Beef Cattle Breeding for Profit
In Beef Cattle Breeding for Profit every breeder should strive for genetic
improvement in the traits identified as economically important for both the current and future performance of their
The basic objective of Beef Cattle breeding is to improve the efficiency of production
and the quality of the end product through planned genetic change.
The choice of whether to breed purebreds or crossbreds will be
related to your ability to match your cattle, the environment and the market.
Purebred beef cattle breeding produces not only progeny for further finishing, but also
replacement females. For this reason, many traits have to be selected in balance, as they contribute to the overall
package. It is important to identify and select those cattle that are superior for specific traits.
Purebred breeding programs appeal
to many beef breeders because they produce replacement females from within the herd and are reasonably easy to
manage because only one cattle breed exists on the property. Breeding management options are simple and don’t
require you to select sires from different breeds or to mate different sires in different paddocks. Breeder
replacements are produced within the herd. Purebred females are in demand for use in crossbreeding
Crossbred beef cattle breeding can bring together a desired combination of genes
more rapidly than can be achieved through within breed selection. Advantage can be taken of complementarities among
breeds, but knowledge of individual breed characteristics is important.
Cossbreeding capitalizes on the existing genetic differences between two or more breeds
to produce progeny that have characteristics suitable for a defined market or environment.
Choosing to crossbreed is also often related to the potential gains of hybrid vigor, an
additional boost to production. Hybrid vigor, or heterosis, is the difference between the performance of the
progeny and the average performance of the parents. In general, the more distantly the parental breeds are related,
the greater the amount of heterosis that can be expected. The greatest level of heterosis results from the crossing
of the least related purebred Bos Indicus and Bos Taurus breeds.
For greatest benefit in all crossbreeding programs, it is imperative that the programs
be based on purebred beef cattle of high genetic merit for economically important traits. Continuing improvement
from a crossbreeding program depends on the genetic merit of the foundation animals used in the cross and the
selection intensity placed on the subsequent crossbred generations.
Crossbreeding provides flexibility because it allows you to quickly alter particular
characteristics of a herd for a specific purpose, such as to cater to a particular market, increase production or
remedy a problem. There may also be disadvantages with crossbreeding, such as management difficulties.
The potential gains from crossbreeding can be large, however most of the success
depends on good planning and the use of superior genetics to provide the traits identified for a specific breeding
Rotational crossing in beef cattle breeding simply means that two or more
different sire breeds are used in sequence over the female groups, which are grouped according to their sire breed.
Two, three or even four sire breeds may be used. In a simple system that uses two breeds, cows of breed A are mated
to sire breed B, with the resulting heifers being bred back to sire breed A. Within a three-breed rotation, the
progeny of sire breed A over cow breed B are mated to sire breed C. The female progeny of the latter cross are
mated back to sire breed A for the rest of their breeding lives. The minimum number of groups is equal to the
number of sire breeds.
An increase of 10 to 20 per cent in the weights of calves weaned per cow bred can be
achieved from a two breed rotation. A greater increase in the weight of calves weaned per cow bred can be achieved
from a three breed cross.
In rotational crossbreeding, each breed contributes its strengths and weaknesses
equally to the production system over a number of years. The level of heterosis achieved depends on the number of
breeds involved. However, in rotational crossbreeding, variability among the progeny may make it more difficult to
consistently meet a market specification. Therefore, breeds that are not radically different are preferred. All
animals in the herd benefit from hybrid vigor for both growth and maternal traits. All females from rotational
crossbreeding are potentially available for selection as replacements. This increases the selection intensity and
subsequent opportunities for genetic improvement. Rotational crossbreeding considers both the market animal and the
future replacement breeders. Rotational crossbreeding may present some management difficulties in that specific
breeder groups need to be mated to specific sire breeds.