An exotic Wagyu steer with a bit of wanderlust is on the loose in Waldo.
As far as he knows, Jason Stutheit owns the only two Wagyu beef steers in the state, and now one is missing after jumping out of its pen at the Common Ground Fair in Unity last week.
Stutheit said he had just arrived at the fair last Friday with this two steers when things went awry.
“I was bringing the two of them to the fair so people could see them,” Stutheit, who operates Pond Hill Farms in Brooks, said on Tuesday. “He jumped right out of his stall and started running around.”
Though fairgoers apparently had no end of good intentions, Stutheit said it was a case of too much help.
“There were people who really don’t know how to handle cows trying to help and they kept pushing him away,” he said, “That night he came back to the stall [on the fairgrounds] but got scared off again when people tried to catch him.”
Last seen, the steer who is called only by his yellow ear tag number 970 — or “70 for short,” according to Stutheit — was on the Town Farm Road in Unity, but by the time Stutheit got there, he was gone.
Prized for their flavorful, tender, marbled meat, Wagyu cattle are native to Japan where they were originally used as a draft animal.
Tasty, but a somewhat pricey meal since a good Wagyu steak other cut can run more than $100 a pound in the US. Stutheit said he has $4,000 invested in his missing steer.
American cattlemen began importing Wagyu cows and steers in the 1970s but all imports were stopped in 2003 with the discovery of Bovine spongiform encephalopathy — so-called “Mad Cow Disease” — in some imports.
According to Dr. Colt Knight, state livestock specialist with the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, as far as he knows the two Pond Hill Farms Wagyu steers are, indeed, the only ones in Maine.
“I haven’t heard of anyone else raising them,” Knight said Tuesday.
Stutheit said his steers came from a farm in Connecticut last December and are destined for slaughter, but he hopes to eventually successfully breed the Wagyu in Maine.
“No one else we know in Maine is doing it,” he said. “We thought it would be something we could try.”
Pond Hill Farms already raises grass-fed Angus and Hereford cattle.
“We are trying to develop the market for Wagyu,” Stutheit said. “It is a very tender meat with a different type of taste [and] a nice specialty meat.”
If he can keep the wandering Wagyu down on the farm, that is.
Stutheit said there is enough natural food and available water in the area on which the runaway steer can survive for now, but he is still worried.
“Who knows what could happen?” he said. “Accidents can happen — he could fall down a ravine or get hurt some other way.”
The steer’s brother does seem to know something is amiss, Stutheit said, and has been crying and calling out for his sibling.
“We even left his brother at the fair for an extra night, in case the calling would bring him back,” he said. “And we’ve been searching all over.”
When full grown, the steer can reach around 1,600 pounds, but Stutheit said the Wagyu brothers are not at all aggressive.
“The brother of the missing one will eat apples right out of your hand,” he said. “In fact, if you see the missing one and have some apples handy, just put them down for him.”
If spotted, Stutheit stressed people should not attempt to capture the wily Wagyu themselves. Rather, keep an eye on it and call the Waldo County Sheriff’s Department, or contact Stutheit directly at 207-322-4682.