Those of us that raise cattle do so because it’s our way of life and we take great pride in producing food for the Nation and World. We operate in a business climate that is mainly stacked against us. We are one of the few industries that buy at retail and sell at the lowest wholesale price. We constantly are told by our breed associations that we must breed straight bred cattle and they do a real good job of touting increasing weaning weights etc. It’s interesting that while a major breed assn. claims that their weaning weights have increased 80 lbs. during the last few years, the commercial ranchers weaning weights have not changed. Just maybe somebody is spoofing the books.???
The one tool in the toolbox that we have that can greatly improve our profitability is by producing hybrid calves.
Heterosis is simply the outcome of mating cattle of different breeds. The more diverse the cattle the more heterosis realized. When you breed Hereford to Angus you get a Baldy which is better than either parent. Both Hereford and Angus are British breeds so while the Baldy is a super animal, the actual heterosis is less than if the British cow was bred to a bred up American Continental such as Simmental or Charolais. When you breed a British cow to a Continental bred Red Charolais you realize the maximum heterosis of up to 100 lbs. of added weaning weight. That is about 100 dollars of “free lunch” per cow with no increase in inputs. These F1 calves will continue to outperform straight bred cattle in the feedlot and later in the packing house. Red Charolais bulls will keep your herds uniform hide color and will provide you with a set of high performing reputation cattle to market. Sounds like one of the only “free lunches” we might get.
As we get tougher and tougher winter and spring calving seasons a lot of us are moving our calving seasons later in order to improve calf survival. By using a Red Charolais bull you can calve later and still maintain scale weight. Marketing F1 Red Charolais heifers is a huge advantage because of their heavy muscling. The feedlots know that these heavy muscled heifers feed nearly like their steer mates, so the heifer discount is half what British heifers receive. Having reputation cattle will most likely become more important in the future. It makes sense that by also allowing the feedlot to have a “free lunch” from your cattle is the surest way to establish your Reputation Herd.
The Liger is an extreme example of heterosis. These guys are 900 lbs. and 12 ft long. We can’t get this incredible heterosis response with our cattle but it’s important to remember that the more diverse between the animal the more dramatic the outcome.