EMMA - A unique cattle ranching operation in the mid-Roaring Fork Valley was sold recently to a major Canadian company and will be incorporated into what's designed to be the biggest Wagyu beef producer in North America.
Emma Farms Cattle Co. was purchased by Blue Goose Capital and Blue Goose USA Inc., headquartered in Toronto, according to Tom Waldeck, former owner of the Emma operation. The sale was completed Dec. 21.
Waldeck said he didn't sell his ranchland in the heart of Emma. He will remain involved in the Basalt-area cattle operation as president of Blue Goose USA and president and CEO of Emma Farms Wagyu, he said.
Waldeck bought the midvalley cattle ranch of Buddy Cerise in 2003 and eventually got interested in Wagyu cattle, a Japanese breed that is widely considered the best-tasting beef. He started with three purebred Wagyu cattle and now has more than 300 head. About 50 live at Emma Farms, about 18 miles west of Aspen.
Emma Farms sells its Wagyu beef to high-end restaurants and resorts, including The Little Nell hotel in Aspen, the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs and The Sebastian in Vail. It also provides beef to a group of high-end restaurants in Los Angeles.
Blue Goose approached Waldeck last year with a business proposition.
"Essentially, they found me," Waldeck said. "They got interested in adding a high-end line of Wagyu."
Blue Goose previously operated exclusively in Canada, producing organic beef, organic poultry and organic, farm-raised, freshwater trout. This marks an expansion into the U.S. The Wagyu beef will be sold to a wider selection of high-end restaurants and to grocery stores.
Waldeck said he was interested in selling his cattle operation because, at age 74, he didn't have the "appetite" to put in the time and effort necessary to make it grow. Wagyu cattle take considerably longer to raise from birth to processing or to the age where cows produce calves. Therefore, it takes longer to expand a Wagyu herd than a standard herd of cattle.
Waldeck designed a plan for Blue Goose to expand the herd more quickly. They will work with Colorado State University to collect embryos from their Wagyu cows, implant them in surrogate cows and substantially increase the number of calves born into their operation each year.
Typically, a cattle rancher can get one calf from one cow each year, presuming there are no problems. By harvesting embryos, Emma Farms will be able to produce 3,000 calves per 100 of its cows by using surrogates. Cows of other breeds can be used as surrogate moms, and the Wagyu calves will still be purebred, Waldeck said.
The rapid grow plan won't affect the Emma cattle ranch. Between 50 and 100 of the special breed will continue to live at that pastoral setting at the base of the Crown. The expansion of the Wagyu cattle operation will occur with calves being raised in Ontario, British Columbia, Oklahoma and possibly California, according to Waldeck.
Meanwhile, Waldeck remains an enthusiastic promoter of the blossoming Wagyu cattle industry in Colorado. He is entering 15 of his cattle in competitions at the National Western Stock Show in Denver this week. Judging for his category is on Wednesday. Among his show cattle are a cow that was a grand champion in her category last year and two bulls that placed second and third in their competition.
Waldeck said participating in the stock show provides good exposure for Emma Farms to restaurants and resorts, and it promotes Wagu beef to Colorado cattle ranchers.