We’ve had nothing but polled black cattle around here for the better part of 30 years, give or take a few red recessive genes and a brief trial with some Hereford bulls.  That changed the last day of March when 12 red-hided horned bulls arrived from Llano, Texas.

Akaushi (pronounced “ak-a-ooshee”) cattle, also known as Red Wagyu or Japanese Red, were imported to the US from Japan in the early 1990’s.  They produce very high quality beef, similar to that of the more common black wagyu, although some beef snobs would tell you the reds aren’t on par with the blacks.  I suppose Ferrari owners look down on Corvettes also.  Just a quick note here – “wagyu” simply means “Japanese cow”.  Akaushi acutally means “red cow” in Japanese.

After speaking to a number of people and reading every article I could find about them, I decided they would be a good choice for a terminal cross on our Angus cows.  They should bring $75-100 per head over our straight Angus calves if sold at weaning.  If we were to retain ownership and market them on a grid, it could be double that.

I can get used to the red hide and deal with the horns for that kind of premium.

Lack of ideas, not so much.

It has been a long time since I have actually posted here myself, so I thought I better before you all thing I don’t do anything around here.  I’ve enjoyed delegating the website journal to the interns but I don’t have any here now, so it’s up to me.

In an industry as steeped in tradition and history as ranching, you might think not much changes from year to year.   That may be true on some levels, but in many ways it is false.  For our operation, there are constant changes.  We are always looking for new and better ways to do things.  Innovation and adaptation to the environment we do business in is as important to ranching as it is to any other business.

“Lack of money is not an obstacle.  Lack of ideas is an obstacle.”
Ken Hakuta

“Discovery is seeing what everybody else has seen and thinking what nobody else has thought.”
Albert Szent-George

“Learning is not compulsory… neither is survival.”
W. Edwards Deming

These quotes, and others similar to them, have rolled around in my head a lot this winter.  I have some new ideas we’re trying out this year.  Here’s a few of them.

Tire feed dispenser
Last week I cobbled together a rolling grain feeder to supplement some corn and soybean hulls to the young cows.   They are still growing themselves, plus feeding the calf in utero, so they could use a little extra feed.  You can see the feed dispenser in the photo below.

Every time the tire goes around, a small pile of grain is left on the ground.  The cows clean it up very well.  The “feeding frenzy” where I feed with this also helps break down the old dead grass, allowing those nutrients to cycle and feed the new grass coming up.

Breeding Heifer enterprise
An new venture we’re trying this year is bred heifer development.  We’ve always done our own, but this year we are doing it with the intention of selling them.  Since we don’t start breeding until July 15, our bulls are unemployed during the month of June when most other ranchers are breeding their heifers.   I bought a load of heifers to breed in June, which will then be sold as bred heifers this fall.  This allows us to pull double-duty from the bulls, spreading their cost out over more heifers.  It also allows us to better match our forage supply with our cow inventory.

Wagyu genetics
This spring I’ll be calving out a group of heifers bred to Wagyu bulls.  It’s the first year we’ve done this.  The calves will be destined for white-tablecloth restaurants and the Japanese market.  These calves will be fed for about 500 days after leaving here in the fall to maximize their meat quality.  Over 95% of them will grade USDA Prime (about 3% of cattle grade prime normally, although our Angus calves have done up to 20%).  The immediate benefit to us is they are very easy-calving.  This makes it easy on the first-calf heifers and easier on me, not having to help as many deliver their calf.

Double-cropping forage & grazing
The slim (or negative) profit margins on some crops has caused me to try an alternative plan on one field.  We will plant oats and peas in the spring, cut it for hay in June, and then plant a multi-species grazing crop immediately following the hay crop.  Assuming we get enough rain, this second crop will provide high-quality forage next fall for our young bred cows.  It will feed the soil as well.  Multi-species cover crops help sustain a diverse population of below-ground organisms, which in turn keep the soil healthy and productive.  I’ve seen this done successfully on other progressive operations, so I’m optimistic it will work for us.


Not everything I try works out.  I could do a multi-part journal series on those ideas that didn’t.  But I always learn something – even if it’s just what not to do.  That’s still a success in my mind.

I’ve survived so far.

“I have not failed.  I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
Thomas Edison

Toothpick Sam

"It's not dying I'm talking about, it's living." – Gus McCrae

Hi readers my name is Sam Newell I come from a little town in Utah named Nephi. I go to school at Utah State University in Logan, Utah. I met my beautiful girlfriend Lauren Wellman in a livestock and carcass evaluation class.  I will be graduating with my Bachelor's in animal science in less than two years. After I graduate, I will be attending vet school and starting my own practice if all goes as planned. First Upload Of Phone 5-10-15 688I will then start my own ranch and get that going so I can retire as an old man, with his dog and his eyes on the skyline. I also plan to have a family, probably should have throw that in there. Who knows where life will take me though! I enjoy anything outdoors. I hunt whatever is in season at the time. I like to fish when ammunition gets too expensive.  I like having bonfires and good times around the campfire. I thoroughly enjoy country music by artists such as Chris Ledoux, Garth Brooks, "The King" George Straight, Brenn Hill, Ian Tyson and the list goes on.  I would choose a night in a bedroll under the stars over a nice hotel any day.                                                                                        

After a thousand mile journey in my little car " White Lightning" I made it to Rock Hills Ranch. I was recieved the nickel tour and then went to check cows with Luke. There are two internships here on the Rock Hills Ranch; the ranch living internship and the ranch and range management internship.  I fulfill the ranch and range management internship and Miranda fulfills the ranch living internship. My duties include checking cows and calves twice a day as well as tagging, checking and fixing fence, range monitoring , bee counting later in the summer and any other jobs Luke or Lyle need accomplished.  I have been here on the ranch for just about three weeks now and have enjoyed every minute. I am learning so many new things and am  soaking up as much information out of Luke and Lyle as I can.What I really enjoy about this internship is that it is not just learning how to milk a cow or catch a calf it is how to think in a management fashion, how to problem solve and think of things through a hollistic management process (the main way of thinking here on the ranch).  They are great teachers and know what they are doing. It is an honor to have this internship.       

Till next post “Watch Your Topknot” Readers, 

Sam Newell