180 Head Super American Bull Sale

Thursday-March 22, 2018-1:00 pm

Briggs Ranches-Bloomington, TX -13 miles south of Victoria, TX

Broadcast LIVE on www.DVAuction.com

180 Bulls Sale

90 Performance Tested, “Genomic Enhanced” Brangus Bulls  

60 Performance Tested, “Genomic Enhanced” Santa Gertrudis Bulls

10 Genetically Designed “Super American” 1/2 SG x 1/2 Brangus Bulls

10 Star 5 SG X Hereford Bulls


Value of Eared Feeder Cattle

Joe C. Paschal

When The Ear was first printed I was asked to write an article on how Eared cattle performed in the feedyard (ADG, health, and most importantly PROFIT). I used mostly the Texas A&M Ranch to Rail – South data that we conducted from 1992 until 2004 and fed several thousand head of Bos indicus influenced or Eared steers. Feeders in the South (and in the North I expect) know the value of these types of feeders especially if they are looking for cattle to come into the yards to gain rapidly and efficiently and remain healthy. In the recent past these cattle have in general been undervalued (in price) and it has made them attractive to feed in live animal based marketing systems that are looking for cattle to produce mostly US Select Yield Grade 3 or better carcasses and make money doing it.

Dr. Tom Troxel and Dr. Shane Gadberry, Extension Animal Scientists at the University of Arkansas, have been following and reporting on the value of feeder cattle in Arkansas (a snapshot of the of the type of Southeastern cattle in demand by northern stockers and feeders). Begun in 2000 and repeated every 5 years they looked at the prices paid in weekly livestock auctions in 12 locations in the state and the various phenotypic and genetic factors that affect them. Their phenotypic factors included gender (sex), group size, body fill, body condition and health (based on hair quality, eyes, preconditioning). As genetic factors, they included breed or breedtype (as best as could be determined), color, USDA feeder cattle muscle score and frame size, horn/polledness and weight. Price was converted to a standardized value and represented single lots only. The differences in value reported were those above or below the average for that year.

Jacobsen Ranch steers out of Braford cows and Gardiner Angus bulls and put sold in a premium program

Jacobsen Ranch steers out of Braford cows and Gardiner Angus bulls and sold in a premium program.

These results were reported at this year’s American Society of Animal Science Southern Section meeting in Orlando this past February. They found that as the number of lots with more than one head increased, the value of uniform multiple head lots, especially if more than 6 head, were worth $4.39 more per hundredweight in 2005 and $4.94 per hundredweight in 2010. About the same percentage of heifers were sold in each of the three years sampled (45-47%).  Fewer bulls were castrated in 2010 even though steers brought premiums of $5.18 (per hundredweight) in 2000, $6.00 in 2005, and $8.21 in 2010!Cattle that were gaunt or shrunk  were considerably more valuable than feeders that were full or tanked when sold. However feeder buyers preferred cattle that were in thin to average condition with significant discounts for cattle that were very thin or especially very fat. Very few cattle were considered unhealthy with 96-98% of the feeders being considered healthy each year. Documented preconditioning accounted for about 4% of the feeders sold. Healthy cattle were sold with at a premium but feeders considered unhealthy (dead hair, stale looking, sick, bad eyes, lame, etc) had discounts ranging from $8.95 (for sick) to $32.61 (for stale looking). Preconditioned cattle brought premiums of $4.68 in 2005 and $6.84 in 2010.

TAMU Ranch to Rail Steers

TAMU Ranch to Rail Steers

In their second report on the effects of genetically influenced phenotype on price, they reported that although the percent of Angus or mostly Angus-sired feeder calves have increased from 7.0% in 2000 to 18.2% in 2010, the average price premium declined 43%! Angus x Hereford feeders, which represented 5.1 to 8.1% of the cattle offered also saw a decline in premium the past 5 years of 36%. Angus x Brahman feeders, representing 9.7% of the feeders offered in 2010 increased in value with a slight premium in 2000 of $0.55 to $1.47 in 2005 to $3.03 in 2010, a 106% increase (and the highest premium increase for any breed or type)! The discounts for ¼ blood Brahman, representing 5-7% of the feeders sold had reduced discounts from 2000 to 2010 (-$3.64 in 2000 to -$2.05, a 43% reduction). Hide color was still important but less so. With 26.6% of the feeders black hided in 2000 and 45% black hided in 2010, premiums for black hides were only $1.86 in 2005 and decreased to $1.70 in 2010. Black hided cattle with a white face (9.8%, 11.1% and 11.9% in 2000, 2005, and 2010) had increased premiums from $0.68 to $2.62 to $3.01 during those years.

Other genetically influenced factors that they reported on included muscling, frame score and horn status. Percentages of cattle increased in the higher muscling categories, larger frame sizes and polledness (either genetically or dehorned). More value was attached (greater premiums or at least no discounts) to cattle with more muscling, larger frame size, and polled or dehorned feeders. Although these premiums may not have been great, the discounts for undesired types (muscle score 3, small framed, and horned cattle) were severe at -$21.78 for muscle score 3, -$16.42 for small frame, and -$4.25 per hundredweight for horned cattle in 2010. Less than 1% of the cattle offered were muscle score 3 or small frame in any of the three years while horned cattle dropped from 25.1% in 2000 to 9.2% of the cattle offered in 2010.

It won’t be enough to just breed Eared cattle. They will sure enough have to be good ones and fit the demands of the market based primarily on muscling (where the greatest discounts can occur) but the market is definitely interested in Eared cattle and will pay more of a premium for them than they have in the past.

In visiting with Dr. Tom Troxel about their work (disclaimer: Tom was our Extension Beef Cattle Specialist in Uvalde for several years before he went to Arkansas 21 years ago to head up their Animal Science Extension group – he is a good scientist as well as a good extension specialist!), Tom said that buyers were looking for cattle to go back on grass as stockers and their interest was in putting more Brahman or Bos indicus into the cattle since they have a real problem with endophyte infested fescue. The Bos indicus genetics and to a lesser degree, through hybrid vigor or heterosis, allows these crosses to be less affected by the endophyte toxicity and they tend to graze and gain and not show the more serious side effects seen in non Bos indicus cattle. Regardless of the reason for the increase in popularity (and value) of the Brahman crosses, they are definitely bringing more! If you are interested in visiting with Tom you might give him a call or email him at (501-671-2188) or ttroxel@uaex.edu .

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

The Value of the American Breeds

Joe C. Paschal

Over the past several months I have written about the history, performance and importance of the  American breeds to the US beef industry. These breeds include any breed or cross that has Bos indicus (generally American Brahman) genetics used in its creation. The most popular breeds usually included in this designation include the Beefmaster, Braford, Brangus, Red Brangus, Santa Gertrudis and Simbrah (the American Brahman was created in this country by combining several Bos indicus breeds and with these six is considered one of the Eared breeds). Of course there are other American breeds, perhaps not as widely used but very useful in the environment they were created.

One breed that comes to mind is the Charbray (5/8 – 13/16 Charolais and 3/8-3/16 Brahman). This breed was developed after F1 crosses made in the 1930s (using Charolais cattle imported from Mexico) were found to be faster growing, more heat tolerant and tick resistant, and better grading (in terms of overall carcass composition) in tropical and subtropical environments they were bred and raised. Charbray cattle were fairly widespread in the Gulf Coast areas and even in some areas of the west but never as numerous in either number of cattle nor in number of breeders as the other Eared breeds. The Association was merged with the American International Charolais Association in the 1960s and is responsible for the registry. I have seen a lot of Charbray cattle in Central and South American (in Brazil the Charbray are called Canchim) and the breed is fairly well represented in Australia. In the US the breed tended to be larger framed and later maturing than the British breeds (even though they were fast gaining and efficient on grass and in the feedyard) and when those breeds began to moderate their frame and move towards improved carcass merit, many Charbray breeders were no longer in business. However there are still a few Charbray breeders and cattle around and their bulls are in demand by the folks who know their value.

So what is the value of an American breed?

So what is the value of an American breed? First there is the genetic value of the breeds used in the cross. Many times when my colleagues talk about crossbreeding, this is sometimes glossed over in favor of emphasizing hybrid vigor or heterosis. As my good friend and mentor Dr. Rodney Robertson, Executive Director of the United Braford Breeders Association once said to me when we were graduate students “Heterosis is just the icing on the cake, the ingredients (the breeds used) are what makes the cake taste good. If the ingredients aren’t any good the icing won’t make it taste any better”. It doesn’t just apply to the breeds but to the genetic value of individuals involved in making the breeds as well. In the original foundation animals of these different American breeds there weren’t any EPDs or adjusted weights or contemporary groups, just outstanding individuals based mostly on physical appraisal. For traits high in heritability this was good enough (it had to be) to ensure some accuracy in selection response and once the progeny were on the ground further culling based on their performance could be continued.

Braford Bulls

Braford Bulls

Most of the Eared breeds (with the singular exception of the American Brahman which is a blend of Bos indicus breeds) have Bos indicus genetics blended in some proportion with one or more British or European breeds. The Bos indicus genetics supplied the valuable genetics for adaptability in tropical and subtropical environments (heat and parasite tolerance, resistance to disease, ability to digest coarser forages due to increased retention time, thicker enamel on their teeth, and increased longevity) that the British and European breeds lacked. In turn, those British and European cattle provided valuable genetics for increased gain, muscling and carcass merit. The idea was to develop a crossbred animal that blended these traits in an ideal to provide cattle that would thrive in the less than ideal environmental conditions produce a market acceptable calf and perhaps most importantly improve profitability. Profitability is what drove Mr. Adams, Mr. Lasater and Mr. Kleberg to develop the breeds associated with their names (Braford, Beefmaster and Santa Gertrudis), not the desire to create new breeds.

Tom Lasater

Tom Lasater

Originally some of these breeds used a specific “formula” to allow new breeders to breed new cattle and register them into the herd book. Offspring from these registered cattle were automatically considered purebreds eligible for registry. Later some of the American breeds that had a specific percentage cross allowed for some variation to fit specific production environments and marketing preferences which has proved useful in the long run. Some environments require less Bos indicus influence, some require more, and many markets tend to discount excessive influence (except in replacement females).

Robert J Kleberg

Robert J Kleberg

In addition to providing a desirable blend of the parental breed types, often to fit your environment and market, there are large number of breeders and animals from which to select.  These breeds (like all purebred cattle) produce their own replacements which is as beneficial today as it was 50 or 75 years ago to their founders. You don’t have to rebuild your replacements when they are culled due to nonperformance, herds can be resupplied with cattle of the desired breed percentages without rebuilding the crosses. In addition, most of these breeds have comprehensive performance testing and EPD prediction that can include ultrasound and genomic data

Another value accrued in combining breeds is hybrid vigor or heterosis. The benefits of hybrid vigor or heterosis are well known. The crossbred offspring has a gene from each of the parental breeds on every locus on each chromosome and the products produced by these genes interact to generally improve the trait in a wide range of environments. Generally the harsher the environment is, the greater the improvement can be. In most cases, this response is significant (as in fertility, maternal ability and longevity) increasing productivity 10-25%. The American breeds, with the exception of some mild inbreeding (the opposite of crossbreeding) that might have occurred to “fix” a type (coat color, white markings, polledness) have all retained some of the original heterosis created from the initial crosses which is valuable to commercial and purebred breeders alike. This retained heterosis is expressed in the straightbred cattle but is also observed when these breeds are mated to unrelated breeds.

There is a long history of using the value of using American breed females in tropical and subtropical environments and breeding them to British or European breed bulls (sometimes related by breed, sometimes not) to produce a terminal cross market calf. The American breed cow provides adaptability, fertility, maternal ability and longevity and the non-American breed sire provides more growth and marketability.  The American breed cows are often easier to find and not as expensive as most F1 females and are a valuable asset. American breed bulls are also used on non-American breed females to produce the same crosses but since the American female is more productive than the non-American one in these environments, profitability is generally lower. American breed cows and bulls are a short cut to most of the benefits of crossbreeding (use of breeds in desirable combinations and heterosis) while retaining the attributes of other purebred associations (registration, performance testing and accurate and timely EPD calculation).

The American breeds and their crosses are valuable to southern US beef production. They provide high levels of hybrid vigor, vary in percentages of Bos indicus to fit your specific environmental and market conditions, have reliable and accurate performance data and EPD for most traits, and can provide a shortcut to producing an acceptable and profitable market calf!

The National Beef Quality Audit: What it means for Eared cattle

Over the past 6 months or so the results of the most recent National Beef Quality Audit (funded by your Beef Check Off dollars and conducted by several land grant agricultural universities) were presented and explained (first at the NCBA meeting and later in the press). The audit was conducted last year and I would encourage you to go to the website http://bqa.org/audit.aspx and read all the results, many of which are positive but some less so. The concept of auditing the beef product of the cattle industry is not new, the idea originated in the early 1990s, and the audit has provided data that have allowed the industry to make significant positive changes in the way we produce, handle and market our product for today’s consumer.

Nolan Ryan Carcasses

Nolan Ryan Carcasses

This past Audit included face to face interviews with government or allied industry (agribusiness), retailers, food service, packers and feeders. All were asked how they defined “quality” based on their rating of seven specific quality attributes. These attributes were 1) How and Where the Cattle were Raised; 2) Lean, Fat and Bone; 3) Weight and Size; 4) Cattle Genetics; 5) Visual Characteristics; 6) Food Safety; and 7) Eating Satisfaction. They were also asked to provide quality related details and practices that are important to them. Finally they were asked a “willingness to pay” and a “best-worst” ranking for the industry for these seven quality attributes.  The table below indicates the ranking of these attributes for each group.

Ranking of Attributes by Interview Group for Quality Attributes (High to Low)
Allied/Govt Retailers Food service Packers Feeders
Food safety Food safety Food safety Food safety How and where raised
Eating satisfaction Eating satisfaction Eating satisfaction Eating satisfaction Weight and size
Cattle genetics How and where raised Lean, fat and bone Lean, fat and bone Cattle genetics
Weight and size Visual characteristics How and where raised How and where raised Lean, fat and bone
How and where raised Weight and size Visual characteristics Cattle genetics Food safety
Visual characteristics Lean, fat and bone Weight and size Weight and size Eating satisfaction
Lean, fat, and bone Cattle genetics Cattle genetics Visual  characteristics Visual characteristics


The closer you get to the end product the higher food safety and eating satisfaction are in the list of quality attributes (as they should be) and cattle genetics is in the top three only twice for the Government/Allied Industry types and the Feeder classification. In an overall weighted ranking, genetics is fifth, behind Visual Characteristics and tied with Weight and Size. Food Safety is three times as important and Eating Satisfaction is twice as important as Cattle Genetics as an overall quality attribute.

When asked to define Eating Satisfaction, the top two most frequent descriptions by the Allied Industry/Government and Retailers were tenderness and flavor. Retailers indicated that the amount of marbling desired to mean “USDA Select or higher” and about half used “predominately black hide” to describe the desired visual characteristic quality attribute. Of particular interest was that 13% of retailers interviewed (no mention of which ones or how many pounds of beef were sold) reported “not Bos indicus”. Whether or not that means no Bos indicus or not 100% wasn’t asked but should have been. The primary reason for this response when asked was “toughness associated with Bos indicus beef” which is why some purchase product from the Midwest and not Texas. Even though this was at the bottom of their list of rankings, it seems that some work needs to be done here to show these folks how much the Brahman and Bos indicus influenced breeds have improved tenderness in their product.  Brahman was one of the second breeds in the US to have a Tenderness EPD and my own research over the past 20 years with many of the Bos indicus influenced breeds and crosses has shown average shear force to be very acceptable.

When Packers were asked about Cattle Genetics, about half defined this quality attribute as “having a black hide” and about one in four as having the “genetic potential for marbling” or “quality grade”. I disagree with the findings of the Audit though when they say that “Based on these frequently mentioned attributes by packers, it could be concluded that packers prefer black-hided cattle that grade USDA Choice or better”.  Of the Packers interviewed, 88% participated in branded beef programs and half or more of those interviewed indicated that requirements should include marbling, hide color, hump height and yield grade. It is interesting that hump height should be included since work done by Dr. Don Franke at LSU a few years back concluded that there was no genetic correlation between hump height and tenderness in Brahman cattle but maybe the word hasn’t gotten to the Packers yet. In their definition of Visual Characteristics and at the bottom of their list of concerns, 29% of Feeders indicated “predominately black hide” and 12% indicated “no eared cattle”. This discrimination against Brahman or Bos indicus cattle may have been well deserved at one time but not now.

The refrain of preferring predominately black hided cattle echoes throughout this audit as if the color of the hide truly represented anything about the eating experience of the meat it covers. How many breeds of cattle are black hided now? It is easier to count those that are not: Charolais, Hereford, Red Angus (the only beef breed that matches marbling in Angus but is discriminated against in CAB), Brahman, Braford, and Santa Gertrudis. In one of the presentations a slide indicates that for Cattle Genetics one of the top three answers (across market sectors) was “primarily British”. I never saw that response from any sector in the Audit report. It may have been assumed by the authors that most black hided cattle were primarily British but it sort of leaves out a lot of non British breeds that ought to have been included that will grade Choice.

There are other parts of this Audit, including the Carcass Quality Survey and Instrument Grading Assessment (new to this Audit) and the Quality Enhancement of the Seedstock, Cow/Calf and Stocker Sectors. The increase in percent Prime and Choice over previous Audits is noted as is the similarity between instrument grading and human grading. Beef Quality Assurance practices and principles are being followed and more folks are interacting with their veterinarians in a timely manner. This is good for all in our industry.

The good news is that much of the audit shows all segments prefer the type of cattle being raised by Eared breeders and commercial Eared cattlemen. All want a good eating experience, adapted cattle raised in a healthy environment, cattle that have been treated humanely and beef that is safe to eat. And if we look at the other details expressed about cattle genetics; lean fat and bone; and visual characteristics, Eared cattle fit. They will grow fast and efficiently in the feedyard, will be healthy and profitably, will provide a product that is acceptable in carcass weight, ribeye area and fat thickness, will quality and yield grade (Select or better, 3 or better), be tender, safe and provide an excellent eating experience. Don’t let anyone tell you different!

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

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.

Importance of Records, Individual Selection and Breed Choices in Crossbreeding Systems

Joe C. Paschal

Last month I ended my article with some comments on whether or not crossbreeding was still economically relevant in today’s beef market based on an article written by Dr. Nevil C. Speer of Western Kentucky University. One interpretation was that it is not, that in today’s value based marketing system (read by some as “marbling score driven”), the value of carcasses with high marbling scores somehow outweighs the overall increase in lifelong performance of crossbred cows and their crossbred fed offspring. I doubt that that is case but still crossbreeding is not free. There is a cost to produce the purebreds that form the basis of the cross but this cost is usually passed on to the producer who purchases these females. If both male and female crosses are equally desirable as feeders or replacement females then the additional cost can be recouped equally. If there is a significant discrimination between the crosses based on gender then the more favorable gender will have to pick up more of the cost of production.

A well known example is the production of British x Brahman F1 steers and heifers. The steers will bring a lower price per pound than some other crosses (but less so today than a few years ago) but the heifers will command a premium as replacements. Discounts for crossbred bulls and steers depend on the demand for specific types. In the early years of the Brangus breed a good 3/4 Brahman x 1/4 Angus bull could be worth quite a bit of money to a breeder with Angus cows wanting to produce Brangus cows. On the Gulf Coast of the US there are places where 1/2 and sometimes 3/4 Brahman bulls are very useful, but these represent only a small fraction of the beef cattle produced in the US, but you get my point.

Most of the advantages that are pointed out in different crossbreeding systems come from the increased productivity of the crossbred cow, mainly attributed to heterosis. In animal breeding we define heterosis or hybrid vigor as the difference in level of performance in a trait when comparing the crossbred offspring to the average of the parents. There are parental breeds that are high performing in one trait or another (adaptation, growth, longevity, etc) but no breeds that I know of excel in ALL traits. This is why selection of breeds and individuals within breeds to make the cross is very important. It is equally as important as selection of individuals in a straightbred or purebred herd. In most discussions of why crossbreeding and hybrid vigor is beneficial (or is not) to commercial producers, the selection of breeds (and what they bring as “breed effects” to the cross) and the importance of individual selection are often glossed over or ignored in the larger discussion. I am not going to discuss breeds here, I think most of us have a good understanding of what different breeds have to offer, either as purebreds with some Ear influence (or not) or in a crossbreeding program with Ear influence (or not).

The purpose of selection is to increase, reduce or to maintain performance of the traits that you as a breeder or a producer have an interest. These traits may increase your income, reduce your costs or just lower your stress. These traits may be relatively easy to select for (or against) or not depending on the heritability of the traits, the amount of variation in the breeds being used, and the source and quality (accuracy) of the records that are available. The more information that you can bring to bear on your selection decision, the more likely your breeding or crossbreeding program will be successful. There are a number of efforts underway in the different Eared breed associations to encourage their members to increase the quantity AND quality of the production records that are being collected and reported to them. In this age of genomics and genetic markers we tend to forget that these are not “silver bullets” but aids to selection. The use of these new tools will improve the prediction of an animal’s genetic value, more so for young animals without progeny records. In the future these genomic tools will account for more genetic variation of these traits and others of significant interest (such as longevity, reproduction and health) but right now their best use is to improve the accuracy of the EPDs for animals with no (or few) offspring. It might change their EPD for the trait but the greatest impact will be on the accuracy or reliability of their EPD. The problem is that many of the genetic tests are for carcass merit traits, not for traits earlier in life affecting productivity and economics at the cow calf level.

Collecting Data at JDH. Picture Courtesy of Dr. Paschal.

Collecting Data at JDH. Picture Courtesy of Dr. Paschal.

Now, as in the past, the Eared breeds and their breeders have quickly and roundly embraced new programs and technology. They were among the first to utilize (and continue to do so) ultrasound for carcass merit, to participate in feedyard and carcass merit (including tenderness) data collection programs, and the use of genetic markers and other genomic tools. But these technologies should be used IN ADDITION TO the time consuming and less cutting edge documentation and reporting of calving, weaning and yearling data on all animals in your herd. I am familiar with the concept and the drudgery of record keeping and reporting but it is very important to collect to ensure that the accuracy of your animal’s actual and adjusted within-herd performance records and your breed’s genetic predictions or EPDs.

Collecting ultrasound data at JDH.  Picture courtesy of Dr. Paschal.

Collecting ultrasound data at JDH. Picture courtesy of Dr. Paschal.

Eared cattle breeds are raised in a wide range of environments (not just climatic conditions) which affects their performance. If complete records are not collected, this nongenetic environmental influence may not be completely accounted for in genetic evaluations. In addition, there can be considerable “selection bias” injected into the records as only the records of the more/most desirable animals are sent. This bias tends to affect bulls more than heifers since fewer bulls are kept and registered. Selection bias will make the remaining animals look better than they really are because the lower performing (or less desirable) animals have been culled and their performance records were not collected. We all spend a lot of time and money breeding and raising good cattle for our customers, feeder cattle as well as replacements, and we need to collect and report as much data as we can, sometimes even if it is a little onerous. Just do it!


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