocate to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.
Dr. Charles Gaskins will remain on staff as Executive Secretary, acting as mentor and resident Wagyu genetics and breeding expert to the membership and to the general public. He will also counsel the incoming ED, Michael Beattie, in the intricacies of the rules and regulations of the American Wagyu breed and introduce him to the American Wagyu seedstock ranchers, meat producers, feedlot operators and processing plants. Professor Gaskins retired from Washington State University Animal Science Department in April and is looking forward to spending more time with his longstanding Boy Scout activities and other outdoor pursuits. Dr. Gaskins, a former Board member, has been an integral part of the American Wagyu Association since its inception and has published numerous scientific articles regarding the Wagyu breed. Everyone concerned with Wagyu will greatly and warmly appreciate his continued presence.
Cane Ridge Cattle Company of Paris, Kentucky, hosted the convention and a tour of their facilities, as well as a well attended Wagyu dinner and dance at their beautiful facility. Landan and Lavinia Clay, owners of Cane Ridge, welcomed the guests and enlightened all with stories about the exceptional history of their ranch.
The American Wagyu Association, headquartered in Pullman, Washington, has grown its membership substantially over the past few years, as ranchers and consumers throughout the United States have become more aware of the distinct character of the breed.
Wagyu is a breed of cattle from Japan and are best known in the U.S. for producing highly marbled beef, a delicacy that has gained fame for its tenderness, rich buttery taste and high dollar value. This combined with the traditional low birth weight makes the Wagyu bull an ideal sire for first-calf heifers.