Our breeding herd consists of Wagyu-Angus crossbred cows and full blood Wagyu bulls. Most of our cows are Wagyu F1s, 50% Wagyu/50% Angus, while the remaining few are Wagyu F2s, 75% Wagyu/25% Angus. Therefore, our calves are either Wagyu F2s or F3s, both sired by registered full-blood Wagyu bulls. Confused? Please look at the following formula chart:
The term Wagyu literally translates into the Japanese characters 和 (wa), meaning Japanese, and牛 (gyu), meaning cattle. In the United States, Wagyu beef is often referred to as “Kobe beef.” However, this is a trademark name used specifically for Wagyu beef originating from the city of Kobe and its vicinity in Japan.
Wagyu were originally utilized as draft animals in Japan. Over many years, this selection process resulted in increased intra-muscular fat cells (i.e. marbling) for endurance, which became the most praised genetic trait of this breed. Wagyu beef is considered to be the finest beef in the world by many due much in part to its extreme marbling characteristics.
According to the American Wagyu Association, the original export of Wagyu from Japan to the United States occurred in 1976, followed by several more in the 1990s. Recognizing the unique traits of Wagyu, however, the Japanese government designated this breed as a national treasure and soon exports of Wagyu genetics were prohibited entirely.
During the short period of time from the 1970s to the 1990s, only a limited number of Wagyu genetics were exported and thus the number of cattle descended from the original bloodlines remains small. The American Wagyu Association estimates that there are approximately 25,000 to 30,000 Wagyu-influenced cattle in the U. S. today. Among those, less than 5,000 are presumed to be full-blood Wagyu.
According to the definition set forth by the U. S. Department of Agriculture, offspring of the Wagyu breed with more than 46.875% of traceable Wagyu genetics are eligible to claim Wagyu influence. To distinguish from the full blood Wagyu, we define our cows and calves as “American Wagyu.”
In addition to being renown for its tender, decadent, flavorful beef, Wagyu cattle also offer many other benefits, especially for a small operation such as our own. Most notable are their smaller size, docile nature and ease of calving, which make handling safer and manageable, and also reduce cow or calf loss (particularly for first-time mothers). Several studies also note the Wagyu’s longevity and physical fitness as superior compared to other major beef cattle breeds in the U. S.
“So why crossbreed,” you ask? Although Wagyu cattle offer many benefits, this breed is not without its drawbacks, which include slower growth and the tendency of cows to produce insufficient milk for their calves. On the other hand, the American mainstream breed, Angus, is known for its ample milking capacity, good feed efficiency and quality meat. Thus, by crossbreeding, we can take the best of both breeds and increase genetic diversity, which is known to improve the overall health and performance of cattle.
Our cattle’s health is our top priority. As such, we focus on preventive health programs such as vaccinating and deworming annually under the guidance of our vet. In addition, we visit the cattle herd everyday. When unusual behavior or symptoms are detected, the animal is immediately separated from the main herd and treated. We use antibiotics for treatment only, and only when it is absolutely necessary to ease severe pain or to save the animal’s life.
We also implement every possible practice in handling to reduce stress. For instance, we train the herd to follow our feed wagon so they can be rounded up easily without excessive force.
Natural breeding is another practice we follow. We do not use any hormones to induce or synchronize our cows’ estrus or “heat.” Our bulls are introduced to the herd in May and stay with the cows for approximately two months. The conception rate has been phenomenal at 93% to 100%! Japanese literature suggests that Wagyu are extremely fertile and our experience over the years has definitely supported that claim.
Our calving season extends from mid-February through early April. During that time, we weigh and tag each calf within 48 hours after birth.
All our calves are born and raised on our ranch nestled near the Sierra Nevada Foothill town of Valley Springs. The ranch’s abundant grazing land, natural springs and ponds, and moderate climate provide the perfect setting for raising American Wagyu. We supplement their diet with various minerals and hay as needed.
Our calves are weaned at the age of 8 to 10 months, at which time they are “conditioned” for 1 to 2 months. Conditioning is a process where we prepare the calves to start their independent lives, including vaccinations, deworming and weight monitoring. We also supplement their diet with grain to make up for the nutritional deficiency resulting from the loss of mothers’ milk.
A majority of our calves remain on our ranch until they reach the age of 10 to 12 months, at which time they are sold to a ranch in Northern California where they are gradually introduced to grain, alfalfa and other natural plant-based feed.
Interested in raising your own American Wagyu cattle? Our yearlings are available for purchase every year and breeding with one of our full blood Wagyu bulls can also be arranged. For more information, please contact us.