Ohio Cattleman Early Fall 2018

Page 26

Feeding Cattle for Market-Driven Premiums Ohio producers praise the premium they receive raising Wagyu cattle Story & photos by Amy Beth Graves


reble County cattle producer Fred Voge is figuring out how much of a premium his Wagyu cattle get when his phone rings. Turns out the answer is on the other end. Voge listens intently to the description of the grades and yields of his latest batch of Wagyu cattle. The news is good – all were graded 100 percent prime with 40 percent in the middle, 40 percent high and 20 percent better than prime. It’s the last category that draws a big smile. “Twenty percent were rated reserve grade. They’re truly the equivalent of Kobe beef. That reserve rating will give me an extra $300 bump per head,” he said. Voge, who has fed cattle since 1970, continues to shake his head in amazement. He’d never planned to raise Wagyu cattle but after he built a monoslope barn two years ago and found himself spending more than he planned, he needed additional income. The plan was to background high-risk feeder cattle, but that plan changed after talking to Dr. Francis Fluharty, a former Ohio State University animal sciences professor who had been advising him about the benefits of a monoslope barn. 26 | Ohio Cattleman | Early Fall Issue 2018

“I told Francis I hoped I could make enough profit to pay for this and he suggested I try some Wagyu to eliminate market risk because of guaranteed prices so I decided to try two pens of them,” Voge said. That was two years ago and Voge has been pleased with the results. He has about 400 Wagyu spread out between two farms and is one of several producers throughout Ohio that raise the cattle for Sakura Wagyu Farms. Wagyu is a Japanese beef cattle breed derived from native Asian cattle and known for its highly marbled, tender cuts. Sometimes Wagyu is mistakenly called Kobe, which is from a specific breed of cattle in only one region of Japan and processed in a specific way. Westerville-based Sakura Wagyu has three partners: Francis Pang, a long-time Wagyu breeder in northeastern Ohio; Lawrence Adams, a Nebraska Wagyu producer and former CEO of Imperial Wagyu; and John Hondros, a businessman who recently started raising Wagyu in Sunbury. The three businessmen and Voge have one thing in common – they all have met and been influenced by

Fluharty’s vast knowledge and advice about the cattle industry. “This has gone extremely well for me for a number of reasons,” Voge said. “I had almost daily contact with a PhD nutritionist (Fluharty) who helped formulate these rations and we really got it dialed in to something right for these cattle because since you’re going to keep them on feed longer, you have to be more careful as to how you’re going to feed them. If you give them too rich of a ration too early in life, you’ll burn their stomach up and maybe cause some foot and leg problems. We’ve had absolutely no stomach or digestive issues.” For a producer who’d fed cattle the same way for decades, adding Wagyu to his feedlot felt strange. They required a different ration (more straw and silage to help with digestion and a certain amount of corn for marbling) and stayed about twice as long in the feedlot. They were fed about 500 days and finished out at about 1,400 pounds. “I called up Francis and said, ‘Are you sure this is the way you feed them?’ It wasn’t as energy dense as the way I’d fed for more than 40 years. He assured me that, yes, it was the right way, and