What is in this article?:
- Akaushi Branded Beef Line Boasts Consistency, Taste
- Taste and consistency
- Expanding the margin
HeartBrand Beef is forging a consumer-driven path with the Akaushi breed of cattle.
Taste and consistency
“The cattle are good cattle when you look at them,” says Don McCasland, who owns Wheeler Feedyard at Wheeler, TX, in addition to cowherds and ranching and farm operations near Clovis, NM. He bought 14 Akaushi bulls to use on his mostly Angus spring-calving and fall-calving herds a few years ago. He was looking to replace the grid for Certified Angus Beef® (CAB) that his packer had ended.
Attesting to Bain’s earlier point about consistency, McCasland says the bulls he bought looked identical. And the subsequent calves from them are as uniform as if they were born the same day.
“We’ve always looked for a way to get a premium for the cattle we sell,” McCasland explains. “I thought about where the premiums are, and they’re mostly for the Prime grade.” The inordinate number of Prime carcasses his herd turned out was one reason he was paid so handsomely on the CAB grid he needed to replace.
The first set of McCasland’s Akaushi crossbred calves graded 10% more Prime than his cattle graded previously. McCasland was disappointed, but realized he’d achieved it by feeding the cattle the same number of days he normally would. An all-natural program, the HeartBrand program McCasland sells into doesn’t allow implants.
When McCasland fed the next set of calves 60 days longer than he normally would, more than 50% of them graded Prime. His typical range for Prime with the Akaushi crossbreds he feeds ranges from 35% to more than 50%. He adds that these are Yield Grade 3.
That’s before considering the premium users of Akaushi bulls and semen can receive from HeartBrand beef: $20/cwt. over market top for preconditioned calves, and $15/cwt. over market top for pre-vaccinated calves. Premiums can be larger based on length of ownership.
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“We try to make the premium enough that users of Akaushi bulls and semen will sell their calves to us, but they can sell them to anyone,” Fielding says.
However, users of Akaushi bulls and semen must sign a contract agreeing to castrate all bull calves.
“We want to get the genetics out to more people, but we also want to protect the full-blood Akaushi cattle,” explains Jordan Beeman. He, his dad, Ronald, and their family purchased all the assets of HeartBrand Beef in 2006, including the nation’s nucleus of Akaushi cattle.
Since then, others have begun purebred herds from their foundation stock, including Kansas-based Matador Ranch. All told, Bain says Akaushi bulls run from the Gulf Coast to the mountains of Montana.
On the other end of the production equation, McCasland says birth weights at his ranches run 65-70 lbs. for Akaushi-sired calves. “Overall, they’re not much different than Angus,” he says. “The bulls make excellent heifer bulls and are aggressive breeders.”
In his yards, using an all-natural regimen, McCasland says the Akaushi crossbreds gain 3.00-3.25 lbs./day.
In round numbers, Fielding says Akaushi crossbred (F1) steers finish at 1,250-1,450 lbs., and heifers at 1,200-1,350 lbs. They’ll typically grade at least 30% Prime, with the remainder Choice.
“We feel confident these genetics will help every breed. It goes well beyond the meat program,” Fielding says. “We think these bulls can help producers achieve higher acceptance rates in other branded beef programs, too. The bottom line is that Akaushi produce higher-quality meat and more consistency for the consumer.”