Cattle's Longstanding History in Hawai'i

  • Cattle first arrived in Hawai'i in 1793, when Captain George Vancouver presented King Kamehameha with six cows and a bull.
  • King Kamehameha created a 400 acre pasture surrounded by a rock wall and placed a kapu on killing the cattle so that they could grow in numbers.
  • By the mid 1800's, approximately 25,000 wild cattle roamed the landscape.
  • King Kamehameha III lifted the kapu during his reign and in the following years, ranches were established and Spanish vaqueros were brought in to help teach Hawaiians how to manage these cattle.
  • Over time, the ranches provided pipikaula (salt beef) for sailors and hides for New England tanneries, then production shifted to producing local beef for their communities, and finally adopting a grain finishing program for local beef production.

Today's Industry & Challenges

  • Approximately 35 years ago, 90% of the beef raised in Hawaii was consumed locally and prior to 1992, cattle in Hawaii were fed locally in one of several feed yards on the islands
  • In 1992, rising operating costs and better economic returns on the Mainland for Hawaii cattle, led Hawaii producers to ship most Hawaii calves to the Mainland to finish and process. 
  • This loss of supply forced the shutdown of the final feeding operation and Hawaii’s cattle producers had to find an alternate way to market their cattle.
  • Currently, ranchers provide calves for finishing on the mainland and produce cattle for local consumption. 
  • Ranchers are constantly improving their management techniques, herd genetics and natural resource stewardship.