Cattle breeding farms raise cattle and their calves, which are then sold on the market. Heifers 12 months or older in a breeding condition are mated or artificially inseminated (with a surrogate mother). After the calves are a few months old, they go to auction. There is a "small" market for calves about 3 months of age, and a normal calf market for those about 9 months of age. There are registered associations of Japanese Black breeders, and calves are registered at birth.
In Japan, heifers have their names recorded in the syllabic "hiragana" alphabet, while steers are recorded in "kanji," or Chinese characters. When the cattle are 20 months old, they are again measured and their weight and various other traits recorded. At this point, they become registered cattle.
Many wagyu farms assign names to each head of cattle and raise them like members of a family. Calves are transitioned from breast milk shortly after birth and onto artificial milk. Each one is fed milk by hand, and they are given warm jackets in the cold season. This affection helps the calves grow healthy and stress-free.
Breeding farms fatten calves for meat purposes and ship them to meat processing centers. Calves are bought at auction, either as three month-old "small" calves or as nine month-old full calves. They are fed a concentrated feed to fatten them, marble their meat, and at around 30 months of age (at around 700kg), are shipped out.
The flavor of wagyu is owed to its bloodlines. In Japan, it has been said since ancient times that "blood is thicker than water," meaning that a long history can be traced through bloodlines.
At meat processing centers, the cattle are slaughtered and then the meat shipped on-bone to auction, where the degree of marbling and density of meat can be seen in person.