Striving for the Master Blend
Wagyner Blue P1 (Phase 1) is a composite breed of cattle consisting of Wagyu, Belgian Blue, and Angus genetics in a ratio of 50 : 25 : 25 respectively. This breed was brought about in part because of the success we had with Belgian Blue crosses – hybrids which exhibited some exceptional attributes:
Hearty and healthy. These animals experience next to no illness throughout the raising process. This means there is rarely a need for treatment or for antibiotics.
Tremendous temperament. Belgian Blue-influenced cattle are easy to work and resulted in quite a few inadvertent pets.
Magnificent mothering. Excellent maternal behavior and milk production made them powerhouse brood cows.
Excellent efficiency. Belgian-Blue exhibited superb nutrient conversion, and their beef, though leaner than standard Angus beef, was made surprisingly tender through mutation in one or both MSTN genes.
Now, let’s take a moment here to discuss the MSTN gene, as that is the cornerstone of our plans for the Wagyner Blue.
The MSTN gene is responsible for an animal body’s production of Myostatin. Myostatin is a type of protein that tells an animal’s muscles when to stop growing. The purpose of this is to limit body mass. Less mass means less maintenance and less nutrients needed. This is beneficial in natural settings, because it allows the animal to operate and function on less. In farm operations, however, where animals have access to far more nutrients, Myostatin limits potential gains.
In some animals – cattle in this case – there are sometimes mutations in one or both MSTN genes that deactivates or, at the least, inhibits the production of Myostatin. When one of these genes is mutated in such a manner, it results in animal with increased muscle mass and higher carcass yield grade. When two of these genes are mutated, it results in animal with even more muscle mass – known as double muscling* - even greater yield grade, and beef that is phenomenally tender**.
Left: Our second Wagyner Blue P1, #478
Right: Angus Belgian Blue Hybrid #981
Returning to the history of the Wagyner Blue…
We were experiencing extremely thrifty animals with great carcass yield and quality, and at the same time, we saw the increasing popularity of Wagyu beef. That’s when we wondered: What happens if we introduce the MSTN gene to Wagyu cattle?
In October of 2016 , we proceeded to breed a few of our Belgian Blue hybrids to Fullblood Wagyu via artificial insemination, and that resulted in the birth of our first Wagyner Blue P1 (Phase 1) on July 31, 2017. These Wagyner Blues were angular in the head and long of leg akin to Wagyu cattle, while simultaneously bearing the Belgian Blue attributes of a rounded rump, broader shoulders, and greater capacity for producing milk . One other interesting characteristic we noted was the Wagyner’s fur. It seemed to retain the fineness of the Wagyu coat while also taking on some of the length of Belgian Blue fur. As for coloration, many of them possessed a dark, lightly-speckled coat, a white underbelly, and roan about the muzzle and up from the hoof to the knee (and hock). Tails took on the Belgian Blue characteristic of shortness with a white switch.
The first Wagyner Blues were born, but being that the first few were heifers that were to be kept for breeding stock, it was not until February 10, 2021 that we harvested our first Wagyner Blue Steer. With dry aging, March 8, 2021 was the first time we got to taste the fruit of our efforts. The beef was of medium-low fat content yet displayed hints of the fine intramuscular marbling of Wagyu cattle. The tenderness was doubly enhanced through a combination of that aforementioned intramuscular marbling joining forces with the slight decrease in shear value resulting of the fineness of muscle fibers belonging to a single-copy mutated-MSTN animal***. The beef was phenomenal, and that has been the case with every Wagyner since.
By the time we had harvested our first Wagyner Blue P1, we had already initiated work on the Wagyner Blue Phase 2 (P2). The idea was to utilize our small herd of MSTN-carrying P1 Wagyner Blues to breed our way up to a herd of MSTN carrying certified-purebred Wagyus. Thus, we bred our P1 Wagner Blues to female-sexed fullblood Wagyu semen. This is where we are at right now, with a number of our newborn F2 Wagyu heifers on the ground carrying 1 copy of the MSTN gene****.
Back: Belgian Blue Hybrid, 985
Front: Our first Wagyner Blue P1, 471
These MSTN-carrying F2 Wagyu heifers will be bred once more to sexed fullblood Wagyu semen. Inevitably, these will produce F3 Wagyu heifers with a copy of the mutuated myostatin gene. When those MSTN-carrying F3 heifers are bred, we will continue utilizing fullblood Wagyu semen, but we will not use sexed semen because we intend to produce a crop of both male and female F4 (purebred) Wagyu cattle that carry the single-copy MSTN gene. Those F4 males and females bearing the single-copy MSTN gene will be our first iterations of the Wagyner Blue P2 (Phase 2): certified purebred Wagyus that carry the MSTN gene.
Only then, will we be able to initiate the plan’s final phase: the Wagyner Blue Phase 3 (P3).
When they come of age, the Purebred Wagyu males carrying the MSTN gene will be collected, and the semen will be used on our Purebred Wagyu females carrying the MSTN gene. Births from this combination will have a 25% chance***** of resulting in a Wagyner Blue P3: a purebred Wagyu carrying two copies of the MSTN gene, or in other words, a purebred and double-muscled Wagyu******.
We have theorized the Wagyner Blue P3 will possess the extreme tenderness of double mutated MSTN genes, and if harvested at an early age between 2-3 years, they will very likely bear beef similar to that of a double-muscled Belgian Blue. However, we have also speculated that animals kept upward of 8-10 years (akin how the Rubia Gallega cattle of Spain are kept) will have time to develop the lattice of delicate marbling for which Wagyu cattle are known. With this combination of tenderness and marbling, and the drastic increase in flavor that mature animals exhibit, we believe that Wagyner Blue P3 beef will be a delicacy the likes of which the world has never seen before. Right now, as of February 12, 2023, we are a little under half way. Seven years down, and seven (or up to fourteen) more to go.
Want a taste of progress?
Check our our available selection of Wagyner Blue here:
(Click footnote to return to text above.)
*It isn’t truly double muscling; there is only about a 40% increase in muscle mass. Nevertheless, the animal’s muscles are visibly much more prominent.
**This tenderness is caused by that 40% increase in muscle mass attempting to fit into the same space as a normal muscle would fit. This results in extremely fine muscle fibers with lower shear value (less force needed to cut) than typical muscle fibers.
***A single mutated MSTN gene does increase tenderness, but due to it not being double-muscled at this point, it does not increase the muscle fibre count nor the tenderness near as much as a double-copy MSTN gene.
**** Each time we breed a MSTN-carrying Wagyner Blue or Wagyu to a Fullblood Wagyu (which does not carry MSTN), we have a 50% chance of obtaining the desired result. This is because the MSTN gene follows a pattern of inheritance known as incomplete autosomal dominance.
***** According to our research, two parents bearing a single mutated strand of a MSTN gene will have a 50% chance to result in an offspring with a single mutated strand of a MSTN gene, a 25% chance to result in an offspring with no mutated strands of the MSTN gene, and a 25% chance to result in an offspring with two mutated strands of the MSTN gene. This is called a codominant inheritance pattern.
****** Note: The birth of double-muscled animals requires especial care. In Belgium and France, Belgian Blue cattle operations keep vets close at hand for calving season during which many Caesarean Sections (C-sections) are performed. Here at Master Blend Cattle Co., however, we have found that by utilizing genetics for calving ease and by inducing labor up to 10 days early, birthing difficulties are drastically reduced. Utilizing this combination of strategies, we have not had to perform a Caesarean Section since November 10, 2014.