Before you decide this is a whimsical piece about a whimsical question, read on. It's not so in either case. Animals have likes and dislikes. For Pete Eschelman, Whitley County, what keeps his beef cattle calm is more than just important- it's essential.
Eschelman and his family raise Japanese beef cattle. It's called Wagyu beef. You may have heard of Kobe beef. Basically Kobe beef is Japanese beef form cattle raised in one specific place- Kobe, Japan. The Eschelman's raise it and supply their restaurant in Roanoke with this special beef. They also have a small store where they sell it. Today, they're ready to launch a prepared food business featuring dishes that often use beef form the farm.
The reason for having them is the quality of the meat, Eschelman says. They grade higher than American cattle, because there is a lot more marbling in quality Wagyu beef. In fact, there is so much marbling that some American taste buds aren't ready for that much marbling, he notes. So while they have purebred Wagyu cattle on the farm, they also have F1 crosses between Wagyu and either purebred Black or Red Angus that produces a richly marbled meat, but yet a meat not so highly marbled that some people may not like the taste.
One secret to raising these cattle successfully, Eschelman says, is keeping them calm, and providing them with a good living environment. That includes freshly bedded stalls and plenty of water and feed daily, but it also includes holding down the noise level, or eliminating things that might scare the livestock.
One way Eschelman does that is by restricting who visits his cattle in the barn. Visitors tend to disrupt the daily routine, he says. However, he made an exception last week when he was presented the Certified Livestock Producer Program certificate, and allowed dignitaries and media to see his operation, including his cattle.
Dairymen have known for a long time that some cows stay calmer if they can hear radios, especially music. Eschelman installed a speaker system so cattle in his main production barn can hear sound. However, right now it plays baseball games from the past over the sound system. A rebroadcast of an all-star game from the 1940's was playing when the day of the celebration visit occurred.
Why baseball games? "They love it," Eschelman says. "If someone this a home run, you'll see them raise their heads at the crack of the bat. It's really kind of funny."
The Eschelman's tried various types of music in the past, everything from rock to country music. "They really didn't like country music," he notes. "We've also tried classical music, but we come back to old baseball broadcasts most of the time."
To be fair, there could be an ulterior motive. Eschelman was a minor league ball player, growing up in the New York Yankee farm system until an injury ended his playing days. Then he worked for several years in the Yankee's management office, learning lessons about business.
He and his wife, Alice, have lived and farmed in northeastern Indiana now for nearly 25 years.