Hidden Acres Cattle Co. Is Bullish About Crossbreeding Method

VIENNA – Standing in a grassy field where you cannot see another soul all the way to the horizon can be a great place for a business owner to decompress. It also can be great for raising a free-range, crossbred herd of Wagyu and Scottish Highland cattle.

Hidden Acres Cattle Co. is in Vienna, Ohio. It’s the latest venture of John Thompson, owner of Omega Door Co. for the past 25 years, as well as a door company in Kansas City. He also owns the Hidden Oaks Golf Course in Vienna and commercial rental properties.

Watching Peaches, one of his first Highland cows, and her newest calf emerge from the woods following the herd, Thompson is back to his farming roots.

“I just like seeing them,” he says. “Every year the first calf of spring, I send [a picture] to my mother. She loves seeing it.”

The 50-head herd of purebred Highland and carefully selected Wagyu cattle, as well as their mixed offspring, are raised without hormones and antibiotics and graze in pastures that have been allowed to grow naturally with no intentional fragment pesticides and fertilizers. In the winter, the cattle’s feed is supplemented with hay.

John Thompson, owner of Hidden Acres Cattle Company in Vienna, provides a few treats to the herd.

Some of the 500 acres Thompson has acquired in Champion and Vienna townships are for grazing. Other fields are for growing hay, one of the biggest expenses for keeping the herd well-fed and healthy throughout the winter.

Thompson, who is originally from Missouri but lived in Provo, Utah, Los Angeles and Kansas City before moving here, believes someone from his family has farmed since the time they came to this country. But he returned to it only about 15 years ago when he bought a small herd of Highland cattle after purchasing some acreage in Lordstown.

Then, while dining at a steakhouse he tried the Wagyu steak, which is highly renowned for its marbling and considered a luxury meat.

“Wagyu has the fat in the muscle, and in a normal angus steak the fat is around the muscle,” Thompson said. “It makes them juicy but I’ve had them where it is just too much. It’s too rich.”

So Thompson decided to take his hearty Highland cattle, which he describes as a “very lean and very tasty meat,” and breed them with a Wagyu. During Covid, he purchased a Wagyu bull and two Wagyu heifers and added them to the herd. The result brings out the best qualities in both breeds, he believes.

“I think this turns out just perfect,” Thompson says. “You still have that inner muscular fat but it’s not too much.”

Thompson hopes others in the Mahoning Valley will agree. He has launched HiddenAcresCattle.com. The website explains the ethical, pasture-based farming methods used to raise the cattle. And it shows the cuts of meat available – steaks and brisket, short ribs and ground beef, roasts and even soup bones.

All Hidden Acre Cattle products are USDA stamped for quality. Buyers can purchase products and pick them up frozen at his golf course.

Thompson is not shipping yet; plans are in the works. The company could reach customers across the country once there are enough cattle to both sell and maintain the herd.

“That takes time,” Thompson says. “You can’t say we’re going to butcher. But we’re only going to have two (to sell) a year.”

The herd has been slowly growing. Eleven calves were born this spring from one of the herds that grazes on land Thompson calls “The Dream.” The land does not have an address, just a short lane to a gate. Surrounded by woods, it provides little noise, a creek with year-round, fresh running water and acres of grass already greening in the warm spring weather.

“It took this long to get this many cattle – here and in Vienna. If they keep selling good, we will keep those two little heifers and keep growing the herd,” Thompson says, pointing at two of the calves.

Pictured at top: Part of the Hidden Acres herd grazes. Highland cattle are pictured in the front and Wagyu in the back.