Akaushi/Angus cows taken to new 'Moo-Tell'

Almost 100 calves were taken from the herd in La Grange and transported to Wheatland where they will be raised to about 1300 lbs. before they are taken to market. TJ Guest, part owner of Akaushi herd being raised in Wheatland said, “Rather than going with the purebred right away, we are starting with an Angus/Akaushi mix so we can breed the efficiency of the Angus cow and the tenderness and the marbling of the Akaushi. But still at a very good price.”

WHEATLAND – The weaning process for cows is not without challenges and is never easy for ranchers or cows.

This year the couples that went into the Akaushi/Angus market are hoping that raising the Japanese and American mixed cows can yield a lucrative harvest.

From just a taste of the richness of Japanese Akaushi beef, Brook Brockman Guest and her husband JT Guest were hooked. They were, in fact, so impressed that they wanted to breed, raise, market and harvest their own herd of Akaushi beef.

According to Brook Brockman-Guest and her husband, JT Guest, “We’re just regular people that enjoy great meat.” BG livestock and RLT LLC (partners Pat and Lynn Robley) teamed up to find a product that won’t break the bank and are raising a product that is very palatable in the United States.

Japanese beef gained popularity when Kobe Beef, a richly marbled meat that tastes like rich, buttered beef became the standard for all top-ranked beef in the world. Kobe is wagyu, which simply means Japanese cow. 

According to the Robb Report and reporter Mary Squillace who published a report on wagyu beef June, 2019, she says, “‘There are four breeds native to Japan. Of those four breeds, one of the breeds is genetically unique,” Heitzeberg says. “It has a genetic predisposition to create this crazy marbling of fat on inside of muscle tissue. No other livestock does that.” Think of your average piece of steak. Chances are, it’ll have a fat cap on its outside. With wagyu, the cow metabolizes the fat internally, so it’s integrated within the muscle. The result is a rich, luscious cut of beef that practically dissolves once it hits your tongue. ‘When you have very high-end wagyu, you barely want to cook it. The middle you want to keep as raw as possible. But even if it were cooked medium or medium-well, it would still be juicy,’ says Giuseppe Tentori, executive chef of GT Prime in Chicago. “Just slice it super thin so it melts in your mouth.”

The partnership between the Guests and the Robleys came together with a goal to have the high-end meat from Japan raised right here in Wyoming and they are convinced they can put a high quality beef steak on your plate that will not cost and arm and a leg.

The month of October has been a busy one for the four owners and on Oct. 11-12, their newest herd of calves totaling 98 calves had to go through the weaning process.

That process started in La Grange, Wyoming in Goshen County where part of their herd is located and where the calving took place. From there the great fall harvest of calves took place and the new calves were separated from their mothers, loaded into two cattle transports and taken to Wheatland, Wyoming, which is in Platte County.

The trip itself with the twin transports loaded with calves took about three hours from the Goshen gate to Platte gate.

Once in their new county and permanent home until they grow to market weight, they were not happy campers. The bawling could be heard a mile away as the separation and young groaning tummies overtook them.

“Next year, we might do things a bit different,” Pat Robely said. “We may institute an area for the mothers and an area for the calves, side by side so at least they can see their mothers. Maybe it will quiet them down.”

According to Robely, it will take them about two days to quiet down and settle into their new normal.

“We’ve been weaning and preg-checking the rest of the cows,” Brook Brockman-Guest said. “Most of our cows are bred again and so they’re trying to grow a new calf and these guys are big enough to be on their own.”

According to Brockman-Guest, the 98 calves are the first residents of their new “moo-tell.” The new structure was erected during the summer months of 2021 and the dimensions are 448 ft. x 48 ft.

“We will eventually have a working facility in the middle,” Brockman-Guest said. “But the design is such that the air circulates and you are always about 10 degrees warmer inside the barn or cooler inside the barn than the outside temperature.”

According to Brockman-Guest, it takes away some of the risks of Mother Nature so they can gain quicker, they don’t have to go far to water or to feed and they are not standing knee-deep in muck.

“We bed it every other day or sooner, if need be,” she said. “If we kneel down and our pants get wet, then it’s too wet and we know that we need to add more bedding. The back part is for the bedding and the front part is where they are going to come to water and feed.”

Most of the current herd are 50% Akaushi and 50% red or Black Angus with the exception of a few who are 3/4 Akaushi. A pure herd is being bred currently, but that future project of breeding 100% Akaushi is still in process. The couples want to make sure the breeding is good and the meat is quality before purebred Akaushi is sold. They are currently selling the 50/50 mix, and that is almost sold out as the premium beef is in demand.

“There are some of the full-blood Akaushi from Lynn’s purebreds,” Brockman-Guest said. “Those we’re keeping back to grow the herd. We do have a couple of bull calves in here, one is 3/4 and one that’s full blood that we’ll keep.”

WYO beef is processing most of their beef out of state at Twin City Pack in Nebraska, but they are looking more and more to process in Wyoming, so far, using Michael Bender in Cheyenne and Wyoming Ranch Foods in Torrington.

“It’s where we can really find a spot as we really like to hang our meat for 30 days,” she said. “It just gives it an extra tenderness factor. We probably don’t need that on our beef because we do ultrasound. If they are not tender, they don’t go to the butcher. If they don’t marble at a certain quality, they don’t go to the butcher. If they do, they are hamburger. It’s just booked solid for processing here in Wyoming. We had to book a year in advance at Twin City Pack and the only reason we got into Wyoming Ranch Foods was because someone canceled and gave us their spot.”

The demand is beginning to exceed the supply and as of now, there are only four cows that are not sold at this point.

“We are pretty excited that we’ve sold so many this year,” she said. “Right now we’ll start feeding this new group and we would like to get them up to 1300 lbs. and we are hoping to get there by June. It’s probably going to be July on some of the later calves. We started calving the end of March and most of them are April/May calves. We also have a couple of June calves in here.”

As for price, being local, WYO beef can cut out the middleman and pass the savings along to consumers.

“Right now, we are sitting at $2.80 on the hanging carcass weight. If they have a 1300 lb. animal that goes in, has a 65% yield, if he yields that, he’s got about a 145 lb. hanging weight. After all is said and done, you will have around 550 lbs. of meat. When that’s averaged out with processing at $2.80 per pound, you are paying around $5.69 per pound. Our goal is to have a quality product that everybody can afford.”

The ranch is working now on fall calvers and have 13 new calves on the ground that were born within the last few months. The goal for WYO beef is to have and maintain a herd of about 400 cows with 200 spring cows and 200 fall cows.

According to the American wagyu Association, “There are four (4) breeds or strains of wagyu with only the Japanese Black and Japanese Brown (Kumamoto line) available outside Japan (see below). The Japanese Brown are also referred to as Red Wagyu or Akaushi. In the U.S. they are bred for the superior meat quality traits and calving ease ability and, are also used in terminal meat programs with breeds like Angus and Holstein to increase the meat quality grade of the first cross progeny.”

JT Guest said that there were a few different reasons for bringing the breed to this area.

“The Akaushi was actually the emperor’s breed,” Guest said. “And we were searching for a way to get more premium out of our commercial cattle. The meat quality on these cows is extremely high. They are also a very hearty, vigorous cow that fits the terrain very well. So, we went with that breed to try to increase our profit.”

In a head-to-head match with Akaushi steers vs Bovina Feeders, the difference in prime was 44.6% to 3.98%.  The percentages in choice and above was Akaushi 95.6% to 72.76%.

The Japanese cows can not only withstand the elements here in Wyoming, but have an easier time traversing the landscape.

“They look more like your conventional cattle with a lot of frame, but the carcass quality is absolutely through the roof,” Guest said. “They’ve almost come up with two grades above prime just to fit these cattle because they marble so well.”

The herd is split between grazing on the Robley Ranch near the Medicine Bow National Forest and calving and grazing on the ranch in La Grange. To this point they have a mix of Angus/Akaushi and seven purebred Akaushi which are grazing far away from the others. Lynn Robley who practically hand-raises her cows, treats them more like pets than livestock and it really shows when she fires up her four-wheeler and heads to the pasture. The cows see her coming and they run to meet her. She has become “mom” to the cows.

“The fat that the meat produces is different,” Pat Robley said. “There is a good fat and a bad fat, and this is a very good unsaturated fat which makes it a healthy beef. For people who want heart-healthy, that’s the way this beef is marketed.”

Instead of a fat cap, the fat almost looks injected into the beef itself.

“The fat in the Akaushi is similar to the fatty acid in olive oil in that it is a monounsaturated fat,” Lynn Robley said. “It’s a heart-healthy oil that have so many health benefits associated with it. If you look at the Akaushi beef you can see what looks like white specs in the meat so instead of the fat surrounding the beef, the beef is surrounding the fat – almost as if it were injected into the meat.”

Studies suggest that oleic acid reduces inflammation and may even have beneficial effects on genes linked to cancer. It is also a richer, more buttery cut of meat and one of the reasons this herd is in Wyoming.

For more information about the Akaushi beef that is available or for more information about the Akaushi breed, you can call go to their new website at www.wyobeef.net or you can find them at Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/WYO-Beef-107191357695823

You may also call directly to place an order at: (307) 534-5823.

Almost 100 calves were taken from the herd in La Grange and transported to Wheatland where they will be raised to about 1300 lbs. before they are taken to market. TJ Guest, part owner of Akaushi herd being raised in Wheatland said, “Rather than going with the purebred right away, we are starting with an Angus/Akaushi mix so we can breed the efficiency of the Angus cow and the tenderness and the marbling of the Akaushi. But still at a very good price.”