As a member of the American Wagyu Association, I am concerned about what is occurring with respect to certain people currently attempting to tear down the AWA. I, like many other AWA members, believe that in order to move the AWA organization forward in a positive direction in this rapidly growing and changing Wagyu breed that we are all involved in, that the organization must continuously evolve and change. I hope we AWA members can and will act in a reasonable manner, and help our AWA organization navigate through the current environment to a better, larger organization, as has been done many times before as the Wagyu breed and the AWA have grown over the past few decades. It seems to me that we should not let misinformation propagated by the AWA’s detractors go unanswered, as doing so runs the risk of causing AWA members being misinformed.
After getting involved last Friday evening in an online discussion related to a post made by another AWA member, RL Freeborn, which post contained material misstatements that painted the American Wagyu Association, it’s Board Of Directors, and its Executive Director, in a bad light. I decided to do some investigation into the accusations leveled against the AWA Board Of Directors and Executive Director in RL’s post. I understand that RL’s post was simply content propagated by a different Wagyu Breeder (who I will refer to simply as the “Other Wagyu Breeder”). RL created his post, written in the first-person, as if the events described had involved him personally, and described the events as if they were “new news”, neither of which was the case. For that, RL is to be blamed simply for not properly describing what he was posting (as content provided to him by an un-named third-party). But RL, in his follow-up comments to his post when he and I were sparring over his post, continued to make the point that he still believed his post was justified given the fact that the content of such post was “true” (in his opinion) even though he had incorrectly described the events as having involved him personally, when such was not the case.
This exchange with RL, and the many other social media posts and comments that I have seen recently that paint the AWA, its current Board Of Directors, and its management in a negative light, got me to thinking about why I do not share the same views as some of these other AWA members making such complaints. I decided to do some investigating to determine what was really going on.
I had already heard, months ago, directly from the “Other Wagyu Breeder” that such Other Wagyu Breeder believed that the Executive Director had attempted to access his account at Trans Ova and get information about the embryos, semen and other items stored there, or which had been shipped from such Other Wagyu Breeder’s account at Trans Ova. RL’s post also parroted information that the Other Wagyu Breeder had been more recently disseminated, asserting that the Executive Director had contacted Cattlemax, the ranch herd management software company, improperly attempting to gain access to Cattlemax customers’ animal records for registered Wagyu cattle. If the Executive Director was truly attempting to gain access to AWA members’ private data at either Trans Ova or Cattlemax without such AWA members’ knowledge and consent, such would be disturbing. So since the “rumor mill was hot with accusations” of this type, all of which, from what I could tell, emanated from (and only from) these two alleged events described by the “Other Wagyu Breeder” (the Trans Ova event and the Cattlemax event) I decided to make some inquiries to see if I could find the truth.
I had already briefly, months ago, looked into the Trans Ova matter and had concluded that the Other Wagyu Breeder was “blowing out of proportion” such matter and that the Executive Director had not acted in an improper manner. But I decided to do some further investigating. I called the Executive Director, the President and some current AWA board members that were present during discussions of such matter. I learned that there were some valid reasons for the Executive Director to have been investigating the matter that he was investigating, and that he was asked to do so by the President, to whom he reports. The matter being investigated was whether or not an animal had been registered as having been sired by the actual Itozuru Doi/TF151 bull vs. a clone of this bull. The Executive Director performed his investigation and ultimately it was found that the animal was in fact incorrectly registered, and the error was corrected in the animal registry. As part of this investigative process, the “Other Wagyu Breeder” was contacted by an AWA board member because he was involved in the matter by virtue of the fact that the improperly registered animal was out of one of his cows. It is important to note in the interest of fairness to the Other Wagyu Breeder that the information submitted to the AWA office that resulted in the incorrect registration had been provided by another party that had purchased an embryo that resulted in the calf. It is also important to note that the registration error was ultimately deemed by the AWA to be an administrative error, and not intentional, and also that the Other Wagyu Breeder cooperated with the AWA and provided the AWA with the information they needed to determine which sire had been used to produce the embryo. However, meanwhile, the Executive Director had also contacted Trans Ova as part of his investigation, since the flush of the donor cow that produced the embryo had been performed at Trans Ova, in order to try to determine which sire was the correct sire based on the flush records. According to the Executive Director, this is the only time he has contacted Trans Ova to obtain information about embryos and/or semen on Wagyu animals. Perhaps the Executive Director could have or should have utilized a different method of finding out the facts in this matter, but it certainly does not seem to me that he was attempting to obtain any information other than the information required to ascertain whether or not an animal had been improperly registered, which turned out to in fact be the case.
Since the second accusation about the Executive Director attempting to improperly access AWA member data (customer’s data within the Cattlemax database) was relatively new information (I had only heard about this matter in the last couple of weeks, culminating in RL Freeborn’s post last Friday), I decided to make inquiries as to the background of and validity of these accusations.
What I found with respect to the Cattlemax accusations was that the Executive Director wanted to obtain historical Wagyu animal data from any and all sources that he could obtain such from, as pulling together animal performance data to produce EPDs is one of the significant tasks he has been asked by the AWA board of directors to accomplish. He was actually being asked to do so in late 2017 and early 2018 by a number of current AWA members who had suggested such, one of which members was me. It was believed that by obtaining performance data on the thousands of registered animals for which data exists, somewhere, in some form, that the time required to produce EPDs would be shortened. Possible avenues being considered included current and past AWA members’ animal performance records, including paper, spreadsheet and herd management software databases, large Wagyu beef production companies, beef packing plants, and others. One source of information that had been suggested by multiple AWA members that were also Cattlemax customers (including me) was the information stored in the Cattlemax database since many AWA members utilized Cattlemax to manage their herds.
The chronology of the inquiry that the Executive Director made to Cattlemax related to this matter is as follows:
- In February 2018, the Executive Director, representing the AWA, as well as staff of Digital Beef, and staff of Cattlemax, representing their organizations, were all attending the NCBA meeting. At this meeting the Executive Director discussed with Digital Beef staff whether or not their programmers would be able to work with Cattlemax programmers to create computer functionality to import historical animal performance data from Cattlemax into Digital Beef. This inquiry was made by the Executive Director to determine if such would be technically possible and if Digital Beef would be willing to create such system functionality. Digital Beef staff discussed such with Cattlemax staff at the NCBA meeting and subsequently reported back to the Executive Director that such would be possible.
- Later, in March 2018, the Executive Director sent an email to Jimmy, one of the software programmers at Cattlemax, seeking to initiate discussions between the AWA, Digital Beef and Cattlemax concerning how to move forward with creating such data export/import functionality. Importantly, the Executive Director’s email clearly sets forth his intent to obtain the authorization and consent of the involved Cattlemax customer as part of the process. Set forth below is the content of the Executive Director’s email to Jimmy at Cattlemax (the text in red color is highlighted by me to point out the important fact that the Executive Director clearly intended to obtain the approval/consent of the Cattlemax customer as part of the process that was being planned).
I would like to get together to discuss how to get the “performance” data that some of our members have recorded with CattleMax shared over to our Digital Beef system. We need to have as much data uploaded to our system so that we can have an EPD run as quickly as possible. I have spoken with Digital Beef and they indicate that this is possible. We would like to a “bulk upload” of numerous members at one time if at all possible.
What I would like to do is have DB and yourself get together and produce a form that will translate the needed data. I will then put out to the members that if they would like their data recorded in CM copied to DB, please contact the AWA and CM to provide authorization. I would then like to have 10-20, or however many files can be handled, members data copied over to DB at one time.
There is no requirement to only use our system. What is required is the input of the data we need to produce EPD’s. We require BD, WWT and Weaning Date be entered on all animals. Other data points on carcass and ultra sound will also need to be input for EPD purposes.
Please let me know a good time to call and discuss.
The Executive Director’s initial email to Cattlemax on this subject clearly stated his intent to obtain the authorization/consent of the AWA member/Cattlemax customer prior to accessing any data. So how is it that the accusations of impropriety have been leveled against the Executive Director by the “Other AWA Member”? Terrell Miller, one of the founders of Cattlemax, received information from someone at Cattlemax (not from the AWA Executive Director himself) and it is possible that there might have been some type of miscommunication to Terrell of what the AWA was asking for. Certainly it is a fact that after the Executive Director’s March 2018 email to Jimmy at Cattlemax, the parties worked through the matter and settled on a methodology by which a Cattlemax user, logged in with their UserID and password, could perform the download of their animal performance data in Digital Beef format, so that the import of such data into Digital Beef could be accomplished if such AWA member desired to do so. Such functionality has been present within the Cattlemax system for the past couple of months.
Everyone I communicated with (or reviewed the written communications from) is in agreement that the Executive Director was not acting (or attempting to act) in any inappropriate manner, and that he was not trying to improperly access any Cattlemax customer’s data. Of course, except for the communications from the “Other Wagyu Breeder” who has no first-hand knowledge of the facts or circumstances, but who has expended substantial time and resources to write his opinions and disseminate such to management at Cattlemax and to various AWA members.
So how did this matter get so “blown out of proportion”? It seems to me that some of what has been communicated publicly via social media originated from a concerted effort by one single “Other Wagyu Breeder” who has made it his mission to “tear down” the AWA. It also seems that some blame needs to be placed on simple miscommunication. The Executive Director talks to Digital Beef, Digital Beef talks to Cattlemax, the Executive Director emails Jimmy at Cattlemax and Jimmy communicates with Terrell. Then, with the seeds of miscommunication sown, the “Other Wagyu Breeder” contacts Terrell and makes accusations of impropriety against the Executive Director. When multiple parties are involved in communicating it is possible that perhaps something other than the “complete story” is communicated. And when a disgruntled malcontent expends substantial time and resources to “paint a picture”, sometimes that picture can be visualized by those to whom the picture is shown.
What is important with respect to the subject at hand is that the Executive Director put his initial request to Cattlemax in writing, so it is documented, and such writing clearly states that he intended to obtain the approval/consent of AWA members by asking for their authorization prior to any sharing of their data into the Digital Beef system. And the end result is that this is what actually occurred. The Executive Director took action to create functionality requested by multiple AWA members to get their historical data from Cattlemax into Digital beef. He did what AWA members asked him to do. He did what the AWA board has asked him to do by pushing our organization closer to our goal of having sufficient data to perform EPD calculations. And for this, based on RL Freeborn’s misguided Facebook post of last Friday, the origin of which post was misinformation propagated by the “Other Wagyu Breeder”, it appeared that some AWA members were ready to crucify the Executive Director. Some AWA members were posting comments as if “the sky were falling”.
And meanwhile, the new “Wagyu Breeders Of America” association is standing on the sidelines with welcoming arms stretched wide, ready to receive all the disgruntled AWA members who are surely to leave the AWA in droves based on the ugly painted picture presented to us by the AWA’s detractors. Surely we are smarter than that.
I hope my taking the time to perform this simple investigation of the accusations being leveled against the AWA Board Of Directors and Executive Director, and to write this, will be helpful to those AWA members who want to know the truth and have questioned some of what is being said by the AWA “detractors” who seem to be spending substantial time and resources trying to tear down the AWA. If you wonder if something being said by these AWA detractors is true or not, you can pick up the phone and call the Executive Director, or the President, or the staff at the AWA office, or one or more AWA board members, like I did. It is important that we not take the negative statements being made by the AWA detractors at “face value” without doing our own research and reaching our own conclusion based on information obtained from those who have first-hand knowledge of the facts and circumstances. I’m looking forward to next week’s AWA Annual General Meeting, where I hope we can grapple with the real issues facing the association, and move the organization forward in a positive manner.