Baker City will be the focal point of the Wagyu cattle industry this weekend.
A two-day event will culminate Saturday afternoon with the Western Wagyu Elite Sale, a video auction, including online bidding, of the Japanese cattle breed renowned for its marbled beef high in healthier monounsaturated fats.
The auction is set for 12:30 p.m. on Saturday at the Geiser Grand Hotel.
Most of the events, all of which are free and open to the public, will take place at the Baker County Fairgrounds, starting at 10:30 a.m. Friday, said Ken Tew, who has been raising Wagyu cattle in Baker County since 2000.
(Wagyu is pronounced “WAH-g-you”)
Tew and his wife, Julie Barnes-Tew, own Rockin 2 Ranch along Alder Creek southeast of Baker City.
Ken Tew said their ranch, along with two other Wagyu ranchers, Bert and Terri Siddoway of Durkee and Steven Slagle, a La Grande veterinarian, are sponsoring the weekend gathering.
JDA Inc., a livestock marketing and promotion company from Woodland, California, is organizing the auction.
Tew said about 26 of the Wagyu cattle offered in the auction will be on display Friday and Saturday morning at the Fairgrounds.
Tew said he will have four cows in the auction, along with Wagyu embryos.
The auction will include more than 60 lots, including bulls, cows, embryos and semen.
Tew said ranchers from across the West will be traveling to Baker City for the auction.
Wagyu cattle are the source of the prized Kobe beef.
Tew said interest in the breed has been increasing, including among ranchers who cross Wagyu with established breeds such as Angus and Simmental.
Tew said the genetic properties that result in Wagyu’s marbled meat cross over to other breeds.
“They’re quite amazing cattle,” he said.
Tew said he recently traveled to Germany to sell Wagyu embryos at an auction.
This weekend’s event starts about 10 a.m. Friday when Ron Colton’s horse-drawn wagon will ferry people from the Geiser Grand to the Fairgrounds for a forum and several speakers from the Wagyu industry.
A free lunch, open to all, featuring Wagyu hamburger sliders will be served at noon. Cattle will be on display Friday afternoon, and more wagon rides are planned from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m.
On Saturday cattle viewing will start at 9:30 a.m. at the Fairgrounds, followed by another free lunch at 11 a.m. Wagons will ferry people back to the Geiser Grand for the auction starting at 12:30 p.m.