Don't Forget About the Benefits of Crossbreeding At Bull Buying Time
Greg Lardy, Extension Beef Cattle Specialist, NDSU Animal & Range Sciences Department
Commercial cattle producers are in the thick of poring over bull sale booksthis time of year. Don't miss the benefits of a well-planned crossbreedingprogram as you prepare to make bull purchases. Commercial producers shouldtake advantage of crossbreeding to improve productivity in their herds.
Crossbred cows are typically more productive, have greater fertility, and produceheavier calves than purebred cows. In addition, traits like longevity andadaptability are enhanced in a well-planned crossbreeding program.Data from the USDA-ARS Meat Animal Research Center (MARC) in ClayCenter, Nebraska, indicate that crossbred cows are 25 percent moreproductive than purebred cows. About two-thirds of this advantage comes fromthe crossbred cow while one-third comes from the crossbred calf.
Heterosis or hybrid vigor is the term used to describe the increase inproductivity when comparing the crossbred offspring to the purebred parents.Traits that improve the most from heterosis are fertility, adaptability, andlongevity.
Complementary traits in different breeds are another advantage ofcrossbreeding programs. Crossbreeding can provide a combination of traits inthe offspring that is superior to the parents. Using complementary traits can helpbring moderation to traits such as frame size, milk production and growthrate, making your cows better suited for a variety of production systems.
Many commercial producers have become disenchanted withcrossbreeding over the years. However, crossbreeding systems do not need tobe complex to accomplish desired objectives. A simple two-breed rotationalcross or a terminal sire program in which crossbred replacement femalesare purchased can simplify the systems and reduce the number of breedingpastures needed. A two-breed rotational cross will offer 67 percent of themaximum heterosis possible, while the terminal sire system will offer 100percent of the maximum heterosis possible.
Take the time to consider the benefits of a well-designed crossbreedingprogram before you make bull buying decisions. It will pay dividends for you inthe long run.
posted by Dr. Harlan Hughes 10:12 AM