There are four primary beef breeds of cattle in Japan (Japan Black, Japanese Brown, Japanese Poll and Japanese Shorthorn). Many strains can be found within each breed depending on the prefecture (i.e., island) and region. Within the Japanese Brown breed there are two main strains, the Kochi and Kumamoto Reds (the latter now referred to as Akaushi). In the late 1800’s to early 1900’s the Japanese imported live cattle of British, European and Korean breeds. The Kumamoto strain of Japanese Browns were crossed with Korean Hanwoo, South Devon and Simmental (Namikawa, 1992).
Akaushi cattle are raised separately, under different circumstances and environmental pressures than the typical Japanese Black Wagyu cattle. I agree with others that think the two breeds were developed and selected differently, however, I tend to find many Wagyu enthusiast comparing them as if they are the same minus the coat color. This is simply not the case. In Western Australia, the C.Y. O’Connor research foundation with Drs. Dawkins and Lloyd have illustrated the genomic and fat melting point differences between the two breeds. Akaushi are truly unique animals.
In Japan, the Akaushi (or Kumamoto Reds) are raised in the Mt. Aso region in a more extensive production environment versus the typical Japanese Black operation. The expectations of Akaushi cattle are more similar those that we have in the US regarding maternal ability and performance.
In 1976, four bulls of Wagyu origin were imported from Japan by Morris Whitney. Two of the bulls (Rueshaw and Judo) were Japanese Brown bulls from the Kumamoto prefecture that we refer to now as Akaushi. Colorado State and Washington State University did research with graded-up progeny since no fullblood females were available at that time.
In 1994, Englewood (Dr. Al and Marie Woods, Texas) purchased Akaushi cattle in the Kumamoto prefecture of Japan with help from Mr. Yukio Kurosawatsu (Wagyu Sekai, Japan/Canada), Dr. Takuma Fuji (Kumamoto) and others. The fullblood cattle were subsequently imported by Mannet who were on their second Japanese Black importation. Seven Akaushi females (Namiko, Akiko, Haruko, Fuyuko, Ume, Dai 8 Marunami, Ringo 117) and three Akaushi bulls (Shigemaru, Tamamaru and Hikari) constituted the eventual HeartBrand Cattle Company original purchase. After their arrival to the U.S., female Dai 9 Koubai 73 was purchased from Yukio Kurosawatsu and females Himawari 245 and Hitomi 244 were purchased from Takeda (Japan, verified by USDA documentation). Akiko gave birth to Big Al 502 (originally named Mitsuaki) in quarantine after arriving in the U.S.
Wagyu Sekai took the imported females Naomi and Dai 3 Namiaki Ni and their calves (Momigimaru and Kaedemaru, respectively) that were born in U.S. quarantine to Canada. They were in the second Mannet importation as well. As well in 1994, Japanese Venture Partners (JVP) imported two red heifers (124 Kunisakae and 27 Homare).
Benefits of Akaushi
Reproduction traits (both in males and females) have been one of the most beneficial aspects of the Akaushi breed. There have been countless herds of Akaushi females throughout the world experience conception rates of over 90% for many years. Male fertility is exceptional and has been reliable during breeding seasons in hot climates. In fact, Akaushi bulls will continue to produce semen at collections centers throughout the hottest months when Brahman and other Bos indicus breeds fail to do so.
The American Akaushi Association reports an unadjusted breed average for birth weight of 68 pounds (30.8 kgs) across thousands of fullblood records. Calf presentation in the birthing canal is typically proper. We deem the Akaushi breed as calving ease, however, not all Akaushi (and Black Wagyu) bulls are suitable for first calf heifers as there can be variation in calf size at birth.
50% or higher of halfblood Akaushi crosses will finish PRIME levels of marbling (BMS 4.5+) or higher at 18-20 months of age on short-fed grain rations (even when crossed with Bos indicus influenced females). As the grain finishing period lengthens they have the propensity to achieve higher marbling levels in a linear manner (Sasaki et al., 2006). Fullblood Akaushi steers that are 25 months of age at harvest will weigh ~1,450 pounds (660 kgs) and 75%+ will be BMS 7+ when grain fed for longer periods.
Grass finishing utilization
A growing number of farmers in the Texas are using Akaushi genetics to increase the value of their grass finished cattle. The early results indicate an increase in marbling and desirable flavor versus their non-Wagyu cattle. Therefore, the farmers are able to increase the value of the product in the marketplace.
Akaushi breeders can expect a well balanced high quality udder on the females. Akaushi can correct poorer quality udders in breeds where problems exist with bottle teats, low slung and pendulous udders. It is extremely rare to see a female removed from the herd for udder abnormalities.
Currently Akaushi do not have any genetic disorders or abnormalities that hinder production. As with any breed some level of attention should be place on breeding strategies to avoid unfavorable genetic combinations. At Click Akaushi Beef, extensive effort is placed on propagating cattle with best fit Akaushi genetics and feeding program to fulfill the high standards set fourth by the Massey Family.
Health benefits and flavor
Additional marbling contributes to more health benefits of the beef. Akaushi specific research data done by Dr. Stephen Smith, TAMU reported per 100 grams of raw meat a MUFA:SFA ratio of 1.26, oleic aid content of 9.56 grams and CLA content of 89 mg. These values were well above the non-Wagyu commodity beef tested.
Additionally, you will find a more nutty, buttery flavor to Akaushi meat. Through research and discovery we are now able to select Akaushi breeder animals that have the best genetic profile to generate higher oleic acid content in their progeny (and lower melting point of the fat). This is creating healthier beef with each generation!
I’ve had the pleasure of consulting with most of the major Akaushi beef brands outside of Japan. Steve, DeeDee, Morgan and Robert with Click Akaushi Beef are among the finest of people and are loyal to customer satisfaction.
I hope you come to love Akaushi cattle and beef like we all have. All the best,
Aaron Cooper, Ph.D.
Information pulled from:
Namikawa, K. 1992. Breeding history of Japanese Beef cattle and preservation of genetic resources as economic farm animals. Wagyu. 2nd ed. Wagyu Registry Assoc., Kyoto, Japan.
Sasaki, Y., T. Miyake, C. Gaillard, T. Oguni, M. Matsumoto, M. Ito, T. Kurahara, Sasae, K. Fujinaka, S. Ohtagaki, and T. Dougo. 2006. Comparison of genetic gains per year for carcass traits among breeding programs in the Japanese Brown and the Japanese Black cattle. J. Anim. Sci. 84:317–323