Building a Wagyu Market
Earl and Annette Rowe promote the benefits of Wagyu genetics
Try to imagine going to Las Vegas and hitting a jackpot for $100,000. Next is a celebration trip to an elite restaurant serving a 6-ounce Wagyu steak for $400. Then when the waiter cleans the table, he notices some of the very expensive steak left on the plate because of the flavor and tenderness caused by unusually high intramuscular marbling is very rich to the palate. Although knowledge is growing, most Americans have not experienced the dining delicacy offered by Wagyu beef, one of the most expensive beef varieties in the world.
Earl and Annette Rowe of Lincoln, Ark., delved into the Wagyu business a decade ago. They are now seeing a steady rise in the sale of Wagyu bulls, embryos, semen, steers and seedstock heifers. Some ranchers want a bull to increase meat quality by raising F1 calves while others are interested in calving ease. Wagyu, with decreased bone density, especially noticeable in the black ones, throw smaller calves. Blacks are also thought to marble better in the money-making chest area, although the red cattle, called Akaushi, are much larger animals and have the capacity for great marbling. Health conscious consumers are attracted by studies showing a higher ration of mono unsaturated fatty acids to saturated fatty acid, a benefit associated to lower cardio vascular disease.
Wagyu cattle, generally resemble small dairy animals rather than beef animals. They are shorter and smaller in the rear with all fullbloods being horned, not what most commercial growers consider attractive. Based on continuous research, the Rowes seek the best genetics for marbling and other desirable qualities. The Wagyu gene pool is limited because fewer than 200 full blood Wagyu were released into the U.S. in the 1970s through the 1990s. Registration requires DNA testing and pedigrees must traceable to these original imported animals.
Another factor raising the cost of Wagyu beef is slower maturation. The desired fine marbling begins at 16 months of age and with F1s generally finishing around age 2, while fullbloods usually aren’t processed until around 2 1/2 to 3 years of age.
The Rowes are helping cattlemen introduce the advantages of the Wagyu bloodlines into their herds. Purchasing the animals outright is a faster yet more expensive means of getting started, making the purchase of semen and embryos more viable for some. The Rowe’s have collected semen on three to four bulls from select bloodlines. Semen is collected at an off-ranch facility and stored at a business that specializes in semen sales. The Rowes receive a check periodically for their part of sales.
Further, the Rowe’s have a few fullblood females they flush periodically, an uncertain process yielding anywhere from zero to 30 embryos per flush. To maintain reproductive health and after flushing a couple of times, the female is allowed to have a calf. Though invitro is another viable method, the Rowes only offer conventional embryos and utilize many with their own small herd of recips.
“Not every female can carry an embryo, but the ones that can are much more valuable to our herd. Unfortunately, we don’t know until we try,” Earl said.
“This has been an unexpected way to make a few extra dollars along the way without extensive effort,” Annette added.
The couple started with cattle as a hobby, which progressed to a business as Earl started raising Wagyu. Annette is the business manager. She built a website, makes invoices, submits sales listings and maintains a Facebook presence. Their main market is people with a smaller herd who want to introduce Wagu bloodlines into their herd.
“We price very reasonably because it’s really not about making money. We want to share our lifestyle and to offer great-tasting beef. Earl spends a lot of time sharing what he’s learned with others,” Annette explained.
They use rotational grazing to extend pasture use and to aid in parasite control. They also maintain as stress-free an environment as possible, an acknowledged benefit for marbling production. Another is line weaning.
“I read about weaning using nose rings and am considering that in the future to reduce stress during the initial days of separation,” Earl said.
Other practices include using Scour Boss to minimize scouring, vaccinating with Covexin 8 and Vira Shield 6 Plus VL5, using Multi Min injectable at least twice a year, using basic minerals throughout the year, feeding Onyx mineral during reproduction seasons and using freeze-proof tanks with clean water sources.
Wagyu come with their own disadvantages. They are smaller, milk supply can be an issue and EPDs on the breed are not available at this time. Breeders often use F1 cows as recips instead of fullbloods to utilize stronger milk production of other breeds. The upside to that for the Rowes is that if you have an F1 cow that doesn’t make it as a calf producer, she’s a superior candidate for the freezer.
While the Rowes are developing their genetics market and selling only a few animals, others are breeding Wagyu bulls to larger herds of commercial animals. These can be sold to feedlots at the top of the market, plus 10 to 20 cents more per pound.
Earl and Annette want to be ambassadors for Wagyu and to spread the word about the various opportunities in this market including farmers markets, farm-to-table restaurants, semen and breeding stock sales, and supplying feedlots. As part of their efforts, they attend Wagyu cattle conferences a couple of times a year and have had two groups to their ranch: Grassroots Grazers and new county Extension agents. They hope to expand their activities perhaps by speaking to different cattlemen’s groups.http://www.ozarksfn.com/2019/03/11/building-a-wagyu-market/http://www.ozarksfn.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/Rowe-1024x683.jpghttp://www.ozarksfn.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/Rowe-150x150.jpgArkansas NeighborsNeighborsAnnette Rowe,Arkansas,Cattle,Earl Rowe,Lincoln,Rowe,WagyuEarl and Annette Rowe promote the benefits of Wagyu genetics Try to imagine going to Las Vegas and hitting a jackpot for $100,000. Next is a celebration trip to an elite restaurant serving a 6-ounce Wagyu steak for $400. Then when the waiter cleans the table, he notices some of...Terry RoppTerry Roppterrymerrill@hotmail.comAuthorOzarks Farm & Neighbor Newspaper