We're as local as our beef.
In 1970 our family farm was established in Western Kentucky, focusing primarily on corn, wheat, and soybean production with a small hog and cow/calf operation. Over the last four and a half decades, the family farm has grown to produce 5,000 acres of white corn; 5,000 acres of soybeans; 4,000 acres of soft red winter wheat; and 250 brood cows.
During the middle of corn harvest in October of 2013, we realized we were spending too much time and effort storing and shipping our white corn screenings (left over cracked corn) at an unwarranted discount on top of handling and logistical inefficiencies to commercial feed suppliers. We thought about the absurdity of producing both calves and their feed, then shipping both to commercial feed lots out west. We knew immediately that we needed to do something different. We had the cattle. We had the feed. And we certainly had the passion. The only thing we lacked was the technology that would allow us to do it.
Why was no one doing it?
Interestingly enough, Kentucky is one of the largest calf producing states east of the Mississippi. Yet once the calves are weaned, they are loaded on trucks and shipped west of the Mississippi to massive commercial feed lots with a dry climate. There they are grain finished, slaughtered and then packed up and shipped on a truck back to the East.
We discussed the potential of using our own corn screenings (a by-product from our food-grade corn production) to produce locally grain-finished beef. We decided if we were going to move forward, we would do it the right way. This meant producing a product that would be genetically superior with no added hormones or antibiotics, and it would be managed the way we handle the beef we raised for our family consumption.
The turning point
We asked the University of Kentucky's Extension and Research Center to team up with us on developing an environmentally-friendly approach for producing grain-finished beef. The climate in Kentucky is not conducive for grain finishing cattle in a conventional outside feed lot due to environmental issues with erosion, water contamination, and animal health.
The solution to sustainably producing local grain finished beef in Kentucky was actually simple - but expensive.
After researching the subject with experts in the field, we set out to construct a Compost Finishing Barn behind our grain storage facility - only 1.6 miles from the pastures. The compost barn keeps the cattle clean and dry at all times and utilizes the manure to produce a phenomenal organic fertilizer when mixed with sawdust as a bedding agent.
When the calves are 8-9 months of age they're placed on a high carbohydrate diet in our compost finishing barn for 500 days. We've been able to achieve the quality and production we set out to do - without adding hormones and antibiotics to our feed ration that are commonly found in commercial feedlots.
Transition to American Wagyu
After years of raising incredible Black Angus cattle, in the last few years we have gradually migrated out herd to American Wagyu. While we love the Black Angus breed, over the years we realized that with all the effort we had put into our pasture and barn, we had created the unique environment that allows Wagyu breeds of cattle to flourish. We also knew that if we made the switch to exclusively producing American Wagyu, our final product could exceed the high quality standards that we had set for ourselves. The intensely marbled fat that this breed is know for can't be achieved without the right environmental conditions, and it's been very rewarding perfecting these. We look forward to sharing the amazing quality of American Wagyu with you.