A Beginner’s Guide to Raising Wagyu Cattle

Wagyu cattle, known for their rich marbling and premium quality beef, are growing in popularity among farmers and ranchers. Raising Wagyu cattle can allow producers to tap into high-end beef markets and obtain premium prices for their beef. However, raising Wagyu requires knowledge of their unique needs and production practices.

This beginner’s guide covers key things to know about getting started with raising Wagyu cattle.

Origins of Wagyu Cattle

Wagyu cattle originate from Japan, where they have been raised for centuries and revered for their flavorful meat. There are four main Japanese Wagyu breeds:

  • Japanese Black (Kuroge) – Most common; known for heavy marbling
  • Japanese Brown (Akage)
  • Japanese Polled (Mukaku)
  • Japanese Shorthorn (Nihon Tankaku)

Wagyu genetics made their way to the U.S. in the 1970s. American Wagyu breeds have hybridized genetics from original Japanese imports.

Benefits of Raising Wagyu

Some key advantages that make Wagyu a profitable beef breed:

  • Marbling – Wagyu are renowned for intricate marbling, which improves flavor and tenderness. Higher marbling means greater value.

  • Feed efficiency – Wagyu convert feed to muscle more efficiently than other breeds. Less feed is needed per pound of gain.

  • Carcass yield – Wagyu produce meat with higher percentages of high-value cuts like loin and tenderloin.

  • Specialty market – Wagyu beef commands premium prices, often over $15/lb for steaks.

Considerations for Raising Wagyu

While rewarding, raising Wagyu also comes with challenges:

  • Costs – Wagyu cattle have high startup costs, with live animals costing $5,000-20,000+ per head.

  • Genetics – Success hinges on proven Wagyu bloodlines with marbling ability. Research pedigrees.

  • Facilities – Smaller Wagyu require tight fences and protection from weather extremes.

  • Feeding – Grain finishing is key for marbling. Feed costs will be higher than for other breeds.

  • Marketing – Producers must find niche markets and have skills to merchandise premium beef.

Wagyu Breeding and Selection

Proper breeding and sire selection are critical for raising quality Wagyu with desirable genetics. Main considerations:


  • Focus on bloodlines known for marbling like Tajima or Fujiyoshi. Research sires’ pedigrees.

  • Avoid excessive inbreeding. Monitor coefficients and outcross when possible.


  • Pick sires with high marbling EPDs to pass marbling ability to offspring.

  • Consider calving ease EPDs for heifer bulls.


  • Genomic testing provides insight on animals’ molecular makeup and traits.

  • Progeny testing indicates how a sire’s offspring will perform. Look for highly proven bulls.

Herd Management Tips

To thrive, Wagyu require attentive care and management:

  • Provide high quality forage and plenty of clean water. Wagyu do well on pasture.

  • Be vigilant about herd health. Wagyu are susceptible to calving problems and metabolic disorders.

  • Watch closely for illness; Wagyu hide symptoms well. Catch issues early.

  • Have sturdy, well-maintained facilities. Wagyu can escape through small gaps.

  • Make vaccination, parasite control, and hoof care priorities. Follow veterinary advice.

  • When handling, be patient and avoid force. Wagyu are docile but can become stressed.

  • Meet nutritional needs for each stage of production. Pay close attention to calf nutrition.

  • Keep detailed records on ancestry, health, weights, feed, expenses, etc. Maintain proof of bloodline.

Feeding Wagyu Cattle

A balanced diet tailored to Wagyu cattle promotes growth and marbling:

  • Focus on quality roughage. Provide plenty of grass, hay, and silage.

  • Grain finishing on a high-energy diet maximizes marbling. Feed grain the last 300-400 days.

  • Some producers use special blends with ingredients like barley, wheat bran, rice, beans, alfalfa, and molasses.

  • Avoid sudden feed changes. Make adjustments gradual to prevent diarrhea and rumen issues.

  • Free choice water, loose mineral supplementation, and regular body condition scoring are also important.

  • Consult nutritionists experienced with Wagyu to formulate diets that work for your environment.

Marketing Wagyu Beef

To obtain high prices for Wagyu beef, target marketing is essential:

  • Sell to discriminating buyers willing to pay premium prices. Pursue chefs, high-end retailers, and direct consumers.

  • Get official Wagyu breed verification and carcass data to confirm quality.

  • Promote unique attributes of Wagyu. Share information on superior marbling, eating experience, health profile, etc.

  • Explore custom beef programs where buyers purchase whole or half animals. Offer repeat sales.

  • Consider niche markets like grass-fed, antibiotic-free, pasture-raised, or organically fed Wagyu.

  • Use social media and farm events like open houses to connect with potential customers.

  • Partner with processors that specialize in Wagyu beef for proper aging, cutting, and marketing.

Raising exceptional Wagyu beef is an artisan endeavor requiring dedication and specific know-how. But the potential rewards can make it a worthwhile long-term investment for cattle farmers. With a focus on superior genetics, purposeful breeding, intensive care, targeted feeding, and creative marketing, it is possible to build a thriving and profitable Wagyu beef operation over time. Those willing to devote the effort can position themselves to reap the benefits of the luxury Wagyu niche.

Raising Wagyu: How They Do It vs. How We Do It | Browsey Acres


How do they raise Wagyu beef?

They will be fed a high-fibre diet of rice straw, maize, barley, whole crop silage, and concentrate. The cattle are allowed to grow up to about 700kg which generally take about three years (Normally, cows are slaughtered at about 18 months. For each wagyu breed, there are stricter weight rules).

Can you raise Wagyu cattle in the US?

You can import and breed the best Wagyu in the world, but it wouldn’t mean a thing unless you raise it in an environment conducive to bringing out its highest qualities. This can mean a number of things such as: living conditions, animals per acre, and feed.

What do farmers do to Wagyu cows?

According to the research on raising wagyu beef, most cows are “permanently housed in small pens and fed enormous quantities of concentrate and comparatively little roughage.” Eating a wagyu steak is therefore not any guarantee that the animals were treated humanely.

Is it worth raising Wagyu beef?

A Worthwhile Endeavor Though it’s much more expensive and time-consuming than other methods, the way these cattle are raised is crucial to the production of the beautifully fatty, deliciously tender Wagyu beef that made them famous.

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