Recently I was surveyed by a group that is putting together responses from several respected Wagyu and Akaushi breeders in the US. Below are my answers to the questionnaire. Enjoy!
1) What is the name of your Ranch?
Myer-Cooper Cattle & 33 Ventures, LLC.
2) What is your name?
Aaron Cooper, Ph.D.
3) Tell us the number of years you have been in the Wagyu business.
2 years at HeartBrand Beef, 2 years as breeder/consultant/researcher
4) Do you primarily raise Full Bloods, Percentage cattle, Reds, Blacks?
FB Akaushi seedstock primarily but we own a couple Black Wagyu females as well. Currently, we export semen and embryos worldwide on Akaushi and Black Wagyu.
5) What is your main business, seed stock or meat?
6) Who is your favorite sire for producing bulls and why?
ASHWOOD FX0014 is the highest marbling Akaushi sire that I am aware of. Our goal as Akaushi producers is to produce bulls that maintain calving ease and sufficient growth while injecting high levels of marbling at less than 2 years of age. FX0014 is the most consistent in terms of exceptional marbling and more than likely this is due to the influence of his granddam, Namiko. FX0014 semen is scarcely rare but he would be my go-to sire for producing FB or percentage Akaushi bulls otherwise.
7) Who is your favorite sire for producing heifers and why?
Close race here. (1) Most sons or grandsons of Kaedemaru or Kaedemaru 2. These two females’ sons consistently raise good producing, adaptable, long lasting, high marbling offspring. The proof is in the pudding. (2) HeartBrand Shigemaru (JPN IMP) raises moderate framed, easy keeping cows that reliably perform with maternal power. The fact the Shigemaru is an F11 carrier has hurt his usage and influence over the past couple of years. It’s time as an Akaushi industry to move past the F11 nonsense.
8) At what age do you wean your calves?
6 to 8 months of age depending on forage availability
9) At what age do you start feeding your calves?
Currently, breeders and feeders will begin development on full feed at ~1 year of age. This is subject to change as we grow.
10) How long do you feed calves and what age do you process?
FB Akaushi are harvested at 22-24 months of age. F1 Akaushi are harvested at either 18-20 or 24 months of age depending on marketing program and marbling goals.
11) Any tips for marketing Wagyu?
Don’t rely on others to come to you. Have a written, directional plan and many checkpoints to assess your program. Present your vision to a few top industry professionals and consider their thoughts. More than likely they’ve crossed those same bridges and/or currently observing others that are. Also, most pictures of Wagyu cattle in breeders’ marketing material are poor.
12) Any tips for raising Wagyu?
Proper management (i.e., dehorning, nutritional considerations, etc.) goes a long way in total production and subsequent marketing. Phenotypic selection should be used in some regard as a herd improvement tool rather than totally ignoring it. There are many that can help in this area...every breeder needs some level of culling.
13) What data do you use on your farm and how does this data help?
Actual growth data at various ages and Akaushi line tendencies in regards to carcass merit. As well, a long list of other indicator traits that impact total productivity, stayability and maternal performance.
14) Do you have a web page? What is your web page address?
15) Tell us one piece of advice you have for anyone in this business?
I see too many breeders invest time and resources into their programs and then retrospectively regret certain decisions (to the tune of $50k+). The consensus feedback is they should have visited with a consultant to avoid the costly errors/genetics. Additionally, improvement in other areas with the professional assistance could have realized at an overall lower cost. I work with a couple breeders that view consulting as an insurance policy in a way.
16) Please tell us what you feel is the future of the Wagyu breed?
Currently in the US I see programs either without direction or on a very good path. Those with a plan and direction firmly in place will grow and outlast those that do not. The demand for our product is very high globally and most just need a proper production plan. I feel the elite breeders will increase efforts in progeny testing for carcass results and improve marketing on all levels.