Wyoming Wagyu: Hawks Hill Ranch offers beef a cut above the rest
Hawks Hill Ranch has been raising prime, 100 percent full-blood Japanese Wagyu in the heart of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem since 2015.
Consisting of lush pastures located outside of Cody in the South Fork Valley, the pristine environment is home to a small, 19-head herd of Wagyu cattle.
The ranch takes great pride in its ability to raise full-blood Wagyu cattle while preserving the integrity and natural beauty of the land. It was recognized for producing beef ranked as one of the best in the world.
Hawks Hill Ranch DNA tests their herd to ensure direct lineage to their Japanese heritage and never crossbreeds their herd. The herd is never confined to a feedlot, and all of the animals have the ability to roam around the ranch, moving from pasture to pasture, depending on the season.
Raising happy cows
“We raise happy and healthy cows that produce beautifully marbled Wagyu beef,” states Livestock Manager Tania Thacker. “Our cows are never confined to a feedlot. I meet them in the corral for their grain every morning, then I check them over as they lounge around. Then, off they go to graze various pastures, depending on the time of the year, but we keep stress to a minimum.”
The results speak for themselves. Hawks Hill Wagyu beef has been U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) graded with a Wagyu grade marbling score of 12, ranking it in the top one percent of beef globally.
“In a typical Wyoming beef operation, numbers are the bottom line, but raising Wagyu takes a different path,” Tania says. “In a regular cattle operation, calves are weaned in the fall and shipped to a feedlot or somebody buys them. Here at the ranch, we process no sooner than 29 months and no later than 36 months old.”
Tania notes she and the other production staff operate on a five-year plan, but her job is to ensure the herd’s genetics are impeccable.
“My position as livestock manager for the herd of Wagyu has come with a steep learning curve. As an experienced horse wrangler for the last 20 years, raising Wagyu is on a different track,” she continues.
Tania spends much of her time researching genetics to produce quality Wagyu beef, choosing breeding pairs to ensure superior marbling, solid maternal traits, strong structure and good milk.
A personal bond
Tania is very passionate about her job and adds a personal touch, developing a relationship with the herd.
“All of our females are named. They’re friendly. You can walk up and pet them,” she says. “You can scratch and love on all of them, each have a unique personality. I try not to name the steers since they’re the ones leaving the ranch, but sometimes I can’t help it. It’s the best and worst part of my job.”
“The personal attention is what makes the beef produced at Hawks Hill Ranch so tender. We provide a stress-free environment, and it shows with our record for producing world-class Wagyu beef,” she adds.
Tania explains stress impacts marbling. Therefore, Hawks Hill Ranch creates a low-stress environment for their cattle and they constantly manage the herd to ensure they have exactly what they need.
She notes, “With all of their needs being met and by adding love, we have a superior product. But, raising cattle in the South Fork Valley does have its dangers. We have to monitor for apex predators, including bears and mountain lions.”
Buying Hawks Hill Wagyu
Tania points out local restaurants carry Hawks Hill Ranch beef, and more recently, the operation launched an online sales operation.
“We just started our online Shopify store,” she says. “So now, if interested individuals get on our website, they can order from anywhere. We ship anywhere in the lower 48 states.”
The quality and taste of Wagyu is unlike any other beef on the market, which is why the ranch has no trouble moving their inventory, including brats, burgers, hot dogs and of course, tenderloins and other steaks.
Hawks Hill Wagyu is dry-aged for 14 to 18 days, USDA graded and certified, carefully cut and trimmed and each cut of beef is vacuum-sealed, marked with the cut and weight, placed into freezers and stored frozen at -29 degrees Fahrenheit, ensuring customers get the freshest Wagyu possible.
Hawks Hill Ranch can ship anywhere in the U.S. by overnight or two-day air, as it is carefully packaged on ice packs and arrives still frozen.
For more information on Hawks Hill Ranch, visit hawkshillwagyu.com.
Melissa Anderson is the editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to email@example.com.