By Brad Parker, North American Limousin Foundation
Many beef herds are too small to implement standard crossbreeding systems. Using composite cattle might be an advantage to smaller-scale producers who have single-sire herds because it can simplify for them the use of breed combinations for their production environments.
A composite is a hybrid breed made up of at least two component breeds, explains Brett Barham, an Extension livestock specialist for the University of Arkansas. Its design retains heterosis in future generations without a complicated crossbreeding program, and producers can maintain the genetic composition as they would with a pure breed.
Employing composite seedstock provides a dependable strategy to maintaining uniformity without sacrificing production potential as you do with the inbreeding and linebreeding necessary to produce purebred animals.
"Once producers establish a composite and random (closed-herd) mating occurs among cattle with a similar breed makeup, the resulting heterosis should be constant,” Barham says. "The main disadvantage of using composite breeds is the lack of extensive performance data to compare individuals.”
The seedstock sector rapidly is mitigating that drawback, says Bob Hough, Ph.D., executive vice president for the North American Limousin Foundation (NALF). For example, NALF maintains pedigree and performance records for its Lim-Flex® (Limousin and Angus or Red Angus) hybrid seedstock just as it does for its fullblood and purebred animals.
In fact, NALF conducts its semiannual International Limousin Genetic Evaluation in cooperation with Angus Genetics Inc. (AGI) to help overcome any shortfall in performance data for the Lim-Fex population. Working with AGI offers some distinct advantages, said Lauren Hyde, director of performance programs for NALF.
"The improved hereditary ties to Angus seedstock make genetic predictions for Lim-Flex animals the most timely and reliable of any for Angus-influenced composite seedstock,” she stated. "No other multibreed genetic evaluation in the world more thoroughly incorporates performance information from two populations of animals as does AGI's work for NALF.”
Accurately described seedstock resources are paramount to the success of a crossbreeding program, Hough adds.
"Our more accurate accounting for past and present-day Angus genetics not only enhances predictions for Lim-Flex animals but also for our purebreds and fullbloods,” he says, "so our hybrid seedstock offer the advantages of accurate genetic predictions, heterosis and breed complementarity in one package.”