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Saturday General Session

Crossbreeding: Back to the Future

University of California animal scientist and commercial cow-calf producer Dave Daley can’t understand why a profit-seeing rancher would shy away from crossbreeding. Speaking to an audience gathered for the 2009 Beef Improvement Federation (BIF) Research Symposium and Annual Meeting, Daley called breed complementarity and heterosis obvious advantages of crossbreeding.

Dave Daley

Dave Daley, California State University Chico

“It’s been well-documented since the 1960s,” Daley added. “But there is a lot of good information that many producers have chose not to utilize.”

Of particular interest, he said, should be maternal heterosis – the advantages that come with the crossbred cow. Those include improvements to calving rate, calf survival to weaning and average weaning weight.

Compared to straightbred cows, Daley said, the advantages also include a 38% average improvement in cow longevity. Calling it a “profit driver,” Daley said cow longevity results in more calves produced during a cow’s lifetime and more cumulative pounds of marketable product.

So why do so many commercial cow-calf producers cling to a straightbred program? Daley suspects industry emphasis on value-based marketing and emergence of vertically integrated marketing systems has something to do with it. He thinks many producers worry that crossbreeding may mongrelize their herds, reducing consistency, uniformity and carcass merit, thus offsetting the aforementioned advantages.

Daley cited research to the contrary, including a three-year study that showed crossbreeding advantages were real, even in a vertically integrated system. He allowed that crossbreds may give up some quality grade potential. However, feed efficiency, cost of gain and net return typically favor crossbred steers, over straightbreds. Additionally, fertility among crossbred heifers typically is higher than among straightbred heifers.

“The tendency in beef cattle research has generally focused on output-based solutions — increasing single traits — rather than focusing on reducing input costs or maximizing profitability,” Daley lamented. “Crossbreeding systems tend to be most effective in increasing net return, rather than making major changes in any single trait. Effective, planned crossbreeding systems can reduce inputs while increasing profitability,” he concluded.

Editor’s Note: This summary was written under contract or by staff of Angus Productions Inc. (API). To request reprint rights contact Shauna Rose Hermel, editor, at 816-383-5270. PowerPoints are posted with permission of the presenter and may not be reproduced in whole or in part without the express permission of the presenter.

The 41st BIF Research Symposium and Annual Meeting was hosted by the California Beef Cattle Improvement Association and the California Cattlemen's Association. For more information, visit www.bifconference.com or www.calcattlemen.org/bif2009.html.


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