Planning a Crossbreeding Program for Beef

Planning a Crossbreeding Program for BeefAs with any management issue, the decision to crossbreed should be made because it will fulfil enterprise goals and breeding objectives.

The breeds and crossbreeding system should be selected to match the individual’s environment. This includes not only the important elements of climate and pasture but also the effects of parasites, disease and the overall level of management.

There are many reasons for the commercial beef breeder to crossbreed and few disadvantages if the crossbreeding program is based on sound information and a bit of common sense.

Planning

Planning is the key to successful crossbreeding. Don’t start until a firm plan is in place and its details have been recorded.

Before planning starts, define:

  • 1. The markets being targeted.
  • 2. The capabilities of the land and climate.
  • 3. The problems with the existing production systems

The two major decisions that need to be made next are:

  • 4. The breeds which will be used.
  • 5. Do you want to breed your own replacements or buy them?

How much management time are you prepared to invest in your breeding herd?

Sample answers to these points in a typical crossbreeding plan:

  • 1. Market: Vealer market which will supply the domestic supermarkets. Weight range: 150-180 kg carcase weight (280-340 kg liveweight)

Fat depth range: 5-9 mm at p8 site (condition score 3).

  • 2. Environment: 607 mm (24 inch) rainfall area on improved phalaris, cocksfoot, subclover pasture.
  • 3. Problems: Many cows in the herd have small, empty-looking udders about three months after calving and their calves aren’t reaching the desired minimum weight of 280 kg.
  • 4. Breeds which are suited to this market and environment must have the following characteristics:
      • Medium to high milk production
      • Good carcase
      • Medium fat cover
      • No more than half the European breed content, otherwise they may be difficult to fatten and too heavy at nine months of age for the target market
      • Early maturity

Breeds which match these characteristics include:

Angus

  • medium milk
  • good carcase
  • early maturity

Shorthorn

  • medium-high milk
  • early maturity
  • high fattening ability

Limousin

  • good carcase
  • high growth rates

5. Don’t mind buying in replacements. Want to keep the management requirements simple.

As a result of analysing these answers, a terminal crossbreeding program is selected where heifers are joined to a smaller British breed bull for ease of calving and mature cows are mated to the Limousin sire for increased muscling and weaning weights.

All offspring are sold and replacement females bought as required.