7 minute read

CROSSBREEDING HEREFORD

When it comes to trustworthy careers, it should come as no surprise that people trust farmers and ranchers over most corporate job choices. Perhaps it is their willingness to get dirty to get a job done or their pride in caring for mother nature and her creatures. But one thing is for sure, three times a day, every day people across the globe are reliant on farmers and ranchers to feed their families.

Though people largely trust their food sources, they are becoming more and more particular about what they enjoy eating, where it comes from and who it was raised by. As more and more meat substitutes have hit store shelves, it seems real meat eaters are even more invested in real meat compared to artificial meat sources. After all, how safe, wholesome or nutritious is something that is not even real? While some consumers have “bit into” the marketing behind fake meat, the majority have not and when it comes to whole cuts like steaks and roasts, consumers are finding that there is nothing like the real homegrown beef.

Aside from production practices and traditional or niche marketing, research conducted by the Beef Checkoff says, beef consumers looking for the ultimate eating experience, juiciness, tenderness and flavor are the overarching demands. To get the “wow” experience they are seeking whether at home or when going out, checkoff research says real beef is giving consumers the best experience.

So, that begs the question: As far as real meat goes, what kind of beef is going to give consumers what they want?

How Hereford Beef Stacks Up

To the uneducated beef consumer, terms like marbling and backfat may be obsolete but taste and texture are terms that are unmistakable and relate directly to a consumer’s eating satisfaction. According to a 2019 study at Kansas State University, in a blind taste test, Certified Hereford Premium Upper TwoThirds Choice beef was rated higher than USDA Prime beef from non-breed specific programs. This is a testament to the high standards and uncompromising genetic integrity of the

Certified Hereford Beef brand and the tireless efforts of the Hereford farm and ranch families across America to provide the highest quality product possible. Because of these efforts, consumers can be confident they are getting the best quality beef for their buck while supporting Hereford ranchers.

In perhaps the most comprehensive Hereford crossbreeding research study conducted in recent history, carcass characteristics, production traits and feedlot performace were all considered by California State University, Chico, researchers Dave Daley, Ph.D., and Sean Early beginning in 2005. To date that research has been relied on as some of the more complete research done on Hereford-influenced cattle.

“At that time Hereford-influenced calves were seeing a deduction at marketing simply because of their hide color,” Daley said. “I had a suspicion though that if we looked closer at all factors, the beef from the Hereford-influenced calves would show Hereford cattle perform better than the market was giving them credit for.”

Daley says his hypothesis proved true. The Hereford-cattle in the study did infact perform much better than some would have expected. While marbling on the obvioulsy efficient Angus calves was superior, traits like carcass weight and size were neck-in-neck with more Angusinfluenced calves.

Daley said that study, conducted over the course of four years at Harris Ranch Feeding Company in Coalinga laid to rest some rumors about straight bred Angus being superior.

While feed rations and management no doubt impact on carcass, allowing marbling and grading to vary among cattle age, breed, etc., the large number of head studied was a feather in the cap of many longtime Hereford breeders.

Though recent years have shown discounts on the sale of “featherneck” Herefords, studies like that done by Daley and Early are great reminders of the assets of Hereford-influenced cattle and the perspective that Hereford-influenced cattle bring a great deal of value to the production table as well as the dinner table. ...CONTINUED ON PAGE 26

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To qualify for Certified Hereford, Hereford cattle and Hereford-influenced or crossbred cattle have to meet a strict criteria list. Not every Hereford animal meets the high standards required to earn the CHB stamp of quality. In order to be accepted into the brand, each Hereford animal must meet the following CHB requirements:

• Minimum 51 percent white face

• Minimum USDA Small00 (Choice) or Modest00 (Premium) marbling score

• “A” maturity only

• Medium to fine texture marbling

• 10-16 inch ribeye area

• Moderately thick or thicker muscling

• Less than one-inch fat thickness

• Hot carcass weight of 1,050 pounds or less

• No dark cutters

• No capillary rupture

• Neck hump not exceeding two inches in height

Interestingly, the requirements of Certified Angus Beef (CAB), a much more prominent and well-known branded beef program are almost identical to the CHB requirements, with the obvious exception being the white face or Angus genetic requirement. With Angus bulls covering about 70 percent of the U.S. cowherd, it would make sense that the percentage of CAB-qualifying cattle would also be more prevalent. But it’s valuable for consumers to note that the quality of CHB cattle is also top-tier, just not as prevalent because more Angus-influenced cattle exist in the marketplace.

CAN’T BEAT THE BALDY

The advantages of hybrid vigor have long been acknowledged in the beef world. Compared to purebred or line-bred systems, the advantages include improvements in areas such as weaning weight, and cow longevity and fertility to name a few.

Few cattlemen would argue that black baldy is one of the best mother beef cows. Hereford females have long been known for:

• Docility and ease of management

• Lower labor and dystocia costs

• Early maturity and longevity.

But what other factors exist that lead to a Hereford-influenced mama being superior across the beef industry?

According to longtime commerical commercial cattleman Jeff Bowen, Glennville, for him the appeal for Hereford-influenced females is heterosis but he said tradition has always led him to keep a good mix of Hereford and Angus bulls on the ranch. Though Bowen says his family’s cowherd is about 70 percent black-hided, they invest in a 50/50 ratio of Hereford and Angus bulls. “We historically raised Shorthorn and Hereford cattle but over time it was hard to ignore the benefits of introducing Angus genetics,” Jeff Bowen says. “We made the decision to implement more Angus bulls out of sheer popularity and the Angus-Hereford cross has been very good to us. I am glad we stuck with the Herefords because in my opinion they are hardier and easier keeping. I have some great Angus cows, but on average the Herefords and baldies might be more consistently reliable.”

“We raise cattle from 500 feet to 7,000 feet in elevation so all of our cattle have to be hardy. They have to travel and cover a lot of ground. Without documentation to back me up, I would say Hereford cows have greater longevity on our ranch,” he said.

Oklahoma State University (OSU) researchers have studied factors that affect cattle efficiency. To do this, they sought to understand how the total calories the cow intakes influence her calf’s weaning weight. Beyond feed intake, they also wanted to find out if they selected the second breed in a crossbreeding system based on its merits to reduce costs or improve overall profitability would it make a difference?

There is ample data that exists on efficiency factors related to the feed or environment, but OSU researchers came up with a research question there is not much data for: “What is the influence of crossing a breed known for lower feed intake (the Hereford breed) with the popular Angus breed?”

This study resulted in examing how crossbred cows could reduce annual cow maintenance costs. Researchers looked at maintenance energy requirements and voluntary feed intake. They wanted to know how black baldy cows retained body condition compared to Angus cows. They also examined forage intake differences between the crossbred and straight Angus cows.

Results indicated the crossbred baldy cows kept better body condition scores through the study. This finding could help producers increase stocking rates.

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Bowen says he markets commercial Herefordsired and Angus-sired caves annually through Harris Ranch. While he hasn’t seen any of the actual performance data of how his strait Hereford calves, baldy calves or Angus calves measure against each other, he assumes the results in the feedpen and on the rail are positive ones.

“Typically the Hereford calves are right there with the Angus calves,” Bowen said. “Poundfor-pound their growth patterns are similar and they all travel the same and do the same amount of work while they are here on the ranch. Our buyers have returned year after year, so I take that as a sign the Hereford cattle are measuring up.

Bowen’s perspective is similar to the conclusion that many beef cattle producers have come to. Keeping some Hereford influence is the best overall decision for their operation.

Marty Williamson of Boston Ranch in Exeter is another savvy cowman who has always seen the benefit of keeping Hereford genetics in the large, predominantly Angus herd he manages.

He says the Hereford effect on milking ability, docility, fertility and even carcass weight are reasons heterosis from mulitple breeds trumps a purebred herd.

“When we introduce new genetics, especially of another breed like Hereford, we continue to amplify the good things of each breed,” Williamson said. “For us, the Hereford and Angus cross has only brought positive results, especially when the cowherd is considered. And without a good cowherd, you don’t get good calves.”

Williamson says the production of Herefordinfluenced cows spills over into all other areas of the cowherd and stays with the calves long after they leave his ranch.

“Having the quiet nature of baldy cows has a lot of benefit outside of their ability to raise a really nice, heavy calf,” Williamson explained. “They bring that calm demeanor to the whole herd and their quiet calves go on to be more easy going at the feedlot. A quiet feedlot calf is not just easier to manage, but he is more likely to grow and perform the way he should.”

As trends come and grow in the beef business, one belief that seems to stand the test of time is that benefits of heterosis are undeniable and are benefitting not just the ranchers raising the calves but the feeder, the packer and the consumer.

Shane Bedwell with the American Hereford Association points to birthweight, weaning weight, calving easy and ribeye size as production and carcass reasons to consider Hereford genetics.

He says, “by turning out a Hereford bull on black or red cows, you’re going to have an unbeatable baldie!”