Why Artificial Insemination?……………. Why Not?

Artificial Insemination (A.I.) is a technique that has been around for many years.  Livestock systems around the world have recognized the economic advantages of utilizing A.I. as well as many other technologies to enhance productivity.  However, the United States’ beef industry has been hesitant to broadly adopt this technology which has the potential to produce higher rates of return on investment than creep feeding, growth promoting implants, ultrasound, embryo transfer, etc.  What is the reason for the slow adaptation of this technology?  Concerns over cost, labor, results and the application of A.I. to smaller herds appear to be the most common reasons for the hesitancy.

The most commonly mentioned factor that affects the willingness for one to utilize A.I. is the perceived expense.  The cost per A.I. pregnancy can approach and sometimes be reduced below that of natural service (Johnson, 2003).  In herds where more than one bull is required to service the herd, the advantage associated with reducing the number of bulls required is itself an improvement in efficiency.  In order to compare the cost of A.I. to the cost of natural service, we must first know the cost of natural service.  When all factors are considered, the cost of producing a natural service pregnancy/calf can be surprising.  Costs for producing a pregnancy via natural service range from $16.00 ($1500  bulls are exposed to 50 cows per sire) to $90 ($3000 bulls exposed to 15 cows per sire) (Johnson, 2003).  Compare that to the cost of producing a pregnancy using A.I.: $40.00 -$55.00 in herds of 100 -300 cows with a 50 – 60% pregnancy rate.  This figure includes the cost of the cleanup sires.

Research is currently being conducted to address the issues regarding the potential of increased efficiency/profitability of A.I. sired females used as replacements compared to that of replacements sired by natural service.  It appears that the potential for increasing return on investment utilizing A.I. has the potential to go beyond simply measuring the phenotype of the resulting progeny.

Second, addressing the issues that additional labor/inputs involves, begs the question concerning the expected increase in returns.  An A.I. program requires additional labor in the form of synchronization, estrus detection, and insemination.  The following table summarizes the results/returns that could be expected as a result of the use of an A.I. program including increased reproductive efficiency of the herd, earlier weaning age and increased weaning weights.  Combined, these factors account for a very significant increase in pounds of calf weaned per cow exposed.

Results of short-term estrus synchronization Artificial Insemination Trial



Natural Service






Calving Rate




% Calving 1st 30 days




% calf crop weaned




Weaning Age



10 days

Weaning Weight



72.6 lbs

Lbs. calf weaned/cow exposed



109.5 lbs


Source: Anderson and Deaton, University of Kentucky


Poor results are often cited as a reason for not pursuing an A.I. program.  Poor results can often be attributed to manageable factors such as post-partum nutrition, proper vaccination and disease control and good A.I. program management.  Thoughtful preparation and planning, in conjunction with reasonable expectations, will often lead to very good results, even for someone incorporating the technology into their herd for the first time.

Lastly, one of the characteristics unique to the A.I. industry is the amazing flexibility in the methods of application.  In other words, an A.I. program can be designed for almost any situation.  There is no “restriction” when it comes to herd size for A.I.  For example, one might consider for a small herd (25-50 head), a one-time timed insemination program scheduled to occur on the first day of their breeding season.  A reasonable expectation would be ~50% conception rate to the A.I., and the herd would have 4 subsequent opportunities to become pregnant to the clean-up sire in a typical 84 day breeding season.  One-half of the herd could calve in the first 20-30 days of the calving season with no reduction in reproductive efficiency for the herd.  In fact, most data indicates that reproductive efficiency improves under Estrus Synchronization/A.I. programs.  For herds of fewer than 25 head, there are options for using A.I.  A conventional program such as the normal synchronization, breeding and use of a cleanup sire works very well.  In some situations, “A.I. only” programs are very successful.  With this option the need for a cleanup sire is eliminated altogether.  Regardless of herd size, reproductive efficiency continues to be the single most important measure of profitability, so no A.I. program should be designed that would result in fewer pregnant cows at the conclusion of the breeding season than what might be achieved under normal breeding conditions.

There is no more applicable, user friendly technology for achieving increased reproductive efficiency and genetic improvement than Artificial Insemination.  I would conclude with the thought that one should identify “genetic” goals, identify animals with the genetics that move the program in the correct direction and incorporate these genetics using A.I.

TALL Program

by Kelley Sullivan

Here is your question of the day:  How can you put farmers, ranchers, horticulturists, regulatory agencies, scientists, bankers and attorneys in one room and expect peace and harmony?  This may seem impossible but Texas A&M Agrilife Extension Service offers such a forum in TALL – Texas Agricultural Lifetime Leadership – and I am a proud member of the 13th class being held over the next two years.

TALL XIII Class Photo

TALL XIII Class Photo

My name is Kelley Sullivan and my family has been in beef cattle production for over 100 years, primarily along the Coastal Bend of Texas.  I am a sixth-generation Galvestonian and grew up “down the island”, where cattle grazed in the salt grass during the winter months.  My PawPaw, John R.A. Sullivan, ran the backgrounding yards for Lykes Bros., the Hutchings and other wealthy families on the island.  He would drive the cattle along the beachfront into town and turn them north through the heavy residential areas of the city.  They eventually arrived at the Galveston Wharves and loaded onto cattle boats, bound for Haiti and Cuba.  My father, Gerald Sullivan and Uncle John still tell stories about their father but, as the oldest grandchild, I was lucky enough to spend my earliest years with PawPaw and Nana and develop my love for the cattle business.  Like most little girls, I also love horses and still find my greatest peace in the saddle.

Our family now owns Santa Rosa Ranch, a seedstock and cow/calf producer of Brangus, Angus and Ultrablack Cattle.  We are based in Navasota and Crockett, Texas and, under the expert oversight of General Manager Kent Smith, have developed a breeding program where we feel we are “Making the Best Breed Better”!  Considering that I spent my youth with PawPaw before he passed away, I am honored to continue the proud legacy that our family has developed over so many years.

I was introduced to TALL several years ago through Dr. Charles Looney, a graduate of TALL X and came to admire the initiatives of the program.  During the early 1980′s, the Texas Agricultural Extension Service had pondered the need for a new kind of adult leadership program, similar to those underway in a number of states. Through years of development and garnering support from industry leaders, TALL welcomed the first class in 1987.  The TALL Mission Statement reads “TALL will create a cadre of Texas leaders to help ensure effective understanding and encourage positive action on key issues, theories, policy and economics that will advance the agriculture industry.”  For Agriculture to remain dynamic, well informed leaders must emerge. The Texas Agricultural Lifetime Leadership (TALL) program prepares men and women, dedicated to agriculture, for the leadership challenges ahead.

Following my graduation from Texas A&M University, I enjoyed a career in marketing and real estate development in the Houston/Galveston area but I was drawn to my agricultural roots.  I decided to become a student once again and entered the TCU Ranch Management Program in Fall 2011 because I wanted to dedicate myself to an industry that had given my family such great opportunities.  This intensive nine-month program at TCU teaches our future producers how to assign a dollar figure to every production decision that is made – I compare it to an MBA in Resource Management and Production.  Through the program, I developed some wonderful friendships and was honored and humbled to be nominated to TALL by Amanda Dyer (Texas A&M Class of ’03, TCU Ranch Management Class of ’09 and TALL XII graduate).  Additionally, I received letters of support from the Director of the TCU Ranch Management Program, Kerry Cornelius (TALL VIII) and Missy Bonds (TCU Ranch Management Class of ’03 and TALL XI graduate). TALL gives producers the opportunity to understand all segments of this industry and the impact that the global climate has on our ability to feed the world.  Through my experiences thus far, I can say that the future for Agriculture is very bright – I have met some wonderful young producers and their dedication and commitment to this industry will ensure great success in the future.


TALL – at a glance


Following an application and interview process, TALL features 25-30 men and women who make a two-year commitment to participate in the program.  Participants come from all segments of the industry and include farmers, ranchers, bankers, regulatory agents, attorneys, horticulturists and association executives.  The “curriculum” is designed with the intent to make each participant have a greater awareness of the complex economic, political and social systems that affect Agriculture and develop an appreciation for how Agriculture must interact with society as a whole.


Eight seminars are held during the two year program which enhances the participants’ knowledge and understanding of key subjects that affect our current agricultural leaders.  These seminars are held in different areas around Texas as well as destinations in California, Washington DC and New York.  However, the goal of the program is to emphasize the impact that Agriculture has on the global economy; therefore, the second year of the program focuses upon a certain foreign country or region and the opportunities that exist for producers.  Our class is excited to have Brazil as our international focus, particularly during a time when this country will have a significant impact on domestic production.


TALL – Session 1


Our introductory seminar was held in College Station and, as an Aggie, it is always good to return to the Motherland!  I am excited about our group because everyone offers a different perspective –we even have a vegetarian!  However, when you consider production agriculture as a whole, we must consider the cultures and habits of all global populations so I am excited to learn more from this gentleman…except I already explained that a vegetarian diet is not in my future!


During each seminar, we enjoy on-site tours and studies of agriculturally-related businesses and industries while discovering the procedures and problems in production, marketing and financing.  Session 1 featured visits to places such as the Texas Forest Service, Blue Bell Creameries, Brazos Valley Recycling, ABC Equipment Company, Wiggins Watermelons, Ellison’s Greenhouse and the George Bush Library.  We also had speakers from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice – Agriculture Division, Texas Veterinary Diagnostic Medical Laboratory and two retired military officers who spoke of the global challenges we all face as the world population increases to 9 Billion by 2050.  Each presentation was fascinating and showed the global reach and effect that Agriculture has on the world.


The most interesting experience was a mock press conference that we did with the Agricultural Communications Program at Texas A&M.  We were divided into groups and given a topic with 2 minutes to prepare an opening statement and talking points to use with these members of the “press” (actually, they were Ag Communication students who should get an acting award for their performances!).  These topics covered current issues in Agriculture and some participants were not familiar with some of the issues because they were “outside of their industry segment”.  But, what it exemplified was that, as agriculturalists, we are obligated to stay aware of what is happening in our industry, regardless of whether or not it affects our area of interest.  We are all in this together and we need to be Advocates for Agriculture!  So, it brought home the point that we need to stay constantly aware of everything that can potentially affect our ability to feed our neighbors.

What’s next for Session 2?

The Ear has asked for me to chronicle my TALL experience over the next two years so stay tuned for more experiences!  Our next stop will be the Texas Panhandle in October.  We will be starting in Lubbock and end up in Amarillo as we visit various farming and feedlot operations.

To learn more about TALL, log on to http://tall.tamu.edu/ or contact the program at (979)845-1554.  If you would like to ask questions about my participation in TALL or as a student at TCU Ranch Management, please feel free to contact me at Kelley@srrtexas.com.

New Cattle Traceability Rule Question & Answer: What you need to know

A requirement for adult cattle in Texas to have an approved form of permanent identification in place at change of ownership will go into effect January 1, 2013 according to the Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC). The Commission amended its rules in June of this year to enhance the effective traceability of beef cattle movements in Texas, which is the cornerstone of disease control activities. Implementation of the changes was delayed by the Commission to ensure cattle producers understand the requirements and can prepare for the changes.

The amended rule permanently cancels the brucellosis test requirement for adult cattle at change of ownership, which was unofficially suspended in the summer of 2011. Although testing of adult cattle is no longer required with the rule change, all sexually intact cattle, parturient or post parturient, or 18 months of age and older changing ownership must still be officially identified with Commission approved permanent identification. This change primarily affects beef cattle, as dairy cattle in Texas have had an even more stringent identification requirement in place since 2008.

Before August of 2011, official identification devices such as eartags were applied automatically at the time a brucellosis test was performed. The inadvertent loss of the identification devices applied to cattle when brucellosis testing stopped has threatened TAHC’s ability to effectively trace cattle as part of any ongoing disease investigation.

The TAHC routinely performs cattle health investigations where the identification and location of exposed/infected animals is critical to success. For example, 30 Brucellosis reactors, over 300 Bovine Trichomoniasis affected bulls and 22 bovine tuberculosis cases have been investigated by the TAHC to date in 2012. The new traceability rule will help preserve the TAHC’s ability to identify and trace animal movements quickly and effectively, no matter which disease is involved.

A complete list of acceptable identification devices/methods may be found at www.tahc.state.tx.us, but the most commonly used devices include USDA metal tags, brucellosis calfhood vaccination tags, US origin 840 series Radio Frequency Identification tags (RFID), and breed registration tattoos or firebrands. Producers are encouraged to contact their veterinarian or TAHC to determine which method of tagging will be best for their operation.

Free USDA metal tags, and a limited number of free applicator pliers (dependent on available funding) will be provided by the TAHC to producers wishing to use them. The tags and/or pliers may be obtained by contacting local TAHC field staff and USDA APHIS Veterinary Services representatives. The TAHC is developing tag distribution partnerships with interested veterinary practitioners and Texas A&M AgriLife Extension offices. Partner contact information will be published as it becomes available. Producers may locate the closest tag distributor online at www.tahc.state.tx.us.

Q: What age/class of cattle must have acceptable permanent identification?

A: Sexually intact adult beef cattle 18 months and older and Mexican origin event cattle of any age. Nursing calves, steers, spayed heifers, bulls and heifers under 18 months are exempt (unless heifer has calved). Dairy cattle have been under more stringent identification requirements since 2008.


Q: Do I need to tag all of my cattle?

A: No. Only the classes of cattle mentioned above changing ownership will need to be tagged.


Q: Where can I find the complete listing of all Commission approved permanent identification devices?

A: Producers may access the complete list at www.tahc.state.tx.us or by contacting any TAHC office or personnel.


Q: Do I have to use the free eartags offered, or can I use other acceptable methods of identification?

A: No. The free metal tags are not required to be used, but they are one low cost option.


Q: Will ear tag pliers be provided at no cost or will I have to purchase them?

A: A limited supply of eartag pliers is available at no cost. Because of the limited supply, producers are also encouraged to consider purchasing tagging pliers from any Ag supply outlets. Many participating Tag Distributors have metal ear tag pliers available on a check-out basis.


Q: What happens after January 1, 2013 if a sexually intact adult beef cow and/or bull arrives at the sale barn without one form of the acceptable official ID?

A: Identification is required at change of ownership, regardless of where the change happens. The TAHC recommends that owners contact their local sale barn before hauling their cattle to determine available options for handling cattle not already tagged at that facility. Some markets are conducting voluntarily brucellosis testing of cattle as well, and a tag would be applied when the blood sample is taken. Some markets may provide a tagging service, and some may require the animals to have official ID upon arrival. The TAHC may restrict the movement of animals not in compliance with identification requirements. For private treaty sales, producers can contact their private veterinarian for assistance or ensure the animals are properly identified themselves.


Q: If an animal already has a silver test tag, orange vaccination tag, or other official ID device, will it need to have a new tag applied if sold?

A: No. Animals presented for sale with an approved official ID will not have to be retagged.


Q: What do I need to do if one of my cows has lost her orange brucellosis calfhood vaccination tag, but still has the ear tattoo?

A: The calfhood vaccination tag is an acceptable ID but the tattoo alone is not. Owners can have their veterinarian retag an animal with another orange vaccination tag if the animal has a legible tattoo, or the animal can be retagged with any other acceptable ID device by the owner, vet, or at most markets if it is being sold at one. A calfhood vaccination tattoo alone is not traceable, and is not an acceptable form of identification.


Q: Is my ranch brand that is registered with the county an acceptable form of official ID?

A: No, although registered ranch brands are considered official ID for ownership purposes, they are not considered official ID by the TAHC rule for traceability purposes. Ranch brands are not traceable, because identical brands can be registered in multiple counties in Texas and ranch brands usually do not individually identify each animal.


Q: If selling cattle with a breed association registration tattoo, registration firebrand or registration freeze brand, what information do we need to present to prove they are registered?

A: It is recommended when selling registered cattle to present the animal’s registration certificate and/or have their registration number listed on a certificate of veterinary inspection. It is also recommended that owners discuss this issue with the local TAHC inspectors and market management in advance if the cattle are to be sold at a market with this ID type.


Q: Are buffalo (bison) subject to this rule?

A: Yes, bison must meet the same ID requirements as cattle.


Q: On which ear should the tag be placed?

A: Although the rule does not specify, care should be taken to ensure that any calfhood vaccination tattoos in female cattle are not covered up when applying a button type RFID tag. Vaccination tattoos are found in the middle section of the right ear.


Q: Are custom tags acceptable?

A: Yes, if they meet certain criteria. Acceptable custom tags are those commercially produced with the ranch name and an individual animal number printed or embossed on them at the factory. It is recommended that owners discuss this issue with the local TAHC inspectors and market management in advance if the cattle are to be sold at a market with this ID type.


Q: What about official ID for other species? I no longer have sheep, but still have scrapie tags and applicator. Can I use my Scrapie tags on my cattle?

A: No. Scrapie tags are designed for the smaller, thinner ears of sheep and goats, and should only be used in those species.


Q: What if an owner that has been assigned tags moves? Do they need to report it and if so, to whom?

A: Metal tags are assigned to an individual and not necessarily linked to a location. Owners may call the TAHC to update their contact information, but this is not a requirement. Texas tags should not be applied to cattle located in other states.


Q: If more than one person has cattle on one farm, does each individual need their own tags or just tags for the farm location?

A: Traceability is more reliable if each owner uses their own assigned tags. It is recommended that owner specific records be kept if animals are identified with shared tags.


Q: When does change of ownership “legally” occur? 

A: Change of ownership at a market occurs when the auctioneer indicates a buyer. For private treaty sales it occurs when the animal changes hands.


Q: If a producer from another state sells their cattle in Texas, should tag distributors issue tags to them?
A: Texas tags should not be issued to a producer in another state. Sexually intact beef cattle 18 months and older must have official identification to enter Texas, as do Mexico origin event cattle and dairy cattle of any age.


Q: Why are sexually intact adult animals the only ones that need to be tagged?

A: Some other classes of cattle must be officially identified, as described in the previous question. However, identification requirements are focused on breeding animals because they have a longer production life and tend to move between operations more than feeder animals.


Q: Is this rule a federal rule?

A: No, this is a Texas rule, but it will put the beef industry in compliance with the anticipated USDA Animal Disease Traceability rule for interstate movement when released.


Q: When does this Texas rule go into effect?

A: The rule goes into effect January 1, 2013. The TAHC has been working since the rule was passed in the summer of 2012 to ensure that the cattle industry understands and is prepared for the change.


Q: Do I need to keep records of individual identification when I sell my animal(s)?

A: While keeping records is not required when animals are sold as part of a livestock breeding or production operation, producers are strongly encouraged to do so. Dealers are required to keep records, including individual animal identification, as part of a separate rule.


Q: Who is responsible for maintaining the information related to eartag distribution?

A: All metal tag numbers assigned will be maintained in a TAHC-managed database. The TAHC does not track individual change of ownership transactions.


Q: What is the legal obligation of the livestock market in the mandatory ID program?

A: A change of ownership is a transaction between a seller and a buyer, and the seller is responsible for assuring his animals have official identification. The market however can be considered as an agent representing the seller. Animals that do not meet the identification requirement can be restricted from being moved and therefore held at the market.


Q: If a trace back occurs, can the TAHC require a market to release its sales records? What if there are no records of individual identification?
A: TAHC rules require markets to keep certain records for a minimum of five years, and to make the records available for inspection by TAHC representatives. One of the requirements is to keep records of individual animal identification numbers of animals sold. The TAHC anticipates market operators will voluntarily keep records correlating eartags and backtags on their own accord, to provide the best service to their customers.


Q: Can I move my cattle directly to slaughter from my farm or ranch without an ID?

A: Yes, ranchers can move an animal from their premise directly to slaughter without an ID because these animals can be traced through plant records. Breeding cattle otherwise changing ownership by private treaty sales, through a market or video auction must have acceptable permanent identification.


Q: What happens if my cattle are too weak to be safely tagged at market?

A: The Commission proposed an amendment at the September 2012 meeting that would allow some flexibility in application of the rule. If the amendment passes as proposed, a TAHC inspector in consultation with market ownership or management may exempt beef cattle at a market if the animal’s physical condition makes the handling required to apply permanent identification unsafe or injurious in nature. Exempt cattle must be sold and consigned to an approved slaughter facility, and movement may be permitted by the TAHC.


Q: Who has violated the rule if a non-slaughter buyer takes possession of an exempt (untagged) animal?   

A: The seller is technically in violation of the rule, but if a buyer or the livestock market is knowingly violating the requirement then the TAHC can take compliance action on them if necessary.


Q: Can the auctioneer refuse to accept a higher bid on an exempted animal if he doesn’t know whether the bidder is buying for slaughter?
A: This process is similar to the sale of bulls not tested for Trichomoniasis. Accepting the bid is the personal choice/discretion of the auctioneer. TAHC inspectors will help enforce the identification rule at the time of sale when possible.


Q:  If an exempted animal is sold to a non-slaughter buyer, who is responsible for stopping them from paying for and taking the animal?    

A: The seller is responsible for assuring his animals are properly identified. However, if a buyer or a livestock market knowingly takes action that facilitates violation of the requirement, the TAHC can take compliance action on all appropriate parties.


For additional ear tag information, including the nearest distributor of free  

USDA tags, contact the TAHC Traceability Team at 1-800-550-8242 ext. 733,  

visit www.tahc.state.tx.us  or contact your local region office.

Some Reflections on Fall Meetings and Crossbreeding

Joe C. Paschal

I missed the opportunity to include my thoughts last month in The Ear and I regret it. September through November are busy months for me as there are many Extension educational programs in the 37 counties in South Texas I am responsible for plus several others. Some of these educational programs have a long history going back to the early 70’s and even in the 60’s. In addition I had the opportunity to speak at three “eared” breed associations educational programs at their national meetings (this in addition to my regular duties and of course the ranch where we began calving in mid-October). This month I’ll cover some of the things I picked up at these meetings and then wrap up with some comments on a white paper currently making the rounds about crossbreeding.

In many of these meetings the most often discussed topic was about the ongoing drought and whether or not some rebuilding of the cowherd should occur if rain had fallen and pastures were returning to normal. I was “googling” some drought information and came across numerous NBC affiliate stations up in the Illinois area with a video clip about a farmer named Ken Wiseman in Golconda, Illinois who had been raising Angus until a few years ago when he decided that he would switch to Brangus and breed his Angus Cows to Brahman bulls. In his own words: “The Brangus cows that we have, they will stay out on top of the hill in the hot sun and keep eating. The others go to the shade or to the pond,” Wiseman said. “The breed,” he said, “developed a natural tolerance to heat and drought. If they’re out eating, they’re putting on weight and that’s money in the farmer’s pocket.” Wiseman said the hardier animals “are engineered to survive – and even thrive – in this weather.” You can’t pay for an ad like that even if it is in Illinois! I emailed it to Dr. Joe Massey, Executive Vice President at International Brangus Breeders Association, tweeted it on my Twitter account (#Joe_Paschal) and was immediately picked up by Certified Angus Beef. I guess they wanted to know what I was up to!

Mr. John Ford, the Executive Vice President of Santa Gertrudis Breeders International held a Mexican Cattlemen’s Field Day in Kingsville, Texas to present new data to potential buyers of Santa Gertrudis cattle on the maternal ability of the Santa Gertrudis cow and the potential of Santa Gertrudis and Santa Gertrudis cross feeder calves. John had really done his work; he had current data from various sources that indicated the current level of performance and particularly the performance of Santa Gertrudis crosses, both maternally, in the feedyard and as carcasses. I reviewed the Texas A&M Ranch to Rail Program that we conducted from 1991 until 2005 and presented feedyard, carcass and financial performance of percentage Bos indicus crosses and specifically Santa Gertrudis steers, including some tenderness data. John had a large international as well as a domestic group of breeders and the meeting was very successful.

In mid October I was asked by Dr. Tommy Perkins, Executive Vice President of Beefmaster Breeders United, to speak and judge at their National Beefmaster Convention in Branson, Missouri. Tommy had a terrific crowd at his “Meet in the Middle” meeting and in addition to working I got a chance to ride (and drive) one of the DUKWs that we toured on one afternoon. During World War II these were used to ferry troops from the ships in the invasion forces to the beachhead and then onto land. The top speed in the water was about 5 mph and the bottom and sides were made of pretty thin metal that might stop a BB pellet. My hat is off to anyone who rode them in under fire but that day it was strictly for fun! But I digress. Tommy had set up an excellent educational program to discuss ways to prevent cattle theft (seems to be a big problem in every state!) and I gave a talk on animal ID methods and we demonstrated freeze branding to a large crowd of folks! One thing that impressed me was that the quality of the cattle and the locations of the cattle in the Open and Junior Beefmaster Shows. There was a significant contingent of good cattle from Missouri, Oklahoma, Kansas, Arkansas and more northern climates as well as Texas and other warmer states.

Crowd at Anderson Beefmaster Ranch Field day in October listening to brush control demonstration and helicopter spraying.

Crowd at Anderson Beefmaster Ranch Field day in October listening to brush control demonstration and helicopter spraying.

Recently I had the opportunity to speak at the American Brahman Breeders Association 2nd Annual Membership Convention in Galveston, Texas. Mr. Chris Shivers, the Executive Director of ABBA had asked me to talk on “Understanding the End Product” and with a little help from my colleague Dr. Dan Hale (Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Meats Specialist in College Station, Texas) I put together a credible presentation using Brahman cross steers and showing how the value of a carcass is determined and what detracts from its value. Since I also assist with the ABBA’s Carcass Project where straightbred Brahman steers consigned to the program are fed at Grahman Feedyard in Gonzales, Texas and processed at Sam Kane Beef Processor in Corpus Christi, Texas I pointed out how straightbred Brahman steers fit. It might surprise you but most of these straightbred Brahman steers will fit mainstream fed beef supplies very well, mostly very high yielding (YG 2) USDA Select carcasses. Chris did discuss the ABBA F1 Certification Program. The program, begun in 1979 by then Executive Director Wendell Schronk, promoted the use of an already widely recognized and highly regarded F1 female and has seen resurgence in interest and applications for both the Certified and Golden Certified F1 Female Programs.

Crowd at the American Brahman Breeders Association 2nd Annual Educational Convention watching a chute side demonstration.

Crowd at the American Brahman Breeders Association 2nd Annual Educational Convention watching a chute side demonstration.

The idea of marketing the crossbred females of the Eared breeds may have begun with the ABBA F1 Female Program but it is certainly not new and it has been adopted by several breeds and not all of them would classify as “eared breeds”. The International Brangus Breeders Association has their “Brangus Gold” Program, BBU has their “E6” Program (which can include up to full blood Beefmaster females) and SGBI has their “Star 5” Program (which can include progeny from registered and nonregistered parents).  There is even a program begun by a NON-EARED breed to emphasize the importance of crossing it with Eared breeds to ensure a high level of productivity in more tropical climates, the Southern Balancer Program promoted by the American Gelbvieh Association. The Southern Balancer must be at least 25% Gelbvieh and can be anywhere from 6.25 to 50% Bos indicus (depending on how much you need for your environment or how much hybrid vigor you want or need to make a profit!). I am sure that there are other programs in other breeds that highlight the F1 female, especially if produced by sires or out of dams of a particular breed since the greatest benefit of the F1 is that it exhibits 100% hybrid vigor or heterosis for EVERYTHING – from the cradle to the grave – which brings me to my last topic.

A few months ago a white paper written by Dr. Nevil C. Speer, an agricultural economist from Western Kentucky University, entitled “Crossbreeding: Considerations and Alternatives in an Evolving Market”. This paper, supported (paid for) by Certified Angus Beef, LLC, made the rounds of the popular press and was either praised or cussed. I have never met Dr. Speer but I have read a lot of his stuff in many different venues and he is a logical thinker even if this is a “bought and paid for article” (some might consider mine in the same vein).  You can access the full article here: http://www.cabpartners.com/news/research/CROSSBREEDING_WHITE_PAPER_2.pdf

I encourage you to read it and especially the last graphic (Figure 5: Crossbreeding Decision Maker) where he makes four important points in evaluating whether or not a crossbreeding system is useful or beneficial. First is has to be easily conducted. Second you must have readily available superior bulls for a terminal cross. Third it won’t cause you to lose money due to loss of herd size, type of cross or uniformity. And fourth, it will improve maternal performance (or not impact functional traits). If these four criteria are met then crossbreeding proves beneficial. I agree!


Dr. Paschal is a livestock specialist for the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service and is based in Corpus Christi, Texas. He can be reached at (361) 265-9203 or j-paschal@tamu.edu

Bee Synch can help boost beef quality and ranchers’ profits

Writer: Blair Fannin, 979-845-2259, b-fannin@tamu.edu

Contact: Dr. Gary Williams, 361-358-6390, glwilliams@tamu.edu

BEEVILLE – With national beef cattle inventory at lows not seen since the 1950s, the time could be right for producers of Brahman-influenced cattle to adopt a fixed-time artificial insemination method which could add thousands of dollars in net value to a calf crop, according to researchers.

Dr. Gary Williams, a reproductive physiologist at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research Station-Beeville, said the shortage of cattle nationwide has resulted in an increased demand for feedlot calves and a shortage of high-quality beef. This has created the perfect opportunity for beef cattle producers to consider adopting technologies that may improve production efficiency and profits.

“Bee Synch, a synchronization of ovulation technique developed for Bos indicus -influenced beef cows, yields fixed-time artificial insemination pregnancy rates of up to 55 percent and makes the use of AI more feasible for a greater number of producers interested in using superior sires in their breeding program,” Williams said.

Bee Synch, a synchronization of ovulation technique developed for Bos indicus -influenced beef cows, yields fixed-time artificial insemination pregnancy rates of up to 55 percent. Dr. Gary Williams, a reproductive physiologist at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research Station-Beeville, said this makes the use of artificial insemination more feasible for a greater number of producers interested in using superior sires in their breeding program. (Texas A&M AgriLife Research photo)

Bee Synch, a synchronization of ovulation technique developed for Bos indicus -influenced beef cows, yields fixed-time artificial insemination pregnancy rates of up to 55 percent. Dr. Gary Williams, a reproductive physiologist at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research Station-Beeville, said this makes the use of artificial insemination more feasible for a greater number of producers interested in using superior sires in their breeding program. (Texas A&M AgriLife Research photo)

The research to develop the procedure was conducted in collaboration with Dr. Randy Stanko, Texas A&M University-Kingsville, and Dr. Marcel Amstalden, Texas A&M University-College Station, and supported by Pfizer Animal Health and Select Sires.

“If you have the right genetic background in feedlot-destined calves, and retain ownership through the feedlot, the difference in price at slaughter between those and the average South Texas-sired calf can be as much as $350,” he said. “Multiply that out by hundreds and you are making some serious money. We are seeing some of the national steakhouse chains having problems getting high-quality certified beef. This synchronization method could be a lucrative option for some beef cattle producers to consider.”

The synchronization process is a modified five-day protocol developed previously at Ohio State University, Williams said. That procedure, known as “5-day Co-Synch + CIDR” has been shown to be “highly effective” for synchronization of ovulation in Bos taurus beef cows (English and Continental-derived breeds), yielding fixed-time artificial insemination pregnancy rates of 60 percent or greater.

However, this and similar procedures have not worked well in the Bos indicus-influenced composite breeds and crossbreeds used commonly across the southern U.S. The Bee Synch process that Williams developed calls for an additional injection of prostaglandin at the start of the five-day synchronization protocol, which reduces the lifespan of a hormone-producing structure on the ovary.

“This improves synchrony and boosts pregnancy rates,” Williams said. “Importantly, the modified procedure does not involve additional cattle handling and utilizes synchronization products already available from Pfizer Animal Health.”

Williams said one of the main concerns from ranchers considering adoption of these types of technologies is the number of times required to pen cattle, labor costs and stress-related conditions associated with cattle handling. However, the Bee Synch process requires that the cow come through the chute only three times, including artificial insemination.

“This is more attractive to ranchers wanting to use AI to improve herd genetics and marketability, but also wanting to limit the amount of cattle handling required to achieve it,” he said.

Williams said one of the main concerns from ranchers considering adoption of these types of technologies is the number of times required to pen cattle, labor costs and stress-related conditions associated with cattle handling. However, the Bee Synch process requires that the cow come through the chute only three times, including artificial insemination. (Texas A&M AgriLife Research photo)

Williams said one of the main concerns from ranchers considering adoption of these types of technologies is the number of times required to pen cattle, labor costs and stress-related conditions associated with cattle handling. However, the Bee Synch process requires that the cow come through the chute only three times, including artificial insemination. (Texas A&M AgriLife Research photo)

Synchronization of ovulation and fixed-time artificial insemination is becoming an increasingly prominent choice for astute cattlemen, Williams said.

“Although it is unlikely in the near future for such technology to overtake traditional South Texas management that uses natural service, the expansion of the national and international market for quality beef, and the current shortage, is creating increased opportunities for producers,” Williams said.

Natural service sires representing Angus, Hereford and other similar breeds noted for meat quality are already being used extensively in southern beef herds. Using semen from superior artificial insemination sires from these breeds is the next logical step. Alternatively, Brahman-influenced composite breeds carrying genes for increased meat quality can also be used.

“If Brahman-influenced cows are handled in a minimal-stress environment, are in good body condition (a minimum body condition score of 5, on a 1 -9 scale), and are at least 45 days post-calving, you can routinely get 50-55 percent of these cows pregnant with a single insemination.”

Williams said cleanup bulls, turned in seven to 10 days later, can be used to service those not conceiving  beginning about three weeks after artificial insemination as they will still be synchronized. Alternatively, another round of artificial insemination can be used before bulls are turned in.

“Using Bee Synch, the ability to infuse highly-desirable genetic traits for meat quality into commercial beef cattle production in the southern U.S. should become an increasing reality,” he said.

Beef in Australia

by Brad Wright

Australia’s beef industry is thriving and looks to get better as the world population is increasing exponentially.  Australian beef producers are taking “feed the world” to a whole new level as 65% of all beef produced within the country is exported.  The major export markets for beef are Asia, primarily Japan and Korea, and to the U.S.  Australia has only 26 million beef cattle and calves compared to Brazil’s 185 million head, but Australia is a narrow 2nd in beef exports to Brazil, exporting almost 3 billion pounds per year.  Australia also exports a tremendous amount of live cattle, predominantly to Indonesia.  As the world population grows and Australian breeders become increasingly efficient, the export opportunities will continue to grow.

Domestically, recent advancements of the MSA (Meat Standards Australia) grading have put a new focus on quality beef.  The retail markets have responded favorably with many only selling MSA qualified beef.  This has improved profits for those breeders that are selecting and breeding for improved carcass quality, and with further improvement, could lead to more quality meat export markets for Australian beef producers.

Over 70% of the beef cows used to meet these demands are Bos indicus or Bos indicus influenced.  The most prominent cow, especially in herds located in Northern Australia, is the Brahman cow.  Bos indicus cattle are a necessity due to their adaptability to harsh environments.  These cattle have an innate ability to survive extremely hot summers while having an inherited resistance to ticks, flies, and other insects as well as the diseases they transmit.  Bos indicus animals also have the ability to travel the long distances for forage and water.  The other factor that cannot be discounted is the Bos indicus female’s ability to regulate birth weight.  This allows these cows to be managed in very extensive conditions left to survive on their own.  Herds in the Northern Territory of Australia can exceed 100,000 head with mustering, or gathering, only happening once or twice per year to sort off and sell the progeny.  Replacement heifers are retained in almost all herds so that there is an inherent selection for cattle suited and adapted to their environment.  In most of these herds, the conditions are so tough that a 50% calf crop is considered acceptable.  However, selection for fertility and efficiency are primary selection criteria to help improve on those numbers.  Dr. Peter Barnard, a leading economist for Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA), stated that a 1% increase in percent calf crop weaned, across all breeders, could add more than one billion dollars to the Australian beef industry.   There is even ongoing research for improved fixed time AI protocols that can hopefully be used in these large herds to increase pregnancy rate and reduce the number of cows that bulls must cover, similar to large programs being run in Brazil and Argentina.

The size of these operations allow for a wide variety of marketing avenues.  Many breeders are not focused on one single marketing channel, but rather many channels that allow the producer to select which market will net the most dollars depending on environmental and market value conditions.  These large breeders can export cattle live, or harvest cattle for a wide range of markets.  In good years, with plenty of grass, these calves can be grass finished to meet Japanese markets or in tough years, the cattle can be sold immediately.  Small breeders can use the store sales, similar to our sale barns, to access stockers, feeders, and packers willing to take their cattle through the next phase of production.

The important thing about Australian beef producers is that most make their living off the land.  Managing these vast amounts of land and the large numbers of cattle is definitely a full time job.  These producers are sound businessmen and cattlemen that manage risk, manage loss, and work diligently to improve their efficiencies and hopefully their bottom lines.  As the cattle numbers continue to grow and research allows for greater efficiency, Australian beef producers will continue to lead the charge in feeding beef to the world.

Brahman Crossbred Performance in Multiple Beef Industry Segments

David Riley

Department of Animal Science
Texas A&M University


Brahman crossbred cows comprise a large portion of the U.S. cow-calf industry, producing calves of generally ¼ or less Brahman inheritance.  Brahman cattle are well-adapted to conditions across the Southern United States.  Some calves are managed as stockers in the South and some are fed in South Texas or Southern Arizona, but the majority of Southern cattle enter the stocker and feeder segments on the Great Plains.  The obvious environmental differences between that region and the South are climatic and nutritional.  Climatic differences are seasonal, as temperatures greatly differ in fall, winter, and spring of most years; humidity is generally lower for most of the year in the Southern Great Plains region than for the Southeastern United States but similar to South-central or Southwestern regions.  The nutritional and social world of these Southern calves changes completely in conjunction with long-distance transportation.  This results in enormous stress associated with the demand to shift from living and growing in an environment they to which they are well-suited (especially for calves with ½ or more Brahman background), to an environment to which they are not well-adapted.  This unusual combination of requirements surely has no equal in the natural world.  After completing this feeding process and conversion to product, there is equal market competition with beef from animals not subjected to this routine.  It is not surprising that there are difficulties encountered by the calves in this very un-natural process.  The purpose of this review is to examine experimental results associated with performance of Brahman crossbreds in multiple environments, that is, in the Southern cow-calf environment and in the stocker and feeder segments, as well as their carcass and end product traits.  The way Brahman crossbred animals were produced may dramatically influence experimental results for many traits.  The presence of maternal heterosis (dependent upon the cross) will greatly affect performance of ¾ Brahman calves.  Probably of greater importance is the fact that calves produced from matings of Brahman bulls to Bos taurus cows are much heavier at birth than calves produced by reciprocal matings; we are accumulating research evidence of this difference for other traits.


Brahman Crossbred Cows in the Southern United States


The Bos indicus ancestors of the Brahman breed were originally imported and used in the Southern United States (and in similar or harsher areas around the world) because of their adaptation to the extreme conditions characteristic of the region.  The ability to survive and reproduce in harsh tropical and subtropical conditions was almost certainly the initial reason that the Brahman breed became an important part of the U.S. beef production system.  There is ample research that documents the ability of Brahman purebred and crossbred cattle to live and perform in such subtropical conditions.  Brahman cattle have the ability to maintain lower body temperatures and respiration rates under heat duress; they produce less heat than Bos taurus cattle, and may be better able to dissipate that heat.  They cope better with parasites such as ticks and horn flies than most cattle of European origin.  Brahman and Brahman crosses have been documented with better performance in a variety of traits including a superior ability to minimize the toxic effects of grazing certain fescue varieties in the upper South.  Adaptation will continue to be of great importance in beef production.


Almost as important as adaptation today is Brahman contribution to heterosis.  Heterosis is the difference between averages of crossbreds and straightbreds for a trait.  Substantial levels of heterosis have been experimentally documented for almost all traits of relevance for beef production for Brahman crosses in multiple research settings.  Brahman-Bos taurus levels of heterosis are generally much larger than heterosis in crosses of Bos taurus breeds.  This heterosis is especially effective for improving traits that are not easily influenced by selection, including critical reproductive traits of cows.  Every crossbreeding study in the Southern United States that has involved Brahman has reported tremendous superiority of Brahman crossbred cows.  These have included estimates of heterosis for traits like calving rate or weaning rate from 10 to 45% of the weighted straightbred average.  Brahman crossbreds have also been highly productive on in colder regions.  They have ranked at or near the best for calving rates, weaning rates, weaning weights of their calves and weaning weight per cow exposed to breeding in the GermPlasm Evaluation (GPE) multi-year multi-cycle project in Nebraska (Cundiff, 2005).  Excellent performance of F1 Brahman-British cows has been documented in Alberta (Peters and Slen, 1967).


In Florida, an experimental cow herd was built using straightbreds and crossbreds of Brahman, Angus, and Romosinuano (Criollo Bos taurus breed).  These cows were born from 2002 through 2005 and were then evaluated through 2010.  F1 cows (reciprocal crosses included) were bred to bulls that were of the third breed; straightbred cows of each breed were divided into 2 groups and bred to bulls of the other 2 breeds.  Table 1 documents the superior calving rates and weaning rates of the F1 Brahman-Angus and Brahman-Romosinuano (this is a popular South American cross because of the reputation for high fertility) cows in this project.  Estimates of heterosis were 22% and 16% for Brahman-Angus and Brahman-Romosinuano, respectively, for weaning rate (Table 1).  This work extended the confirmation of this hybrid advantage to Brahman crossed with Criollo cattle—Brahman had previously been documented as having high levels of heterosis with every other evaluated Bos taurus breedtype.


Crossbred Brahman cows excelled in performance on the harsh conditions presented by endophyte-infected tall fescue.  In the work of Brown et al. (2005) Brahman-Angus cows (reciprocal crosses included) grazing bermudagrass had calving rate 13% greater than the purebred average; the corresponding estimate for cows grazing endophyte-infected tall fescue was 49% greater than the purebred average.  It seems (particularly in this case) that the severity of the environment appears to augment the effects of heterosis.


The advantages in heterosis and adaptation offered by Brahman crossbred cows are too big to ignore in the Southern United States.  These advantages support their widespread use throughout the that region.  Approximately 35 to 40% of the calves that enter the U.S. beef production chain have some Brahman background.  This large fraction is notable considering market pressure against calves with visible Brahman background (Barham and Troxel, 2007); however, as crosses with Angus (F1 Brahman Angus and ¼ Brahman ¾ Angus) sale price per hundred lb was very high relative to other crossbred groups (Troxel and Barham, 2012).




                There are at least 3 major stressors for cattle moved from the Southeastern United States to the Great Plains for stocker and feedlot phases.  Those include weaning, long-haul transportation, and the potential for large change (decrease) in ambient temperatures.  Many of the cattle moved from the South or Southeast to the Great Plains are freshly weaned in the fall of the year and are consequently very susceptible to health problems, exacerbated by the long transport and the colder weather encountered after arrival.  Tropical adaptation that is an advantage in the South becomes a detriment on the Great Plains through the winter.  Cattle of any breed or type would find these a challenging set of scenarios.


Brahman F1 steers were heavier than all other steers in Florida at weaning at 7 months of age; they also gained more in the 21 to 35 day period immediately after weaning compared to purebred Brahman and Angus (Table 2; Coleman et al., 2012).  Heterosis for ADG in this period was enormous (64%, Table 3).  These steers were shipped each year to a research location in Central Oklahoma.  F1 Brahman steers had greater shrink on that 24-hour ride than the other breed groups and unfavorable heterosis for shrink (Table 2), but they had greater daily gain in the 28 days after arrival in Oklahoma (relative to receiving weight), with heterosis of 43% (Table 3).  This large estimate may in part represent recovery of water lost in transit.  There was no death loss during transportation and the receiving period.   These steers were not commingled with steers from other locations, which may have helped minimize potential problems.


Brahman on Winter Pasture


Among those steers (Coleman et al., 2012), ADG of F1 Brahman-Angus steers grazing winter wheat did not differ from that of Angus steers (Table 2).  Brahman-Angus heterosis was 11% (0.2 lb) for ADG during this phase (Table 3).  These steers grazed wheat from November through May; the lower ADG of straightbred Brahman and Romosinuano and F1 Brahman-Romosinuano probably is due in part to their inability to cope well with cold weather, since each of these breed groups would be expected to have minimal adaptation to winter conditions of temperate areas.  Straightbred Brahman steers had lower ADG than F1 Brahman-Angus, F1 Brahman-Tuli (African Bos taurus breed), and ¼ Brahman ¼ Hereford ½ Simmental steers on winter pastures in Oklahoma and Texas (Rouquette et al., 2005); ADG of F1 Brahman-Angus steers and ¼ Brahman ¼ Hereford ½ Simmental steers did not differ (Table 4).  Ferrell et al. (2006) evaluated steers with fractions of 0, ¼, ½, and ¾ Brahman inheritance in Nebraska; the complementary fraction within each group of steers was MARC III composite (¾ British ¼ Continental).  These steers were produced by artificial insemination of MARC III cows and F1 Brahman-MARC III cows to Brahman bulls (½ and ¾ Brahman steers) and F1 Brahman-MARC III cows bred to MARC III bulls (¼ Brahman steers).  Steers were fed either bromegrass hay (as a low-gain, forage-based diet) or corn silage (as a high-gain, forage-based diet) in a 119-day growing period in dry lot in order to measure intake.  Dry matter intake, crude protein intake, metabolizable energy intake (metabolizable energy is that energy available for maintenance or growth above that required to digest the source from which it was obtained), and ADG of ½ Brahman steers were highest but did not differ from MARC III steers (Table 5).  There were no breed group differences in these intakes per pound of gain; that is steers with different fractions of Brahman background responded to these different growing diets similarly.  These steers were evaluated in winter, which may have influenced results.


Brahman in Feedlot




In the evaluation of Florida steers, the feedlot phase occurred from May through September in Oklahoma; summers on the Great Plains often have high temperatures.  Straightbred Brahman had lower ADG in the feedlot phase than all other breed groups (Table 2), which were similar to each other (Coleman et al., 2012).  Brahman-Angus heterosis for ADG was 14% (0.26 lb, Table 3).  Feedlot ADG of F1 Brahman-Angus steers did not differ from ¼ Brahman ¼ Hereford ½ Simmental steers (Table 4); these steers were fed during Texas Panhandle summer conditions (Rouquette et al., 2005).  Huffman et al. (1990) reported the highest ADG for Angus steers, followed by ¾ Brahman, ½ Brahman, and ¼ Brahman steers (Table 6).  Pringle et al. (1997) evaluated steers with fractions 0, ¼, ⅜, ½, ¾, and 1 Brahman (with Angus as the complementary fraction).  Days of feeding to reach target backfat end points were lowest for straight Angus, ¼, and ⅜ Brahman steers (Table 7).  Steers in both those studies (Huffman et al., 1990; Pringle et al., 1997) were fed in Florida.  Sherbeck et al. (1995) reported the highest ADG for Hereford steers as compared to ¼ Brahman ¾ Hereford and ½ Brahman ½ Hereford that were fed in Eastern Colorado (Table 8).


Steers from Cycle V of GPE were evaluated to assess the different aspects of gain while being fed a high concentrate diet (Ferrell and Jenkins, 1998).  F1 steers sired by Brahman, Angus, Hereford, Boran, and Tuli sires and out of MARC III cows were assigned to one of 3 groups:  1) an initial (prior to test) slaughter group, in order to facilitate regression estimates of various types of gain; 2) a limit-fed group; and 3) a group fed ad libitum.  Table 9 shows means for intake and gain by breed group for these steers.  Among the steers in the limit-fed group, Angus and Hereford F1 steers had greater energy gain than the Brahman F1 steers.  In the ad libitum group, however, there were no differences in energy gain among these 3 breed groups; all were greater than Boran and Tuli F1 steers.  There were no differences for carcass traits within breed and feeding group combinations.  Angus F1 steers had greater carcass weight, backfat, and yield grades than Brahman and Hereford (Table 10).  Quality grades were lower for Brahman F1 steers, but ribeye area was similar for these 3 breed groups.  At low intakes, Brahman F1 steers organ weights were lower than Angus F1 steers, but were similar at high intakes, indicating greater adaptability or responsiveness to increased feed intake than Angus F1 steers.  Brahman F1 steers had greater fasting heat production (that is, independent of the heat production associated with digestion) than Angus, and consequently they required a higher metabolizable energy intake for maintenance.   Brahman F1 steers had the highest efficiency of use of metabolizable energy for gain; Angus had the lowest.  This work did not support the notion that Brahman cattle have lower energy requirements for maintenance than Bos taurus cattle under those conditions.  The influence of the winter feeding conditions of this project was not assessed.  Brahman F1 steers seemed to respond and gain to a greater extent than the Bos taurus steers when permitted the higher intake associated with ad libitum feeding.




Intake of straightbred Brahman cattle has been reported to be low relative to other breeds or crosses (e.g., Elzo et al., 2009; Table 11); intake of F1 Brahman cattle has often been reported to be high relative to other groups.  Dry matter intake means of F1 Brahman-Angus and Angus were essentially the same (Table 2, Coleman et al., 2012).  F1 Brahman-Angus and ¾ Brahman ¼ Angus steers had greater dry matter intake than Angus (Table 6; Huffman et al., 1990); these steers were fed in Florida under conditions which may have depressed the appetites of straightbred Angus steers.  Among steers and heifers fed in North Florida, Elzo et al. (2009) reported intake means of animals grouped by residual feed intake (RFI) values.  Residual feed intake is daily dry matter intake of an animal adjusted to the average size (metabolic weight) and growth rate (ADG) of cattle evaluated together; low (that is, negative values, since by definition the mean RFI = 0) RFI values are considered to be favorable.  Among those calves (from the work of Elzo et al., 2009) that were in the high RFI group (that is, inefficient) and the medium RFI group, F1 Brahman-Angus, ⅜ Brahman ⅝ Angus and ¼ Brahman ¾ Angus all had higher daily intake than Angus (Table 11).  However, the breed group daily intake differences were much lower among the low RFI (efficient) group of calves.  In their comparison of F1 steers, Ferrell and Jenkins (1998) reported greater F1 Angus-MARC III intake (dry matter and metabolizable energy) than that of F1 Brahman-MARC III steers when fed ad libitum; Brahman F1 steer intake did not differ from F1 Hereford-MARC III intake (Table 9).  They reported no breed differences when steers were limit-fed.  Ferrell et al. (2006) reported that dry matter intake, crude protein intake, and metabolizable energy intake of F1 Brahman-MARC III steers and MARC III steers did not differ in a growing phase when fed a high roughage diet or when fed a high concentrate feed diet; these were higher than ¼ Brahman and Brahman steers (Table 5).  Estimates of heritability for intake or RFI are as large as those for weight traits, which are easily altered with selection.  Selective improvement of efficiency by lowering RFI of steers would almost certainly result in decreased intake in their half siblings that will become the cows on pasture in the South (C. L. Ferrell, J. O. Sanders, personal communication).  This seems counter to the best interests of a producing cow in order to conceive, maintain pregnancy, and perform maternally.  Forbes et al. (1998) reported superior intakes of F1 Brahman cows on pasture relative to other breed types.  There may be heterosis for intake on pasture or for the efficient utilization of nutrients from such a forage diet.  There may be heterosis for intake in steers fed a high concentrate diet; but it was not detected in Brahman-Angus, Brahman-Romosinuano, or Angus-Romosinuano (Coleman et al., 2012).


Brahman Carcass Traits


In U.S. research trials (Tables 2, 4-8, 10, 12, 13), Brahman F1 steers have generally had better than average carcass traits related to quantity (carcass weight, dressing percentage, backfat thickness, ribeye area, and yield grade; of course under the assumption that less fat is desirable), but generally lower values for traits related to quality (marbling score, Warner-Bratzler shear force, trained sensory evaluation of tenderness).  Results of Brahman (and other Bos indicus breeds) across the duration of the GPE cycles in Nebraska were similar (Wheeler et al., 2005).  Experimental results have indicated that ¼ Brahman steers did not differ from straightbred Bos taurus for marbling score/quality grade or Warner-Bratzler shear force/sensory panel tenderness (Tables 5, 6).  Exceptions to this included the results (Tables 7 and 8) of Sherbeck et al. (1995) and Pringle et al. (1997).  However, Pringle et al. (1997) reported no difference between quality grades of ¼ Brahman and Angus groups, as well as no marbling score differences of F1 Brahman-Angus and straightbred Angus steers.  No interaction of sire breed and dam breed (representative of breed type) was detected in analyses of marbling score, Warner-Bratzler shear force, and sensory panel tenderness (Riley et al., 2012), but Brahman sire breed means were lower than Angus and Romosinuano for these traits (Table 12).  Results from one of the largest comparisons of steers with differing backgrounds of Brahman (Elzo et al., 2012) indicated no difference in tenderness of steaks from ¼ Brahman, F1 Brahman-Angus, and Angus steers, but Warner-Brazler shear forces of Angus were slightly better than either.  All breed groups with any proportion Brahman had lower marbling scores than Angus steers (Table 13).  The differences between straightbred Brahman and Bos taurus shear force are real and confirmed by most research to date.  Much of the research results involving F1 Brahman, and really almost all of the ¼ Brahman results (especially when carcasses were electrically-stimulated) reported Warner-Bratzler shear force averages of 10 lb or less, which fits into at least a category of ‘slightly tender’ (see Platter et al., [2005]; Boleman et al. [1997] and Miller et al. [2001] also presented different assessments of consumer acceptability and Warner-Bratzler shear force values in which this threshold of 10 lb appears consistent).  Within GPE, F1 Brahman steers had higher Warner-Bratzler shear force and lower sensory panel tenderness means than F1 Hereford-Angus, F1 Hereford-MARC III, and F1 Angus-MARC III, and were more variable (Wheeler et al., 2005).  Marbling score of crossbred Brahman steers has been consistently reported to be lower than Angus or British crossbreds.  There appears to be substantial additive genetic variation to permit selective improvement of marbling score in the Brahman breed (Smith et al., 2009).





  1. Brahman crossbred cows continue to be used in the Southern United States because of superior adaptability to rough conditions and the high levels of heterosis for most traits (but especially reproductive traits) as crosses with really any Bos taurus breed.
  2. The movement of Brahman crossbred calves from the South to the Great Plains represents an enormous stress on these animals.  Calves with as much as ½ Brahman background appear to grow and perform very well in the stocker and feeder phases on the Great Plains, especially during the summer.  Stocker programs in the South may be advantageous for cattle to recover from the stress of weaning and gain weight, but also to avoid spending winter on the Great Plains.  Crossbreds with more than ½ Brahman would likely perform better in feedlots in areas with milder winters, e.g., South Texas or Southern Arizona.
  3. After feeding, Brahman crossbred carcasses generally have very good values for traits related to quantity of beef.  Most research has documented lower marbling scores (as well as all fat content) and therefore quality grades of carcasses from Brahman crossbreds.  There appear to be selective opportunities to improve marbling score in the Brahman breed, should that become an appropriate goal.
  4. Steers of ¼ Brahman inheritance and to a lesser extent, F1 Brahman steers, are the most likely Brahman crossbreds to enter the conventional beef production process, especially the feedlot segment on the Great Plains.  Cattle that are ¼ Brahman will qualify for many premium carcass programs.  There is substantial research that indicates that both types will perform acceptably for most traits of economic importance.
  5. Selection for reduced RFI as a method of improving efficiency during the feedlot stage is discouraged within the breed, as anything that would suppress intake of Brahman crossbred cows on pasture conditions would be undesirable.




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Brown, M. A., A. H. Brown, Jr., and B. A. Sandelin.  2005.  Genotype × environment interactions in Brahman, Angus, and reciprocal cross cows and their calves.  Pages 182 to 197 in:  A Compilation of Research Results Involving Tropically Adapted Beef Cattle Breeds.  Southern Coop. Series Bull. 405.  http://www.lsuagcenter.com/en/crops_livestock/livestock/beef_cattle/breeding_genetics/tropical+breeds.htm.

Coleman, S. W., C. C. Chase, Jr., W. A. Phillips, D. G. Riley, and T. A. Olson.  2012.  Evaluation of tropically adapted straightbred and crossbred cattle:  Postweaning gain and feed efficiency when finished in a temperate climate.  J. Anim. Sci.  In press.

Cundiff, L. V.  2005.  Performance of tropically adapted breeds in a temperate environment:  Calving, growth, reproduction and maternal traits.  Pages 131 to 143 in:  A Compilation of Research Results Involving Tropically Adapted Beef Cattle Breeds.  Southern Coop. Series Bull. 405.  http://www.lsuagcenter.com/en/crops_livestock/livestock/beef_cattle/breeding_genetics/tropical+breeds.htm.

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Elzo, M. A., D. G. Riley, G. R. Hansen, D. D. Johnson, R. O. Myer, S. W. Coleman, C. C. Chase, J. G. Wasdin, and J. D. Driver.  2009.  Effect of breed composition on phenotypic residual feed intake and growth in Angus, Brahman, and Angus × Brahman crossbred cattle.  J. Anim. Sci.  87:3877–3886.

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Ferrell, C. L., and T. G. Jenkins.  1998.  Body composition and energy utilization by steers of diverse genotypes fed a high-concentrate during the finishing period:  II.  Angus, Boran, Brahman, Hereford, and Tuli sires.  J. Anim. Sci.  76:647–657.

Forbes, T. D. A., F. M. Rouquette, Jr., and J. W. Holloway.  1998.  Comparisons among Tuli-, Brahman-, and Angus-sired heifers:  intake, digesta kinetics, and grazing behavior.  J. Anim. Sci.  76:220–227.

Huffman, R. D., S. E. Williams, D. D. Hargrove, D. D. Johnson, and T. T. Marshall.  1990.  Effects of percentage Brahman and Angus breeding, age-season of feeding and slaughter end point on feedlot performance and carcass characteristics.  J. Anim. Sci.  68:2243–2252.

Miller, M. F., M. A. Carr, C. B. Ramsey, K. L. Crockett, and L. C. Hoover. 2001. Consumer thresholds for establishing the value of beef tenderness. J. Anim. Sci. 79:3062–3068.

Peters, H. F., and S. B. Slen.  1967.  Brahman-British beef cattle crosses in Canada.  I.  Weaned calf production under range conditions.  Can. J. Anim. Sci.  47:145–151.

Platter, W. J., J. D. Tatum, K. E. Belk, S. R. Koontz, P. L. Chapman, and G. C. Smith. 2005. Effects of marbling and shear force on consumers’ willingness to pay for beef strip loin steaks.  J. Anim. Sci. 83:890–899.

Pringle, T. D., S. E. Williams, B. S. Lamb, D. D. Johnson, and R. L. West.  1997.  Carcass characteristics, the calpain proteinase system, and aged tenderness of Angus and Brahman crossbred steers.  J. Anim. Sci.  75:2955–2961.

Riley, D. G., C. C. Chase, Jr., S. W. Coleman, W. A. Phillips, M. F. Miller, J. C. Brooks, D. D. Johnson, and    T. A. Olson.  2012.  Genetic effects on carcass quantity, quality, and palatability traits in straightbred and crossbred Romosinuano steers.  J. Anim. Sci.  In press.

Rouquette, F. M., Jr., J. J. Cleere, C. R. Long, and R. D. Randel.  2005.  Birth to harvest attributes of Brahman and Brahman-influenced steers.  Pages 40 to 59 in:  A Compilation of Research Results Involving Tropically Adapted Beef Cattle Breeds.  Southern Cooperative Series Bulletin 405.  http://www.lsuagcenter.com/en/crops_livestock/livestock/beef_cattle/breeding_genetics/tropical+breeds.htm.

Sherbeck, J. A., J. D. Tatum, T. G. Field, J. B. Morgan, and G. C. Smith.  1995.  Feedlot performance, carcass traits, and palatability traits of Hereford and Hereford x Brahman steers.  J. Anim. Sci.  73:3613–3620.

Smith, T., J. D. Domingue, J. C. Paschal, D. E. Franke, T. D. Bidner, and G. Whipple.  2007.  Genetic parameters for growth and carcass traits of Brahman steers.  J. Anim. Sci.  85:1377–1384.

Troxel, T. R., and B. L. Barham.  2012.  Phenotypic expression and management factors affecting the selling price of feeder cattle sold at Arkansas livestock auctions.  Prof. Anim. Sci.  28:64–72.

Wheeler, T. L., S. D. Shackelford, and M. Koohmaraie.  2005.  Carcass and meat traits of tropically adapted breeds evaluated at the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center.  Pages 154 to 161 in:  A Compilation of Research Results Involving Tropically Adapted Beef Cattle Breeds.  Southern Coop. Series Bull. 405.  http://www.lsuagcenter.com/en/crops_livestock/livestock/beef_cattle/breeding_genetics/tropical+breeds.htm.


Table 1.  Brahman, Angus, and Romosinuano straightbred and crossbred cow reproductive traits



Pregnancy rate

Calving rate

Weaning rate
































0.15 (18%)

0.15 (19%)

0.17 (22%)


0.10 (13%)

0.10 (13%)

0.12 (16%)


1Cows were born from 2002 to 2005 and were first exposed to bulls as yearlings.  First calves as 2-year olds not included in these results.  Records through 2010 were included in these results.

2Cows were exposed to bulls annually:  F1 cows were exposed to bulls of the 3rd breed.  Straightbred cows of each breed were exposed in approximately equal numbers to bulls of the other 2 breeds.

3Reciprocal F1 cows combined into single groups.

4Heterosis was not detected for Romosinuano-Angus cows for these traits.

5Numbers represent numbers of cows in each breed group for palpation.  Cows in excess of 40 for each breed group were sold as bred 3-year olds.

6Cows were culled after 2 failures to wean a calf.



Table 2.  Growth of straightbred and F1 steers weaned in Florida and transported to Oklahoma








N     48     38     74     77   113   118
Prewean ADG, lb/day       1.9       1.7       1.7       2.0       2.0       1.8
Weaning BW, lb   518   441   465   537   524   487
Postwean recovery
ADG, lb/d (21 to 35 d)       0.8       0.7       0.6       1.2       0.9       0.9
Shipping BW, lb   545   465   483   579   555   518
Ship loss, %       8.5       9.5       8.7       9.1       8.7       9.4
Receiving ADG, lb/day (28 d)       0.4       1.0       0.4       1.0       0.5       0.5
Wheat pasture
Final BW, lb   811   853   784   951   864   872
ADG, lb/d       1.5       2.1       1.7       2.0       1.7       2.0
Final BW, lb 1045 1100 1062 1217 1121 1159
ADG, lb/d       1.8       2.1       2.1       2.2       2.1       2.2
Overall ADG, lb/day (wean to final)       1.4       1.9       1.6       1.9       1.7       1.8
N     27     30     29     57     61     57
DMI, lb/d     17.5     18.9     18.7     19.2     18.0     19.5
Feed:Gain       7.75       8.26       7.58       7.91       7.84       7.97
Residual feed intake     –0.37       0.66     –0.01     –0.20     –0.44       0.60
N     48     38     72     79   109   118
Carcass wt, lb   657   695   671   778   721     738
Dressing percentage     61.5     61.5     61.5     63.1     62.1     62.5
Fat thickness, in       0.42       0.63       0.41       0.63       0.48       0.52
Ribeye area, in2     11.1     12.1     12.0     12.4     12     12.6
Ribeye area, in2/100 lb carcass       1.70       1.75       1.81       1.61       1.68       1.72
Yield grade       2.9       3.3       2.7       3.5       3.2       3.1


1Means of F1 steers include reciprocal crosses.

2Postwean recovery period was from 21 to 35 d.  Steers were weaned at average of 7 months of age.

3Steers were weighed immediately prior to loading in Florida and immediately after unloading in Oklahoma.  Steers were kept in a grass paddock with access to feed for the 28-day receiving period.

4Steers grazed wheat pasture for an average of 120 days.

5A subset of steers (n = 90) from all breed groups was evaluated for intake and efficiency each year (2003, 2004, 2005) using Calan feeding system.

6Steers were randomly assigned to feeding periods which averaged 101, 129, and 157 days (summer feeding), and were slaughtered commercially in the Texas Panhandle.

7Adapted from Coleman et al. (2012) and Riley et al. (2012).



Table 3.  Estimates of heterosis, direct and maternal breed effects for steer traits














Prewean ADG, lb/day     0.20 11   0.13   7.2   0.13     7.8
Wean BW, lb   57 12 33   6.7 35     7.8
Postwean recovery ADG, lb/day     0.46 63.6   0.29   46
Shipping BW, lb   75 14.8 39.7   7.7 44     9.3
Ship loss, lb     8.4 18.5   5.5 12.5   6.2   14.4
Arrival BW, lb   66.1 14.4 35.3   7.5 37.5     8.7
Receive ADG, lb/day     0.29 42.6   0.15 42.4 –0.20 –30
Winter wheat
Initial BW, lb   81.6 15.5 44.1   8.4 35.3     7.1
Final BW, lb 119.1 14.3 66.1   8.3 52.9     6.5
ADG, lb/day     0.20 11   0.13   8.3   0.07     3.4
Final BW, lb   29.5 13.4 66.1   6.3 77.2     7.1
ADG, lb/d     0.26 13.6
Overall  ADG, lb/day     0.26 16.1   0.13   8.6   0.11     6.3
Feed:Gain     8.17 14.1
Carcass wt, lb 102 15.1 57   8.6 56     8.1
Dressing percentage     1.7   2.7   1.1     1.7
Fat thickness, in     0.10 19.9   0.06 15.6
Ribeye area, in2     0.82   7.1   0.39   3.3   0.56     5
Ribeye area, in2 / 100 lb  –0.11 –6.6 –0.08 –4.3 –0.06   –3
Yield grade     0.4 13.6   0.3   9.5


1Adapted from Coleman et al. (2012).  Trait details correspond to those described in Table 1.

2Empty cells indicate that effects were not statistically different from 0.

3Traits from Table 2 are omitted here if no heterosis was detected.

4Adapted from Coleman et al. (2012) and Riley et al. (2012).



Table 4.  Growth and carcass traits of Brahman straightbred and crossbred steers


  ¼ Brahman ¼ Hereford

½ Simmental

½ Brahman

½  Angus

½ Brahman

½ Tuli

N   47   35   37   30
ADG winter, lb/day     2.5     2.4     2.0     1.7
ADG feedlot, lb/day     3.2     3.4     2.6     2.9
Carcass wt, lb 889 848 685 672
Backfat, in     0.37     0.48     0.33     0.25
Ribeye area, in2   14   13.5   12.3   11.4
Yield grade     2.78     3.06     2.44     2.47
Marbling score 366 392 367 342
Shear force, lb     7.9     8.1     8.1   10.3
Tenderness score     6.0     5.8     6.0     5.3


1Weaned steers grazed cool-season annuals in East Texas or Central Oklahoma from December to mid-May.

2Steers were commercially-fed in the Texas Panhandle in the summers of 1993 and 1994 to a target of 0.4 inches of backfat.

3Marbling score 300 to 399 = Select.

4Tenderness scores evaluated by a trained panel using values from 1 (extremely tough) to 8 (extremely tender).

5Adapted from Rouquette et al. (2005).



Table 5.  Comparison of intake, growth, and carcass traits of steers with different fractions of Brahman inheritance in Nebraska


Fraction of Brahman inheritance










Growing period
Initial weight, lb   602   562   708   604
Final weight, lb   796   717   906   747
ADG, lb/day       1.6       1.3       1.7       1.2
Dry matter intake lb/day     16.1     13.7     17.6     14.6
Crude protein intake, lb/day       1.7       1.5        1.9       1.6
Metabolizable energy intake, Mcal/day     18.1     15.2     19.7     16.2
DMI/gain lb/lb     13.2     13.9     13.2     19.2
Crude protein intake/gain, lb/lb       1.3       1.4       1.4       1.9
Metabolizable energy intake/gain lb/lb     30.8     32.5     31     44.3
Residual ADG     –0.02       0.03       0.02     –0.03
Residual metabolizable energy intake       0.46     –0.44     –0.03     –0.13
Finishing period
Initial weight, lb   796   717   906   747
Final weight, lb 1241 1213 1268 1246
Days to finish   155   196   134   199
ADG, lb/day       2.9       2.6       2.6       2.6
Dry matter intake lb/day     18.5     17.0     18.5     15.0
Crude protein intake, lb/day       2.2       2.0       2.2       1.8
Metabolizable energy intake, Mcal/day     26     23.8     25.9     21
Dry matter intake/gain lb/lb       6.5       6.6       7.1       5.9
Crude protein intake/gain lb/lb       0.75       0.74       0.82       0.68
Metabolizable energy intake/gain lb/lb     20.1     20.5     21.9     18.3
Residual ADG       0.04     –0.05     –0.01       0.05
Residual metabolizable energy intake       0.46     –0.44     –0.03     –0.13
Final wt, lb 1243 1213 1268 1248
Carcass wt, lb   750   745   792   769
Dressing percentage     60.4     61.6     62.3     61.6
Marbling score   470   490   390   364
Quality grade     16.2     16.2     15     14.3
Fat thickness, in       0.40       0.59       0.51       0.57
Adjusted fat thickness, in       0.35       0.51       0.43       0.53
Ribeye area, in2     12.4     11.5     12.2     11.8
Yield grade       2.86       3.45       3.38       3.29


1The complementary fraction of steers in each breed group was MARC III (¾ British ¼ Continental).

2Steers were fed through the winter either diets of bromegrass hay or corn silage during the growing period of 119 days.

3Steers were fed to a target body weight of 1,235 lb.

4Marbling score:  Slight = 300; Small = 400; Modest = 500.

5Quality grade:  Selecto = 14, Select+ = 15, Choice– = 16.

6Adapted from Ferrell et al. (2006).

Table 6.  Growth, efficiency, and carcass means for steers of different fractions of Brahman inheritance


Fraction of Brahman inheritance





N     41     42     41     41
Days on feed   121   103   102   107
Slaughter wt, lb 1012   990 1087 1100
ADG, lb/day       3.5       3.6       3.9       3.9
Dry matter intake, lb/day     19.4     19.4     21.6     21.8
Feed:Gain       5.6       5.4       5.6       5.6
N     31     32     31     31
Carcass wt, lb   637   624   683   701
Dressing percentage     63     62     62.6     63.4
Ribeye area, in2     11.6     10.9     11.3     11.6
Ribeye area, in2/100 lb       1.83       1.76       1.69       1.69
Yield grade       2.8       3       3.1       3.1
Marbling score   Sm13   Sm11   Sl70   Sl30
% Choice     55     66     29       7
% Select     45     34     65     74
% Standard       0       0       6     19


1The complementary fraction of breed inheritance was Angus.

2Steers were either fed as calves or grazed winter pastures until June and were then fed in Florida in 1985 and 1986.  There were fed to 2 backfat end point targets: 0.4 or 0.6 in.  Intake was assessed using the Calan system.  No breed by age-season interactions detected.

3Adapted from Huffman et al.  (1990).



Table 7.  Growth and carcass traits for steers with different fractions of Brahman inheritance


Fraction of Brahman inheritance







N   11   13   10   12   12   11
Days on feed 156 156 157 172 168 202
Carcass wt, lb 692 728 679 739 697 712
Dressing percentage   60.7   61.8   60.5   63.1   61.9   62.7
Fat thickness, in     0.47     0.51     0.39     0.43     0.47     0.39
Ribeye area, in2   12.4   11.6   11.3   12.4   11.3   73
Ribeye area, in2/100 lb     1.83     1.62     1.69     1.69     1.62     1.62
Yield grade     2.8     3.2     2.8     2.8     3.1     3
Marbling score 436 418 416 366 354 315
Quality grade 607 594 595 556 547 521
% Choice   82   54   60   25   17     9
% Select   18   46   40   58   58   64
% Standard     0     0     0   17   25   27
Shear force (14 days aging), lb     9.5   11.0     9.3   10.4   10.6   13.4
Tenderness     5.9     5.3     6.1     5.6     5.5     4.4
Connective tissue amount     6.1     5.9     6.3     6     6     5


1The complementary fraction of inheritance in these steers was Angus.

2Steers grazed winter pastures until approximately 1 year of age.  They were contract fed in Florida through the winter to backfat end points of either 0.4 or 0.6 inch and slaughtered at University of Florida facilities.

3Marbling score:  Slight = 300 to 399; Small = 400 to 499.

4Quality grade:  Select– = 500 to 549; Select+ = 550 to 599; Choice– = 600 to 633.

5Detectable amount of connective tissue and tenderness scores evaluated by a trained  panel using values from 1 (extremely tough; abundant amount) to 8 (none detected, extremely tender).

6Adapted from Pringle et al. (1997).



Table 8.  Growth and carcass traits of steers with different fractions of Brahman inheritance


Fraction of Brahman inheritance




N   77   80   79
ADG, lb/day     4.0     3.5     3.3
Carcass wt, lb 699 703 719
Fat thickness, in     0.45     0.44     0.41
Ribeye area , in2   11.8   12.4   12.4
Yield grade     3.11     2.91     2.92
Marbling score   Sl91   Sl47   Sl45
Shear force,  (6 days aging), lb     7.9     9.0   10.1
Tenderness, (6 days aging)     4.9     4.7     4.1
Shear force,  (18 days aging), lb     6.4     7.3     8.4
Tenderness, (18 days aging)     5.5     5.3     4.8


1The complementary fraction of breed inheritance was Hereford.

2Steers had grazed native Great Plains pasture or had been fed a backgrounding diet in a dry lot; time of year not reported.  Steers (11 or 12 months of age) were fed to 1 of 4 days-on-feed (84, 98, 112, or 126 days) in Eastern Colorado in 1994.  Purebred Hereford were from temperate areas of the United States.  Crossbred Brahman steers were from Texas and Mississippi.

3Adapted from Sherbeck et al. (1995).


Table 9.  Intake and growth on feed of F1 steers


Dry matter intake

Metobolizable energy intake  



lb/(wt0.75 /d)


kcal/(wt0.75 /d)

Days on feed

Initial wt, lb

ADG, lb/d














































Ad libitum














































1Steers were out of MARC III (¾ British ¼ Continental) dams.

2Fed as calves through the winter in Nebraska.

3Adapted from Ferrell and Jenkins (1998).

Table 10.  Carcass traits of F1 steers


Initial slaughter group


Carcass wt, lb

Ribeye area, in

Fat thickness, in

Yield grade

Quality grade







































































Ad libitum




































1Steers were out of MARC III (¾ British ¼ Continental) dams.

2Fed as calves through the winter in Nebraska.  Limit-fed steers were fed approximately 77 kcal ME/lb0.75

3Quality grade:  Standardo = 11, Standard+ = 12, Select– = 13, Selecto = 14, Select+ = 15, Choice– = 16.

4Steers in the initial slaughter group were slaughtered after an adaptation period of 3 months. Steers in the other groups were slaughtered after 140 days on feed.

5Adapted from Ferrell and Jenkins (1998).



Table 11.  Postweaning efficiency traits in steers and heifers with varying fractions of Brahman inheritance


RFI group/fraction Brahman


Gain, lb


Intake, lb/day


High RFI





































Medium RFI











































































1Calves were evaluated in a 70-day trial after 2 weeks of acclimation to procedures in a GrowSafe feeding system.  Calves were an average of 8 months of age and had been weaned for approximately 1 month.

2After adjustment of intake for body weight and ADG (RFI = residual feed intake) during the test period (which was from November through early January), calves were ranked by intake from lowest to highest and divided into

low (RFI < overall mean – 1 standard deviation),

medium (overall mean – 1 standard deviation < RFI < overall mean + 1 standard deviation), and

high (RFI > overall mean + 1 standard deviation) groups.

3Adapted from Elzo et al. (2009).



Table 12.  Sire breed averages for carcass traits of steers produced by crosses of Brahman, Angus, and Romosinuano






Marbling score 360 475 393
% Choice   31   75   46
% Standard   23     5   10
Shear force, lb     9.7     8.6     9.3
Tenderness     5.4     5.8     5.8
Connective tissue amount     6.1     6.5     6.5


1Steers were commercially slaughtered after averages of 101, 129, or 157 days on feed.  All steers previously grazed wheat pasture for an average of 120 days through the winter in Oklahoma.

2Dam breed was also significant as a main effect for these traits and means were similar to these.

3Marbling score:  Slight = 300 to 399; Small = 400 to 499.

4Tenderness scores and detectable amount of connective tissue evaluated by a trained panel using values from 1 (extremely tough; abundant amount) to 8 (extremely tender; none detected).

5Dam breed means were similar to the sire breed means.

6Adapted from Riley et al. (2012).


Table 13.  Carcass traits of steers with different fractions of Brahman inheritance


Fraction of Brahman inheritance







N 216 182 224 341 206 198
Carcass wt, lb 713 753 751 793 756 719
Dressing percentage   61.7   62.4   62.6   63.2   63.2   63.3
WBSF, lb     7.6     7.9     8.1     8.3     8.7     9.2
Tenderness     5.8     5.6     5.5     5.5     5.1     4.6
Connective tissue amount     6.1     6     5.9     5.9     5.5     5.1
Marbling score 446 420 407 394 367 341
Ribeye area, in2   12.6   12.9   12.8   13.2   12.6   12.0
Fat thickness, in     0.51     0.51     0.51     0.51     0.43     0.35


1Fractions of Brahman inheritance reported here are categories—actual fractions were ranges.  The complementary fraction was Angus.

2From 1989 to 1995 steers were fed in a South Texas feedyard.  From 2006 to 2009 they were contract fed in North Florida.  Steers were fed as calves through the winter to a target of 0.5 inch backfat and slaughtered commercially in South Texas.

3Detectable amount of connective tissue and tenderness scores evaluated by a trained  panel using values from 1 (extremely tough; abundant amount) to 6 (none detected) or 8 (extremely tender).

4Marbling score:  Slight = 300 to 399; Small = 400 to 499.

5Adapted from Elzo et al. (2012).


Breeding Drought (Heat) Tolerant Cattle

by Joe C. Paschal

In early August I received a request from the Texas A&M University Department of Animal Science to field some requests for telephone interviews from some radio stations about breeding drought tolerant cattle. One was in San Antonio and the others were regional NPR and CBS affiliates. I had read in the local paper that morning an Associated Press news article out of Des Moines, Iowa entitled “Animals, plants being bred to withstand heat” and there pictured on the front page was my boss, Dr. Ron Gill, looking over his herd of cattle in Wise County, near Boyd, Texas! The article reported on cattle being bred to withstand drought by adding genes from their African (and Indian) cousins who are accustomed to hot weather. It reported that Dr. Gill had incorporated some Beefmaster into his herd and is experimenting with Hotlanders™, a composite developed by the R. A. Brown Ranch in Throckmorton in the 1980s. The Hotlander™ includes Angus/Red Angus, Brahman, Simmental and Senepol (a breed created in the Virgin Islands from crosses of Red Poll from England and N’Dama cattle from Senegal in West Africa almost 200 years ago).

Being an astute guy I put two and two together and realized that the radio interviews were going to be about our breeding drought tolerant cattle, the long history of that in the southern US and, knowing something about Beefmasters (and Hotlanders™ and Senepols), I started making the phone calls. All of those called were polite and the interviews went well (I never heard any on my radio but Dr. Tommy Perkins of Beefmaster Breeders United said the one he listened to did) but it was obvious that all the interviewers were interested in two things – were the cattle researchers doing this because they thought the climate was changing and how were we modifying these cattle genetically?  These questions were never asked directly but I could tell that since the article originated in Iowa and none of the stations had any idea of where Wise County was it was plain that they were wondering why hot climate adapted cattle would be being developed in Iowa. I also emphasized that a hot drought was very different than a cool one and that under no circumstances could any type of beef animal survive a drought unless it had something to eat and drink, no matter how “drought tolerant” it might be!

I started out each interview saying this wasn’t new, that ranchers in the southern US had been using hot climate (not necessarily drought) adapted cattle nearly a hundred years, and that many heat tolerant breeds had been developed within the last 80 years or so and were widely accepted and used in the area. No novel genetic procedures were used except crossbreeding with Bos indicus or Brahman and selection of the crosses for many generations. I also went on to discuss that these cattle, were not only hot climate adapted but had many other attributes to offer over non heat adapted breeds. In addition to being adapted and productive in hot climates these new breeds (Brahman, Santa Gertrudis, Beefmaster, Braford, Brangus, Red Brangus, Simbrah and their crosses) improved beef production across the southern US. The increase in beef production was due to increased resistance or tolerance of internal and external parasites, increased longevity, more durable teeth, higher fertility, improved maternal ability, and faster and more efficient growth of these breeds and crosses in those environments compared to the temperately adapted breeds originally used. Of course this required additional explanations of beef cattle breeding and genetics and the cause and effects of hybrid vigor and were necessary to make the interviewer understand these breeds (including the Hotlander™) were not genetically modified in the sense of the glowing mouse with the jellyfish gene but were carefully bred and selected over generations to provide nutritious beef.

There are a number of breeds around the world adapted to the tropics, the land area between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Tropic of Cancer (or maybe a little further north and south), which represents a significant portion of the Earth suitable for cattle production. These tropically adapted breeds can be divided into two types based on their origin: Bos indicus (probably the greatest number of breeds and the largest number of head) and Bos taurus (cattle in Africa of an intermediate type called “Sanga” and from breeds introduced from Great Britain or continental Europe). Sanga cattle are an intermediate humpless type that probably originated in northeastern Africa over 2,000 years ago and spread south and west. There are numerous African breeds that are included in the Sanga type including Tuli and Africander. Some Sanga cattle, like the Afrikaner, were used in the development of other breeds such as the Bonsmara which was created by Dr. Jan Bonsma in South Africa and is 5/8 Afrikaner and 3/16 Hereford and 3/16 Shorthorn. Some, but not all, of these different tropically adapted breeds have been evaluated by land grant research stations across the southern US and by the USDA Agriculture Research Service in Florida and in Nebraska. The reasons for the interest in these cattle have been primarily for their heat tolerance properties and to see if there are differences between these cattle and the heat tolerant breeds currently used in the US. In most cases the numbers of these cattle are very small and they are not widely used.

Since there were no cattle in the New World, all of the tropically adapted breeds of Central and South America were derived primarily from cattle brought from Spain or from Portugal. Some of the islands in the Caribbean (like the Virgin Islands) were colonized by other countries (like England or Denmark) at some point and their cattle (like the Senepol) influenced by cattle from their homelands. Spain colonized most of the central and South American countries except Brazil which was colonized by Portugal. Spanish cattle were Bos taurus in type and were not tropically adapted (although the Spanish plains can get pretty hot). Portugal had similar cattle but fewer of them, but Portugal also had colonies in India so many of the tropically adapted breeds (Nelore, Indu Brazil, Gyr, etc.), in Brazil owe their origins to the Bos indicus cattle from those Indian colonies. As a result, in Central and South American countries there are many indigenous breeds of tropically adapted cattle of Bos taurus origin as well as Bos indicus. In crossing tropically adapted breeds of Bos taurus origin with nontropically adapted Bos taurus breeds, there is very little or no heterosis or hybrid vigor since the breed origin genetics are too similar.

The main interest in these tropically adapted Bos taurus cattle from either the Western Hemisphere or Africa is to find genetics that convey tropical adaptation without a decline in carcass merit (muscling or cutability but especially high-end marbling) associated with the use of Bos indicus genetics. Most of these breeds are slightly better in crosses for marbling score (Low Select to High Select) but they give up a significant amount of preweaning and postweaning growth. In addition, the breeders of the American breeds of cattle in the US have been selecting their cattle for growth and carcass merit for many generations and most of these new (to the US) tropically adapted breeds have not.  In most cases, like the Hotlander™, those breeds are probably best used in small percentages to convey some hot climate adaptability but used with a healthy dose of other breeds to improve growth and carcass merit.

GENETRUST partners share passion for Brangus cattle, beef industry

Unique alliance strengthens quality, selection, and consistency for established breeding programs.

By Mark Parker

The drive to maximize genetic outcomes for Brangus cattle cut a fresh trail in 2009 when 10 successful registered Brangus operations decided they could be even stronger by working together.

GENETRUST is a unique genetic and marketing alliance that includes Cavender Ranches, Jacksonville, TX; Chimney Rock Cattle Company, Concord, AR; Suhn Cattle Company, Eureka, KS; The Oaks Farm, Newnan, GA; Cross F Cattle Company, Hearne, TX; Genesis Ranch, Columbus, TX; Johnston Farms, Letohatchee, AL; Double W Ranch, McComb, MS; Schmidt Farms, Texarkana, TX; and Draggin’ M Ranch, El Dorado, AR.

Combining genetic resources with the cumulative cattle savvy of more than 100 years in the Brangus business puts GENETRUST on track to offer customers proven, practical and predictable genetics, according to the group’s president Vern Suhn.

“Commercial cattlemen demand — and deserve — more quality, more data and more selection,” he explains. “We concluded that, collectively, we could breed and develop cattle at a higher level and with more efficiency than any of us could do individually. We share a very similar genetic philosophy and we all have a very positive vision and passion for Brangus cattle and for the beef industry.”

Although each of the 10 operations is unique and autonomous, they share a foundation of Brinks Brangus genetics. Suhn and Marketing Director Craig Green guide all mating selections with input from each ranch owner. Along with proven cow families and elite donors, GENETRUST partners own, or have produced, some of the breed’s top sires such as Next Step, LTD, Alydar, Affirmed, Blackhawk, Csonka, 607L11, Unitas, Patton, Guardian, Abrams, Singletary, Newt, Chisholm, Landau, North Star, Onstar, Swift, Hombre and many more. Additionally, the alliance continually evaluates, analyzes and samples young sires within both the Angus and Brangus breeds which they feel will have a positive impact on the beef industry.

GENETRUST pursues a genetic pathway directed by its customers, Green says. “It’s all about listening to customers,” he explains. “Our goal is to provide what they need at the highest possible level. We run the numbers constantly and we’re seeing steady improvement in all areas. At the same time, we recognize that not all operations have the same needs so we strive to offer an outstanding selection of Brangus and UltraBlack cattle and semen that will excel anywhere in the country and internationally.”

Elite genetics alone, Green adds, is not enough to earn a growing group of repeat customers. The “trust” part of GENETRUST is equally important, he says: “We stand behind these cattle. We call a spade a spade and we’re not going to back up.”

All GENETRUST bulls are developed at one of three sites — Suhn Cattle Company, Eureka, Kan.; Cavender/Neches River Ranch, Jacksonville, Tex.; or Chimney Rock Cattle Company, Concord, Ark. Each location utilizes the same development protocol and similar rations designed to maintain condition after turnout rather than attaining maximum gain. The diverse locations also help bulls acclimate to different environments to better meet customer needs.

More than 85 percent of GENETRUST bulls are either AI-sired or are ET calves and all are balanced-trait selected to positively impact customers’ herds. Each bull meets exacting health standards, including individual state health and trichomoniasis requirements before shipping. All bulls must test negative for PI-BVD, bovine leukosis, and Johne’s Disease. Additionally, all bulls must pass an above average semen test.

Although GENETRUST’s annual bull offering is growing, founding partner Joe Cavender says the alliance is not numbers driven. “Our aim isn’t to be the biggest,” he says. “We’re driven by two things — consistency and quality.”

Extensive use of AI and ET — while constantly measuring the traits important to customers — moves GENETRUST forward, guided by the shared philosophy of its founders. As committed as the partners are to taking advantage of the latest technologies, Bill Davis of Chimney Rock Cattle Company says solid cow sense is a critical ingredient.

“Vern Suhn and Craig Green have a vast knowledge of the industry and it’s a tremendous opportunity to be able to benefit from that,” he says. “They are top-notch cattlemen and they’re in herds all over the country. They see thousands of cattle and thousands of matings and they bring that experience and knowledge to GENETRUST and our customers.”

Davis adds that a tremendous increase in data, as a result of the alliance, provides the tools for building better Brangus cattle. “It’s a win-win,” he explains. “It’s good for us and good for our customers.”

Four sales are held annually at three locations:

•First weekend in November, Brangus and Ultrablack bulls, registered Brangus females and commercial females, Chimney Rock.

•First Saturday in December, Brangus and Ultrablack bulls and commercial females, Cavender Ranch.

•Fourth Tuesday in March, Brangus and Ultrablack bulls, Suhn Cattle Company.

•Fourth Saturday in April, registered and commercial females, Cavender Ranch.

As proud of he is of the cattle GENETRUST offers today, Suhn is quietly confident that tomorrow’s GENETRUST bulls and females will be even better.

“We’re constantly evaluating and researching to better produce a product that will fit the growing needs and demands of our industry.” he concludes.

For more information on GENETRUST visit their website: www.genetrustbrangus.com.

Making EPDs Work in Your Herd

 by Brad Wright

Fall bull sale season is in full swing and makes this a good time for a refresher course in utilizing EPDs to help you pick your next bulls.  For many of you, this will be pretty redundant to things you have heard and read in the past, but it sure doesn’t hurt to make sure you are using the best breeding predictor available correctly.

What is an EPD?  EPD stands for Expected Progeny Difference.  An EPD is a value that represents an animal’s genetic breeding value for a given trait.  As the name implies, an EPD estimates the difference between the averages of 2 animals’ progeny for any given trait due to the genetic differences in the 2 animals.  An EPD is a comprehensive statistical tool that combines actual performance and contemporary group data with pedigree data, related animal data, and in some breeds, DNA markers.  An EPD is the best predictor of breeding value available to us and should be used for selection over actual data of any animal.

How is an EPD used?  In defining EPD, the word “difference” was used several times.  This word is key to understanding how to use an EPD.  An EPD is a means of comparison to evaluate the difference between an animal and either a) another animal or b) breed average.  To calculate a difference, you must have two values.  I bring this up only to drive the point that a set of EPDs on an animal with no other knowledge is useless.  An EPD cannot be used by itself and it does NOT relate to any value of actual performance (i.e. a BW EPD of 1.8 does NOT mean the calves will be 75 lbs).  An EPD can only be used to estimate the difference of the average of two animals’ progeny.  When you hear someone say something about “good” EPDs or “bad” EPDs on an animal, they are generally comparing to breed average.  Breed average can be found on most breed association websites or printed in most sale catalogs.  The important thing to remember about Breed Averages is they are most often NOT ZERO.  This one simple fact has disappointed many unknowing producers when the realized their +15 WW bull was actually 9 lbs below breed average for WW (IBBA – Average WW 24).  Also, EPDs are calculated within breeds and cannot be compared across different breeds.

WW EPD – 24

WW EPD – 34

Based on the above information, we would expect the average weaning weight of the calves sired by BULL B to be 10 lbs greater (34-24=10) than the average weaning weight of the calves sired by BULL A, given the same environment and comparable genetic makeup of the dams.

What do you need to help your herd?  Back on this discussion of “good” and “bad” EPDs, this cannot be based solely on the bulls ranking within the breed, and will not be the same for every breeder.  Know your herd and know your environment and utilize the EPDs to best fit your needs to reach your end product goals.  A “good” Milk EPD for a producer in Northern Georgia with 50 inches of annual rainfall may be ABOVE +20.  A “good” Milk EPD for a producer in Southern Arizona with 6 inches of annual rainfall may be BELOW +11.  Even though EPDs are represented with + and – and percentile rankings, doesn’t mean that + is good and – is bad, and 5th percentile isn’t necessarily better than 50th percentile if it doesn’t fit your herd, your environment and your end product goals.

How accurate is an EPD?  Ever wondered what that little number was printed below and EPD?  The accuracy of an EPD, sometimes labeled ACC, is often times printed below the EPD.  The accuracy will be a number between 0 and 1 and is the statistical representation of the confidence in the EPD.  The closer the accuracy is to 1, the more reliable the EPD is and the less likely the EPD will move or shift.  Accuracy increases as progeny are recorded.  A common problem when buying bulls is that most will be unproven bulls with a large percentage having never sired a calf.  This does add a degree of difficulty when evaluating young bulls.  With non-parent bulls, the highest accuracies available will be .25 to .35 and these accuracies will only be available on bulls with data collected in large, high quality contemporary groups with at least some proven AI sires represented in the group.  This magnifies the need to buy bulls from breeders who are diligent in collecting and reporting proper data and contemporary groups.

Do EPDs work?  Figure 1 shows the genetic trend for the growth traits in the Brangus breed since 1970.

EPD Trend Lines for Growth Traits

EPD Trend Lines for Growth Traits

These trend lines are similar to those found in other breeds as well.


With the use of EPDs, breeders have been able to increase Weaning Weight and Yearling Weight while keeping Birth Weight essentially the same.  EPDs do work when used appropriately.  They can even work too well if only selecting for one trait.  There will be constant updates to the EPD analysis in the future, whether it is the addition of DNA data to increase the accuracy of these unproven animals, or the creation of new EPDs to help producers better select for economically important traits like fertility, age of puberty or feed efficiency; but quality progeny data will always be the backbone of EPDs because “proof is in the pudding” (or in the cattle industry, “proof is in the progeny”).