Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The First Wagyu Arrive!

After tons of research, lots of phone calls, some seriously good taste testing (in Japan and the US), and two trips to a Wagyu breeder, my wife and I decided to take the plunge and buy some purebred Wagyu cattle for our farm. It would have been nice to sell my existing herd and buy an entire herd of Wagyu cattle, but at the then going rate of $4,000 per animal (2007 prices), that simply wasn't feasible. Instead we initially bought one bull and one three year old cow from Vic Luneborg of Clear Creek Farms in Ohio. Vic is the most established Wagyu breeder east of the Mississippi and he runs a very nice operation. His focus is strictly on breeding stock (as opposed to beef production) but he has all of his cattle tested for the genetic markers that indicate tenderness and marbling, and he breeds for these traits. In this first picture, you can see my father-in-law (he has raised cattle longer than I've been alive) and my son, anxiously awaiting the release of the first two Wagyu from Vic's trailer into our pasture.

This next photograph shows Vic and my father-in-law watching Kakujitsu, the 18 month old bull, getting ready to step out of the trailer. This bull will be the father of all of the calves born on this farm for at least the next two years. Wagyu cattle were first established in the US through the importation and subsequent cross breeding of 4 Japanese bulls to domestic cattle. The first offspring born in the United States were of course 50% wagyu, and each following generation was bred to one of the 100% bulls to gradually increase the wagyu percentages to 75%, 87,5%, 93.75%, and so on.

By acquiring a new Wagyu bull every two years, I can use a similar breeding strategy to develop a herd of purebred Wagyu here on my farm. This is the pedigree for Kakujitsu. Kakujitsu is 98.44% Wagyu which means he qualifies as a purebred Wagyu and all of his offspring will be considered 50% wagyu under the American Wagyu Association rules. (15/16ths or 93.75% is deemed purebred) Developing an entire herd this way will be a long process (more than 10 years), and the current interest in Wagyu cattle could wane by then, or perhaps they will be as common as Angus are now. In any event, to hedge my bets and get a jump start on my purebred herd I bought a high percentage Wagyu cow from Vic as well. She was delivered at the same time as Kakujitsu (Fall 2007), expecting a calf in April of 2008.

This is a picture of Missy, the young Wagyu cow that came with Kakujitsu. Her percentage (90.625%) does not earn her the vaulted status of "purebred," but as long as she is bred to a bull of 98% or greater, all of her offspring will qualify as purebred Wagyu.

A few months after acquiring Missy, I purchased two more Wagyu cows from Vic. Here's a picture of those cows, Bailey Two (foreground) and April Sunshine (background), in the summer of 2008, with their slick summer coats on. All three Wagyu cows gave birth to healthy wagyu calves this past spring (2008), so our herd of Wagyu cattle numbers 7 today (3 cows, 3 calves, and one bull). Whats more, some of our original cows have already given birth to 50% wagyu calves, so the herd is starting to take shape!

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