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Crossbreds Add Vigor to Herd

March 26, 2010
By: Sara Brown, Farm Journal Livestock and Production Editor


Archie Ladd's 3⁄4 Hereford, 1⁄4 Brahman heifers are bred to Angus bulls, which yields black baldy calves with an increase in hybrid vigor and carcass quality for his heifer customers.

Selling crossbred heifers can be a difficult business venture—everyone wants something different and a quality guarantee besides. Southern Missouri farmer Archie Ladd has spent 30 years crossbreeding the best heifers he can. They just might not be the kind of heifers you're used to hearing about.

In 1980, Ladd transitioned his purebred Hereford cows into a complex crossbreeding program. He purchased a Brahman bull to use on his Hereford cows and retained the F1 Braford heifers to breed them back to Hereford bulls. Ladd mates the 3⁄4 Hereford, ¼ Brahman calves to Angus bulls—increasing the calves' hybrid vigor and carcass quality.

"We like to do it all the way around,” Ladd says. "One of the reasons for doing this is that when I sell a female at a sale, the customer can use whatever breed of bull he wants to and still get the hybrid vigor.”

Another reason he got out of purebreds is that they begin to pale one generation after another, Ladd says. "These crossbred cows have a lot of hybrid vigor and will be easier-keeping cows.”

Ladd sells about 75 of his crossbred heifers at the Missouri Show-Me-Select Replacement Heifer Program sales. The heifers are bred to Angus bulls, which yields a black baldy calf that is usually worth more, Ladd says.

"It was a natural thing to participate in the heifer improvement program and sell heifers through the sale because we've always kept our own heifers,” he says.

Does it fit your operation? David Lalman, Extension beef specialist at Oklahoma State University, is noticing a trend toward ranchers using more purebred cows. "Nowhere are they growing faster than in Oklahoma,” he says. "We know we are giving up some reproductive efficiency in purebred commercial herds.

"Producers need to be aware of the inexpensive benefits of crossbreeding in cattle herds—specifically, the heterosis and breed complementary traits you can utilize in crossbreeding. A crossbred cow will yield about 25% more production throughout her lifetime. Greater productivity is realized through increased calf weaning weight and improved reproductive efficiency,” Lalman says. "Crossbreeding also gives producers the opportunity to put together breeds that complement their specific ranch resources and production goals.”

While Ladd says a few of his Braford cows have a questionable disposition, he chose the breed to improve the milk production and summer heat toler-ance of the Hereford and Angus genetics. For even more diversity, Ladd has also incorporated a select amount of Gelbvieh genetics into his herd. His rocky, hilly terrain requires animals to be easy keepers.

"Surprisingly, the Brahman influence has really helped me in the Show-Me-Select sales,” Ladd says. "For us, the best breed is a ¾ Hereford, ¼ Brahman cow with an Angus bull. There are several reasons. It takes the nervousness out of the Braford, they milk well and grow big. The calves have enough Brahman that the summer heat doesn't bother them.”

The question to answer is what your end goal is, Lalman says. "If a producer retains ownership of the calves, carcass quality traits become more important. If they retain ownership of the heifers only, producers will want to balance reproductive traits.

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FEATURED IN: Beef Today - Early Spring 2010



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