Lone Mountain Ranch
Lone Mountain Ranch, a family run operation, is located in Golden, New Mexico, and has one of the premier breeding herds of fullblood Wagyu in the USA and outside of Japan, for that matter. What are they doing to maintain this elite program? The ranch employs a focused and specific breeding program and philosophies developed by the owner, Bob Estrin. Bob Estrin began Lone Mountain’s Wagyu herd in 2005 with the purchase of seven fullblood cows acquired from Jerry Reeves (Bar R Ranch) and Gerry Pittenger (Blue Rock Cattle Company). Since then, the herd has grown to consist of approximately 1,000 head of fullblood Wagyu and 250 recipients. The fullblood herd breaks down into 400 head on feed for harvest, 375 fullblood cows, 100 young bulls, and 100 young heifers.
What drives the breeding and repro programs that Bob has developed and implements at Lone Mountain? They are focused entirely on the end product, the beef market. Bob’s son in-law, Griff Foxley, runs the beef operation with their primary markets being their website and restaurants nationwide including the Bay area of San Francisco, California. In addition, Lone Mountain also employs its own fulltime Sales Director, Reid Martin. The demand for high quality beef produced at Lone Mountain is so great that Bob says the operation is still looking to grow larger and get more cattle in the feed yard to be able to provide more product to their market. Currently averaging 31% IMF (Intra Muscular Fat) across all animals that come out of the feed lot, Bob says “I am convinced that 36-37% IMF is the ideal average for the American palate.” Thus, improving average IMF is one of the main breeding goals at Lone Mountain. Bob’s other main focus in his breeding program is Marble Fineness because, as Bob states, “this is what sells it to the chefs buying our product, when they cut into a primal and see that fine, snowy white marbling.” While IMF and Marble Fineness are the main driving factors in Bob’s breeding program, he also takes into consideration conformation, pedigrees, recessives, and uses tools like EBVs and his own carcass data to guide his focus on IMF and Marble Fineness.
The ranch’s focus on making high quality beef has influenced the repro program to consist of three main breeding cycles. This ensures that they will be harvesting animals year-round and maintain a steady supply of fresh beef for their customers. The only time of year Lone Mountain avoids calving is during the months of December, January, and February due to the harsh winter weather in New Mexico. Ranch Manager, Stanley Hartman, runs this side of the operation. Each breeding cycle consists of one round of AI (artificial insemination) for all cows not in the flush programs. Following AI, the cows are then put with cover bulls that have been specifically selected for their great pedigrees, EBVs, and come from the best cows in the herd. During each of Lone Mountain’s breeding cycles Bob selects the best 24-30 cows from each group to be flushed for embryos and transfers are done into their herd of recipient cows. Bob selects these cows based on his own carcass data, looking for high percentage IMF and high marble fineness in their progeny. While also taking into consideration conformation, pedigree, and Breedplan EBVs in his selection, Bob continues to use foundation sires in his flush program as consistency of the end beef product is of extreme importance to him.
The foundation sires Lone Mountain is currently flushing to include Kitaguni Jr, Yasufuku Jr, TF 148 Itoshigenami, Kitateryasudoi 003, Michifuku, and Sanjirou. Where does Lone Mountain plan to go in the future with their sire selection? Lone Mountain has a new generation of sires they are collecting data on and submitting to Breedplan to get EBV progeny proofs, while also compiling their own carcass data summaries. This is where Bob says they plan to go as data comes in and they get higher reliability on their sires. With extremely exciting early data on a variety of their young sires coming back with average IMF percentages of 35-39%, Bob is waiting patiently for more data to come in before he begins using them on the majority of the herd and in the flush program.
This next generation of sires that are being proven through the Lone Mountain program are the cover bulls that have been selected and used on the herd after each round of AI during the three breeding cycles. One particular sire that Lone Mountain is excited about is LMR Kitaguni 1441Y (FB14630, LMRFG1441Y). He is a Kitaguni Jr son out of a Yasufuku Jr cow and a full brother to the now deceased LMR Koichi 1409Y. Both of whom are putting up some incredible marbling numbers for Lone Mountain. On the June 2018 Lone Mountain Sire Summary, LMR Kitaguni 1441Y holds the top spots for both percentage IMF and on marble fineness ranking. On a total of four carcasses so far, 1441Y holds an average IMF of 39.54%. This is more than a full seven percentage points ahead of his sire Kitaguni Jr, who is holding steady at 31.98% IMF on 72 carcasses. The marble fineness ranking has 1441Y sitting at 33.75, also on four carcasses and well ahead of his sire Kitaguni Jr who is at 29.75. With such a promising debut on the Lone Mountain Sire Summary LMR Kitaguni 1441Y is one of Bob’s favorite sires and is currently running with 50 cows in the LMR breeding program.
There is more to back up Lone Mountain’s excitement about 1441Y than just his smashing debut on the LMR Sire Summary. He also possesses elite carcass EBV’s on Australia’s Breedplan. 1441Y has a Terminal Carcass Index of $260, 1.7 for Marble Score, .32 for Marble Fineness, and 1.6 for Rib Eye Area. To top it off his full brother, LMR Koichi 1409Y, has a TCI of $324 with EBVs of 1.6 MS and .32 MF. Then 1441Y’s full sister, LMR MS Kitaguni 8168U, has a TCI of $315 with elite EBVs of 2.0 MS, .42 FM, and 2.7 REA. She (LMR MS Kitaguni 8168U) has six carcass progeny backing her Breedplan data. BR MS Yasufuku 0645 is 1441Y’s dam and has produced 11 wonderful carcasses for Lone Mountain which have averaged an astounding 33% IMF. The success of this family at Lone Mountain is no coincidence with the methodical stacking of elite proven sires such as Kitaguni Jr over Yasufuku Jr, Michifuku, and JVP 400, behind which is the incomparable Chisahime 662 foundation cow!
The mating that has produced LMR Kitaguni 1441Y for Lone Mountain is Bob’s signature mating of Kitaguni Jr over Yasufuku Jr. Bob has been using this combination of sires more often than most breeders in the world outside of Japan. This combination has paid huge dividends for Lone Mountain in their meat production program by producing top notch carcasses. Now with the introduction of genomically enhanced Breedplan EBVs helping to uncover their true value, Kitaguni Jr and Yasufuku Jr have recently risen to the top of Australian Breedplan charts. Lone Mountain now has both females and males ranked on par with the rest of the elite breeding programs around the world that are using Breedplan. When asked what sparked him to really start using this combination of sires so heavily Bob responded, “It’s funny that you should ask that. In 2007 I was in Japan at the Zenko Wagyu Show and picked up material on the winning Wagyu. When I found someone willing to help translate the material I saw that Yasufuku was crossed with Kitaguni 7-8 over and over again. I figured if it worked in Japan, there was no reason it would not work at Lone Mountain.”. With the success Bob observed in Japan of Yasufuku being crossed over Kitaguni 7-8, he began crossing the Kitaguni 7-8’s son, Kitaguni Jr, and Yasufuku’s son, Yasufuku Jr, at Lone Mountain Ranch in the USA.
Lone Mountain has multiple other promising young sires rising to the top of their program through the sire summary data and EBVs. These include LMR Daisuke 2470Z, a Kitaguni Jr son from the Chisahime maternal line, with a TCI of $332 to go along with an average IMF of 38.14% (2nd overall on LMR Sire Summary) on six carcasses. Lone Mountain also has LMR Toshiro 1/3 (723T), who is a TF Kikuhana son out of World’s Reiko (Kitaguni 7-8 daughter of Okahana). He possesses elite growth EBVs of +16 for 200 day weight thru +50 for Carcass Weight and a TCI of $278. On the Lone Mountain Sire Summary, Toshiro 1/3 has an average IMF of 28.74% on 36 carcasses. Another exceptional sire is LMR Aoichi 2468Z, a TF 148 Itoshigenami son out of the JVP Kikuhana maternal line who has a +1.4 MS and TCI of $248. Aoichi has solid LMR Sire Summary numbers with an average IMF of 35.59% (5th overall) on five carcasses. The LMR Sire Summary has been a great tool for Bob at Lone Mountain, as well as other breeders, to evaluate and put solid values to young sires relative to foundation bulls.
Still, Lone Mountain has more sires with extreme potential. A sire with a few more carcasses on the LMR Sire Summary is LMR Yasumasa 2428Z. On 11 carcasses he has had six over 40% IMF with an average IMF of 35.60% (4th overall)! Those numbers are backed by his solid pedigree of Yasufuku Jr x Kitaguni Jr out the Shigehime maternal line. Another sire seeing success, with a slightly different pedigree is LMR Shichiro 24, a Shigeshigetani son out of a Kitaguni cow from the Shigehime maternal line. He has an average IMF of 37.00% (3rd overall) and a Marble Fineness ranking 30.48 (4th overall) on four carcasses so far. It can be noted that his sire, Shigeshigetani, has also seen extreme success in the LMR program averaging 30.80% IMF on 55 carcasses, placing him right behind the likes of Kitaguni Jr, Yasufuku Jr, and Kitateruyasudoi 003. Shigeshigetani is also the highest-ranking foundation sire on the LMR Marble Fineness Summary at 30.01. Beyond these sires Lone Mountain still has one more sire outperforming the foundation bulls in LMR Mitsuru 2450Z, another Kitaguni Jr son out of a Michifuku cow from the Okutani maternal line. He has elite EBVs of +1.6 MS, +0.38 MF, and a TCI of $239. To go along with that, 2450Z has averaged 33.13% IMF and 29.86 Marble Fineness on eight carcasses for the LMR Sire Summary. Bob is eager to see how things sort out for these promising young sires as they continue to add carcasses and data.
The Lone Mountain program stresses the importance of collecting quality data. They have administrative assistants that ensure all the data collected is accurately and completely submitted into the Breedplan program for meaningful EBVs. Lone Mountain also has used a Japanese carcass camera for the collection of data for the LMR Sire Summary and Breedplan, taking the subjectivity out of the equation. After all, Bob says as the old saying goes, “Junk in, junk out.”. Beyond this the cattle are managed extremely well. Calves are creep fed from day one and weaned at 3-4 months of age when consistently consuming 3 lbs. of grain per head per day. From there they are raised on the ranch until 12 months of age when any animals to be slaughtered are sent to the feed yard. The animals in the feed yard are currently being slaughtered at 28-32 months of age year-round. With all the data flowing through the program, Bob is still eagerly waiting on some new data that he anticipates will be extremely useful. He has submitted genomic samples to the Australian Wagyu Association to get genomically enhanced EBVs on many of his cattle. He sees this as being a valuable resource in assisting decision making all across the board from mating decisions to selecting potential herd sires, and which cows should be flushed.
Lone Mountain’s data has shown one particular maternal line to have produced some budding matriarchs within the herd. First and foremost is the above-mentioned BR MS Yasufuku 0645 (FB5084, USAFB5084), having produced both sires LMR Kitaguni 1441Y and LMR Koichi 1409Y. She is a Yasufuku x Michifuku x JVP 400 x Chisahime 662. The Chisahime maternal has also produced sires LMR Daisuke 2470Z, LMR Yasufuku 2416Z, and LMR Hiro 0195X all of whom are ranked in the top 25 for both IMF and Marble Fineness on the LMR Sire Summary. Lone Mountain’s highest-ranking TCI female is LMR Ms Itoshigenami 9320W, a TF 148 x Bar R Sanjirou 4P x Michifuku x JVP 400 x Chisahime 662. She currently sits at $404 TCI with a 1.7 MS and +19 Cwt. She has four carcass progeny on her proof backing up these elite numbers. A current star in LMR’s flush program is the before mentioned Chisahime 662 descendant LMR Ms Kitaguni 8168U (FB8968, LMRFD8168U). She is a full sister to sires 1441Y and 1409Y. To cement her elite status in the herd she has produced two TF 148 steers that have come in at 43% and 41% IMF! Bob was excited to say they have 60 elite frozen embryos out of this donor that are currently being transferring into their recipient herd. The Chisahime maternal line has made a strong impact at Lone Mountain Ranch, just as they have elsewhere around the world producing sires such as Bar R Saburo 53Y, Macquarie Wagyu F C1255, Bald Ridge Terutani 40/1 Z116, and Bar R Itomoritaka 42Z to name a few.
This is by no means the only maternal line finding success at Lone Mountain. As the Shigehime maternal line has produced top new sires LMR Shichiro 2403Z and LMR Yasumasa 2428Z. The Shigehime maternal line also has females ranking among the elite on Breedplan EBVs. LMR Ms Itoshigenami 8107U is a TF 148 daughter with a TCI of $291, 1.2 MS, 3.0 REA, and 9 Cwt. This family has other females ranking over $200 on Terminal Carcass Index for Lone Mountain as well.
To continue going down the list of the maternal lines producing sires and females at LMR, we find 5 other prominent maternal lines. This shows what an amazingly diverse herd this is, something rarely seen in the cattle industry. These include the JVP Kikuhana maternal line with LMR Aoichi 2468Z, the Hikokura maternal line with LMR Akahige 8119U, the Okutani maternal line with LMR Mitsuru 2450Z, the Okahana maternal line with LMR Toshiro 1/3 (723T), and the Nakagishi maternal line with LMR Kenichi 807T. All of these sires are finding success in different places from IMF to Marble Fineness ranking and Growth Traits.
The genetics at Lone Mountain are performing extraordinarily well and the future is bright for a multitude of young sires rising through the ranks of progeny test. The ranch seeks to continue to grow with the strong demand for the premium Wagyu beef product that drives their breeding and repro programs. With semen available on the young bulls coming out with strong numbers, the Lone Mountain herd is set to make its mark on the greater Wagyu herd in the USA and abroad.
Click images to enlarge