Acquired: Worked with animal (didn’t own)
Posted Mar 08, 2013
When I came to Iowa in 2000 for the National Junior Angus Show, I made a point to visit Hawkeye Breeders in Adel, Iowa for a tour. While there I encountered a few peculiar looking bulls that where black hided, lighter muscled, and had horns. I remember thinking to myself, who in the world would want to breed these. After I returned to Iowa in 2002 to attend Iowa State University, I made a point to drop in at Hawkeye Breeders from time to time to see what bulls where in. Every time I stopped in it seemed like there was two bulls that was always there, Michifuku and Who Made Who. The first time I saw Michifuku he was already an old bull. Come to find out he was one of the highest marbling bulls available in the US, and the Waygu breed was known for producing some of the best beef in the world.
Later I was afforded the opportunity to go to a workshop at A-Z feeders, whom worked with Yamamoto Beef Company that had spent a great deal of effort to import the Takeda herd from Japan. I got to look at several bulls there and some halfbloods that where being feed out for beef. I was told that Mr. Takeda was asked on as a consultant to Yamamoto Beef and from time to time was asked to come from Japan to hand select the herdsires for the program. Much of the success of the Waygu breed lies in the way that they are fed, but they seem to have an extreme predisposition for producing exceptional carcass traits. Part of the tour was to a packing plant where they processed the Waygu beef that they produced. The carcasses had as much marbling as I have ever seen in a carcass, and considering that I took a class on meats evaluation, I had seen a fair share of beef carcasses. I should mention that they had to use a specialty processor to handle larger carcass weights, because they fed these animals longer and to larger weights. At the end of day they fed us one of their lower grade steaks. As a connoisseur of fine beef, the steak lived up to its hype. Around the same time I was asked to photograph some Waygu bulls at Hawkeye Breeders. It made for an interesting project.
I admit that I still trying to wrap my head around the appearance of the cattle, but you certainly cannot argue with the results. It is my understanding that the growth rate is slow, and the muscle pattern is lower, which I believe contributes to their carcass traits and longevity. I was also told by the guy that owned Hawkeye Breeders (who has since passed on) that the Waygu was incredibly fertile.
If you are trying to add value to a beef business or are looking for a premium for your calves, you might very well consider Waygu. If you would like more information about the Waygu cattle I would definitely recommend that you look up Alan Zellmer with A-Z Feeders in Atlantic, Iowa. If you would like the contact I would be glad to round it up for you.