BRAHMAN NEWS SEPTEMBER 2015 ISSUE #317 PAGE 28
By Alex Ashwood
It is well recognised that straight bred Brahmans are an extremely important part of the northern beef industry but there is also tremendous benefits of using Brahmans in well structured crossbreeding programs.
There is a really big potential for Brahmans to lift the productivity and profits of beef herds through cross breeding. Crossing Brahmans with the numerous varieties of British and European breeds, nevertheless requires planning and additional skills to maximise the benefits of crossbreeding.
A main benefit of crossbreeding is heterosis, that is hybrid vigour.
“The benefits of crossbreeding depend on the breeds used and the production environment.”
The greater the difference in the strain of cattle, the greater the hybrid vigour and potential benefits of crossbreeding. The maximum benefits of crossbreeding are achieved by the selection of acceptable dominant traits and not simply relying on species difference alone.
The advantages of crossbreeding include:
“The best results of cross breeding depend on the selection of compatible high quality straight breeds.”
Despite the benefits of first cross cattle some beef enterprises consider back-crossing or outcrossing as an alternative to the first cross option to maximise the benefits of cross breeding and maintain a continuous breeding program. However indiscriminate crossbreeding using inferior stock gives poor results and reduced profits.
Cross breeding systems
Crossbreeding research has shown that first cross cattle (eg. BH x Hfd) perform well in the challenging pasture production systems. It has also been clearly demonstrated that F1 cattle perform extremely well in feedlots.
“Implementing a cross breeding program that is practical and profitable is extremely rewarding.”
All calves including female replacements are sold.
If straightbred females are not retained replacements, subsequently have to be outsourced, which raises questions regarding their availability. Sourcing suitable females can pose further problems (eg. price, type, health status etc.) Heifer replacements can be obtained through contacts with reputable breeders and it is worthwhile paying slightly above the market value to source high quality stock.
Replacements are retained in the system with F1 females mated to one of the parent breeds. The progeny are mated to the other parent breed on a rotation basis. Whilst backcrossing causes some loss in hybrid vigour, selection pressure can be placed on important traits and characteristics of the females.
There are a number of options within terminal and rotation systems. The breeds used need to be compatible for beef characteristics such as maturity rates, market acceptability and the environment in which the beef enterprise has to operate.
Crossbreeding has taken many forms with different levels of interest and success. Important lessons include:
“Crossbreeding frequently requires higher skills and greater not less attention to detail.”
Brahmans, fortunately crossbreed consistently well with most breeds. It is a matter of evaluating the various options then setting some realistic management plans to reach your production targets.
TABLE 1 : example of crossbreeding options using brahmans
|Good||Vealers||2 breed terminal||BH||Angus|
|Yearling||3 breed terminal||BH||FR x Hfd|
|Steers||3 breed terminal||Charolais||Angus x BH|
|Medium||Yearlings||2 breed terminal||BH||Murry Grey|
|Steers||3 breed terminal||BH||Angus x Hfd|
|Vealers||3 breed terminal||Angus||BH x MG|
|Poor||Steers||3 breed terminal||Shorthorn||BH x Hfd|
|Steers||2 breed terminal||BH||Hfd|