The name Wagyu refers, in general, to all Japanese beef cattle. "Wa" stands for Japanese or japanese-style and "gyu" means cattle. Compared to other countries, cattle breeding has been a relatively short tradition in Japan. In the 2nd century A.D., cattle were imported from the Asian mainland to Japan via Korea.
Due to the prevailing Buddhist religion, the consumption of meat was prohibited in Japan for several centuries. The animals were used primarily for transportation purposes or for work on rice plantations. Japanese cattle were also isolated from all other races during the tenure of the shogun (Japanese nobility) for more than 200 years. With the dawn of the Meiji era (1886-1912), Japan transformed from a feudal state to an imperial power. This change had an impact on the import of foreign cattle breeds.
Because of an increased demand for dairy products, the Japanese began crossbreeding the Wagyu with other races to improve the performance of certain desired characteristics.
Consumption of meat in Japan also began during the Meiji era about 130 years ago. However, it has only reached widespread popularity in the last 30 years.
In March 1976, four Wagyu bulls were imported from Japan to the U.S. The Japanese government had to grant permission for the exportation of these animals, as market liberalization was still in the distant future. In the early nineties there were more export activities to the U.S. Among them, a group of calves were forwarded to Washington State University for research purposes. The subject of the longitudinal study was the development of animals under American feeding methods.
The Australian Westholme Ranch imported 3 bulls and 84 females in 1998. Our herd is largely based on these genetics.