Wagyu Cattle are more a type of cattle than a breed, although in the United States the different strains of Wagyu are not often discerned as separate! The differences between Wagyu Cattle are physical, however, rather than temperamental.No matter which strain they are from, all Wagyu Cattle tend to have quiet personalities and are very docile.
They do not cause problems among themselves and are quite easy to handle. Wagyu Cattle are also very hardy, and can tolerate extremes of hot and cold temperatures! Because of their placid temperaments, Wagyu Cattle adapt rapidly to most management systems. Physically, Wagyu Cattle may be divided into two strains: Japanese Black cattle, and Japanese Brown (often referred to as Red) cattle.
Among the two strains there are also subdivisions! Despite the subdivisions, all Wagyu Cattle have horns. Among the Black Wagyu, there are several strains: Okayama, Shimane, Tajima and Tottori. Tajima and Tottori are the best known strains. These cattle are black in color. Tajima Cattle have heavily muscled forequarters and more lightly muscled hindquarters.
They are a bit small in frame and have slow growth rates but produce high quality meat. Tottori Cattle have extremely well muscled midsections. Their toplines are very straight and they are larger, with good growth rates. The quality of Tottori meat is not always consistent. Not much is known about Okayama Cattle. Shimane are large cattle with average rates of growth.
The quality of their meat tends to be average. Among the Red Wagyu or Brown Japanese Cattle, there are two strains. Kochi Cattle are red and small, strongly influenced by Korean Cattle bloodlines. They have fine bone structures and are often seen with black muzzles and black hair along their legs and feet! Kumamoto, the second red strain, are larger and heavily influenced by Simmental Cattle.
They are thick and have large frames. Beef-wise, the black Wagyu, especially the Tajima and Tottori Cattle, have the best quality meat. Most of the cattle kept today in Japan are of the black varieties, and are not referred to by color. The marbling of these Wagyu Cattle is excellent and carcass yields are usually around 73 percent! Wagyu Cattle were developed from indigenous cattle in various parts of Japan.
Most were crossbred with European strains in the late 1800’s, but crossbreeding had ceased completely by 1910. After this time, the various Wagyu strains developed through selective breeding. The Tajima Cattle were generally used in agricultural areas of Tajima to pull plows or carts. Tottori were used more for pack animals since they were able to carry heavy loads on their backs. They were developed mostly for the grain industry in and around Tottori.
The Shimane, Kochi and Okayama Cattle were also developed in and around the regions they are named for, and were used for draft work and meat. Kumamoto Cattle, influenced by the Simmental, had an easier life, being developed in regions with lots of grassland prime for grazing. Wagyu is actually two Japanese words meaning “Japanese Cattle”, so although most of the world calls them Wagyu Cattle, this is actually repetitive. Another common misconception is that Kobe beef is top quality or highly marbled beef.
In Japan, Kobe beef simply refers to cattle, regardless of their beef quality, from the Kobe area! Wagyu have become popular worldwide. They are highly valued in Australia for their hardiness and beef quality. In the United States, they arrived in 1976. Tottori and Kumamoto came over in this shipment, and in 1993 some Tajima Cattle arrived.
In 1994, Wagyu of mixed red and black strains were imported and since then the Wagyu herd has taken off in America! Wagyu Cattle are very hardy and need little special care. They make hardy offspring when crossbred, that will generally gross two dollars and forty cents per kilogram live weight! Wagyu Cattle are very fertile and because of the small bone structure and average 70 pound size of their calves, tend to have very easy calvings.
This is another valued property in their work as cross breeders! The calves are extremely hardy and Wagyu reach sexual maturity quite early. Generally, one Wagyu bull can be expected to service 50 cows at one year of age. By age two, usually 60 to 90 cows may be serviced!