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Bulletin No. 28
Through the cooperation of
Florida Department of Agriculture
and Consumer Services
Doyle Conner, Commissioner of Agriculture
Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences
K. R. Tefertiller, Vice President, Agricultural Affairs
We wish to express our sincere appreciation to all people and
agencies from whose data materials and manuscripts were
prepared on designated subjects within the bulletin. Special thanks
go to members of the Animal Science Department of the Florida
Agricultural Experiment Station, Florida Agricultural Extension
Service, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer
Services, United States Department of Agriculture, Meat Packers
and different Beef Breed Associations.
Special thanks are due Wayne Folsom and the Information
Services staff of the Florida Department of Agriculture and
Consumer Services, Tallahassee for their fine help in editing and
designing this book. The authors trust that this bulletin may serve
well the beef industry of Florida.
BEEF CATTLE IN FLORIDA
1 Introduction ........................................ 1
2 Breeds of Beef Cattle in Florida ...................... 12
3 Breeding and Selection of Cattle .......................... 33
4 Reproduction and Fertility in Beef Cattle .............. 47
5 Management of the Beef Cattle Ranch or Farm ......... 59
6 General Nutrition of Beef Cattle ...................... 78
7 Beef Cattle Ration Formulation and Comparative
Nutrient Value of Available Feed Ingredients .......... 90
8 Wintering Programs for Stocker-Feeder Calves
and the Breeding Herd ............................. 108
9 Feeding Cattle and Calves for Slaughter .............. 120
10 Making and Feeding Silage ......................... 134
11 Forage and Pastures ................................ 143
12 Fitting Beef Cattle ................................. 165
13 Training and Showing Beef Cattle .................. 170
14 Common Diseases and Parasites of Beef Cattle ........ 178
15 Marketing of Beef Cattle ............................ 186
16 Florida Livestock Market Information ................ 213
17 Classification and Grading of Cattle .................. 217
18 Handling and Shipping Losses ..................... 242
19 Meat Inspection ..................................... 245
20 Dressed Yields of Slaughter Cattle .................... 248
21 Principles of Cooking Beef ........................... 253
22 Equipment for Feeding and Handling Beef Cattle ...... 261
23 Silo Construction .............................. ... 282
24 Beef Cattle and the Environment ..................... 292
Appendix and Statistical Data ...................... 299
by T. J. Cunha*
At one time the beef cattle industry in Florida and the South
was considered the number one problem area in the United States.
Now, it is the number one opportunity area for future beef cattle
Florida has been raising cattle longer than any state in the
nation, but from the standpoint of future potential and develop-
ment, it is one of the youngest cattle states. Thus, Florida is in a
unique and promising position. While the cattle industry is an old
one, it is still in the early beginning stages of developing its full
According to historians, cattle were first brought to Florida in
1520 by Ponce de Leon. Although many groups of Spanish settlers
brought cattle to this state in later years, the cattle fever tick and
other parasites, poor pastures, inadequate nutrition, disease and
poor management were formidable obstacles to overcome.
Eradication of the cattle fever tick began in the early 1920's and
was finally accomplished in 1950. During the same interval, many
mineral deficiency diseases were eliminated. Forages were
improved, feeding and management practices were adopted and
breeding improved to a considerable extent.
During recent years, much more attention has been given to the
beef cattle industry of Florida. Cattlemen have demonstrated that
higher grades of animals can be raised than had been produced in
years past. It has been found that improved pastures can be
developed, thereby making more feed available for cattle than was
obtained from native pastures only.
With improved feed conditions, cattlemen have found it possible
to improve the breeding within their herds by introducing high
quality purebred bulls. With better grazing and feeding conditions
and by using bulls of improved breeding, the offspring is of higher
quality and has brought more on the market than the scrub cattle
of three decades ago.
*Department of Animal Science, University of Florida.
Hence, it can be seen that it is only within the last 30 years or so
that the cattlemen of Florida have given constructive thought to
cattle raising and have put into practice measures that have
improved the beef cattle produced within the state.
The beef cattle industry of Florida is based on grass as the main
source of feed. Furthermore, near year-around grazing is possible
throughout the state because of the mild climate and generous
At the present time there are about three million acres of
improved pasture in Florida. Agronomists estimate that another
six to eight million acres can eventually be developed into
improved pastures. Thus, there is still room for a great deal of
expansion of the cattle industry.
Table 1 shows the estimated land presently being used for beef
cattle production and the acreage that will be available in 1980
and 1985. The small reduction in acreage available should have no
appreciable effect on total beef produced since improved efficiency
in forage production and utilization can easily more than compen-
sate for the reduction in total land available.
Table 1. Acres being used for beef production in Florida
Classes of land 1974 1980 1985
Class I-IV 6,501,000 6,400,000 6,268,000
Class V-VII 776,700 764,400 748,000
Woodland grazed 4,525,000 4,519,500 4,410,000
11,802,700 11,683,900 11,426,000
The data in Table 2 shows the present and projected acreage
devoted to forage crops for beef cattle. It will be noted that there is
a projected increase of almost 408,000 acres of perennial pastures.
Legume-grasses show an increase of almost one third. A modest
increase is predicted for annual forages except for ryegrass. The
use of ryegrass has increased greatly on the wetter soils and it is
believed that the acreage will be thirty percent more by 1985.
Beef production in the northern and western part of Florida is
mainly on a farm herd basis. In these sections, diversified farming
is practiced. Through diversification, farmers are enabled to have
several sources of farm income if they desire. The acreage devoted
to livestock farming in these sections of the state is small when
compared with the large ranches in Central and South Florida.
Hay may be made from Coastal Bermuda and other grasses.
More success is now occurring in hay making in Florida with the
Table 2. Projected acreage
of forage crops for beef cattle in Florida
Kind of forage 1974 1980 1985
Grasses 2,750,476 2,888,160 3,025,440
Legume-grasses 405,625 436,900 538,645
sorghum-sudan 70,560 73,500 77,560
Winter-small grain 70,700 72,100 74,200
Ryegrass* 288,687 331,963 384,886
Corn 5,002 5,205 5,400
Sorghum 1,970 2,055 2,130
*Much of this acreage interplanted with perennial pastures.
new use of large, round bales and small hay stacks. Such crops as
sorghum and corn may be raised for silage. Where field crops can
be produced, the problem of winter feeding is solved to a large
extent. Calves and yearlings may be developed to feedlot weights
and finished on crops produced on farms, thereby enabling the
farmer to sell his field crops through his livestock.
Improved pastures, consisting of such grasses as Coastal
Bermuda and Argentine and Pensacola Bahia and others, have
been developed in the western part of the state. The soil in that
section is adapted to legumes. By including legumes in pastures of
improved grasses, more feed is obtained and the nutrient content of
the forage is higher than in pastures of improved grasses alone.
It can be seen that there are two types of beef production in
Florida: (1) the range herd where there are many breeding animals
within the herd and where the animals have large areas over
which to graze, and (2) the farm herd where there are fewer
animals and smaller pastures than in range beef production. Both
types of production have a definite place in Florida.
Florida is the only state in the Southeast that is classed as a
range cattle state. The term "range cattle" is misleading since it
implies that the cattle are grazed on open range when this is not
the case. Cattle are kept on large, fenced pastures, many of which
are 25,000 to 30,000 acres and larger. On these large pastures the
cattle are referred to as "range cattle."
Parallel with the work of improving pastures, the cattlemen
have given much thought to improved breeding. The native cow
has furnished the foundation for the Florida beef cattle industry.
Many critical statements have been made regarding the native or
scrub cow, yet she carried a hardiness that was needed to with-
stand the tough range conditions. The native scrub cow has been
the foundation on which Florida is building an improved beef
The use of purebred bulls on these native cows has enabled the
cattlemen to raise calves of higher grade than were obtained from
bulls of nondescript breeding. Most of the native cattle have now
been bred up with purebred Brahman, British and crossbred
foundation bulls and only very few cattle do not have improved
Numerous herds of Angus, Herefords, Brahmans, Santa
Gertrudis, Charolais, Shorthorn, Brangus, Braford, Beefmaster,
Simmental, Limousin, Red Brangus, Red Angus and other new
breeds are available in Florida. These herds are serving as a source
of high quality bulls to improve the commercial herds of the state.
However, the purebred herds of cattle in Florida still do not
produce enough bulls to supply the demand in the state. As a
result, many cattlemen travel to distant areas to purchase pure-
bred bulls for use in their herds.
The beef cattle industry in Florida has been growing rapidly. Its
growth, however, is only in the beginning stages of what its future
potential can be. To give an idea of this growth, following are some
figures which show the increase in numbers and quality of Florida
Cattle since 1929.
Table 3. Increase in Beef Cattle Numbers in Florida
Year Number of Cattle
The figures in Table 3 show about a six-fold increase in beef
cattle numbers since 1929. Of more importance, however, are the
figures in Table 4 showing about a 14-fold increase in pounds of
beef produced since 1929.
The data in Table 5 show the increase which has occurred in the
value of Florida cattle as compared to cattle in the U.S.A.
Table 4. Pounds of Beef Produced in Florida
Year Pounds of Beef
Table 5. Value of Cattle
Percentage value of
Florida cattle as
Year In Florida In U.S.A. compared to U.S. cattle
1929 $ 23.40 $ 58.47 40
1939 20.50 38.44 53
1949 74.20 135.00 55
1959 106.00 153.00 69
1962 121.00 142.00 85
1973 250.00 252.00 99
The figures in Table 5 show that there has been great progress
in the increase in quality of cattle in Florida. However, there is
still much room for improvement since the cattle should surpass
the national average in value and the goal should be to exceed this
value as soon as possible. The greatest emphasis in the future
needs to be on continually improving the quality of Florida cattle.
This will result in the production of more pounds of better quality
beef per acre which is a must for Florida in the future.
Table 6. Income from Sales of Florida Cattle and Calves
1929 $ 3,560,000
The figures in Table 6 show about a 64-fold increase in cattle
sales since 1929. This is indicative of the increase in weight and
quality of Florida cattle.
In 1950, just 26 years ago, inferior and utility calves made up
about 50 percent of the calves marketed in Florida auction
markets. Now these two lower grades make up less than 5 percent
of those marketed. In 1970, the calves marketed through auction
markets were as follows: choice and prime, 18 percent; good, 50
percent; standard 28 percent; and utility and inferior, 4 percent.
These figures represent the tremendous increase which has
occurred in the quality of Florida cattle and calves since 1950.
The use of higher-quality bulls, better management practices
and improved pastures will easily make it possible for Florida to
increase the weight and quality of its feeder calves. This has been
happening steadily and should continue in the future. Cattlemen
are looking for more alternatives than just selling weaned calves
in the fall. Some are interested in developing weaned calves to
feedlot weight calves in Florida. Some of this is already being done
but much more will occur in the future.
1. In 1970 Florida shipped 423,540 head of stocker calves out of
state to other areas. About 271,000 head or 64 percent of these
calves were shipped out during the months of July through
November. The low months during this period were July (43,000)
and November (38,000) with the highest months being August
(57,000) September (66,000) and October (66,000). But even in
December through June there were from 14,000 to 31,000 head
shipped monthly. The low months were January and February
with about 14,000 head being shipped out each month. At least
20,000 were shipped out in the other months, and as high as 32,000
head in June. These figures are given to show that Florida is
shipping stocker calves out of state during every month of the year.
2. Calves sold in the spring months of April, May, June (and
sometimes in March and July) are about 20 percent higher in price
than they are in the fall. How long this price spread will continue
is not known.
3. Calves from Florida go to 37 states. The four states which
get the most Florida calves are Texas (172,089), Georgia (69,204),
Arizona (49,125) and Oklahoma with 30,172 head. These states are
followed by Alabama 12,425, Ohio 9,633, California 9,601, New
Mexico 8,949, Colorado 8,362 and Kansas 8,265 head (all in the
neighborhood of 8 to 12 thousand head). These figures show that
the Texas Panhandle area gets the most Florida calves, followed by
the Far West, the Southeast and the Midwest in that order.
Therefore, Florida calves are being used the most in the southern
half of the United States from Florida to California. The Mid-
western states presently get only a total of about 23,000 head of
calves or about 5 percent of the stocker calves shipped out-of-state.
Whether this same pattern of out-of-state shipments will continue
in the future is not known. The present feedlot feeding situation
may alter this pattern in the future.
4. Florida has an excellent opportunity to increase its income
by developing calves to heavier weights. It can take advantage of
winter grazing crops such as oats, rye, wheat and clover and
summer grazing from temporary crops such as millet and sorghum-
sudan crosses. Moreover, corn silage and sorghum silage can also
be used for developing these weaned calves. This will provide the
Florida cattlemen with more alternatives for marketing their
calves. It will allow them to market at various times of the year
and not to sell the bulk of their calves in the fall when most other
cattlemen do likewise. The result should be greater returns. The
decision on when to market, the weight of calf to sell and what a
cattleman should do will depend on the economics involved and
which program will make the most profit.
Florida has a number of very important advantages working for
it. The more important ones are as follows:
1. A mild climate which allows forage growth most of the year.
Therefore, Florida has an advantage in forage production potential
over many areas of the country.
2. An availability of water which is short or lacking in most
other areas of the U.S. Florida is just beginning to take advantage
of developing water control systems for year-round use.
3. Plenty of land available which can be cleared and developed
into high quality improved pastures. Only about 3,000,000 of its
11,802,000 acres being used for beef production are in improved
pastures. Moreover, by 1985, there will still be 11,426,000 acres
available for beef production. Thus, plenty of land will be available
for a long time to come.
4. A ready made market for beef since Florida is a beef-deficit
area which produces only 13 percent of the quality beef it
consumes. Florida can use all the top quality beef produced in the
state for many years to come and by 1985 only 27.5 percent of it
will be produced in the state.
5. An area which can do as well as any other state in beef
produced per cow or per acre, provided good breeding or production
practices are followed.
6. In 1968 Florida produced only 1.08 percent of the beef con-
sumed in the U.S. By 1985, this will increase to 1.56 percent. This
indicates that Florida can double and re-double its beef production
without having much effect on the total beef supply or its price
level in the U.S. The data presented in Tables 7 through 12 are
based on the University of Florida 1975 AGUA Beef Cattle report
worked up by the University of Florida and industry leaders in
As can be seen from Table 7, Florida beef cattle numbers are
projected to increase by 1980 and 1985. The average annual
increase in beef cattle inventory from 1968 to 1974 projected to
1980, yields a somewhat higher figure (2,900,000 head) than the
number used in Table 7 (2,475,000). Recent developments in the
cost-price position of the beef industry make it seem likely that
numbers will not increase as rapidly the next seven years as in the
past seven. But by 1985, beef cattle numbers will have increased
36 percent over 1974.
Table 7. Florida cattle numbers,
1974, and projections to 1980 and 1985
1974 1980 1985
Cows that have calved 1,282,000 1,450,000 1,750,000
Replacement heifers1 279,000 290,000 350,000
Bulls 77,000 88,000 107,000
Other cattle & calves2 570,000 647,000 793,000
Total 2,208,000 2,475,000 3,000,000
'Heifers over 500 pounds for breeding herd replacement.
'Includes steers, heifers over 500 pounds not for replacement, and calves.
Table 8 shows the calf crop and its disposition in 1980 and 1985.
Table 8. Estimated Florida beef calf crop
and disposition of calves
1974 1980 1985
Beef cows1 1,327,000 1,450,000 1,750,000
Calf crop percentage 78 80 85
Beef calf crop 1,035,000 1,160,000 1,488,000
kept for replacement heifers 278,000 290,000 372,000
developed on pasture 60,000 145,000 177,000
fed in feedlots 45,000 215,000 415,000
shipped out of state 577,000 410,000 424,000
slaughtered 75,000 100,000 100,000
1Estimated from January 1 and July 1 inventories of beef cows that have calved, to
reflect actual brood cow herd.
The figures in Table 8 show the calf crop will increase about 12.1
percent by 1980 and 43.8 percent by 1985. More Florida calves will
stay in the state with more of them developed on pasture and in
the feedlot. There will be a decrease in the number of calves
presently being sent out-of-state.
Table 9 shows the number of cattle fed in Florida feedlots by
1980 and 1985. This information shows there will be considerable
growth in the feedlot and pasture feeding cattle in Florida. It is
anticipated, however, that many of the cattle fed in the feedlot will
be there for a shorter period of time than is presently the case.
They will be kept longer on pasture. Many of them will have been
fed a limited amount of energy feed on pasture. Some calves will
also be creep fed while suckling their dams as a means of
producing a heavier calf at weaning. But, even with this increase
in feeding, Florida will still be producing only 27.5 percent of the
fed beef consumed in the state in 1985.
Table 9. Number of feedlots by size, and fed cattle
marketing, Florida, 1965-68, 1973 and
projected 1980 and 1985
Feedlot capacity Feedlot capacity
(under 1,000 head) (1,000 head & over) Total
Cattle Cattle Cattle
Year Lots marketed Lots marketed Lots marketed
1965 461 50,000 16 96,000 477 146,000
1966 465 85,000 13 75,000 478 160,000
1967 415 67,000 15 91,000 430 158,000
1968 355 48,000 13 74,000 368 122,000
1973' 250 35,000 12 90,000 262 125,000
19802 225 35,000 17 255,000 242 290,000
19852 200 35,000 20 530,000 220 565,0003
30f this number, about 415,000 head would be Florida-produced calves. The
remainder would be from Florida-raised yearlings or cattle shipped in from other
Table 10. Florida beef production 1970-1974,
and projected 1980 and 1985
Year Total million pounds Per head pounds'
1970 520 257
1971 504 245
1972 530 249
1973 595 266
19742 662 266
19803 754 270
19853 935 275
1Total beef production divided by number of head all cattle, Jan. 1.
Table 10 shows that Florida will be producing 754,000,000
pounds of beef in 1980 and 930 million pounds of beef in 1985. This
is an increase of 14 and 41 percent over present beef production by
1980 and 1985, respectively.
Table 11 shows the consumption of beef in Florida whereas Table
12 shows the percentage of Florida beef consumption which is
produced in the state.
Table 11. Florida beef consumption
1973 1980 1985
U.S. per capital beef and veal consumption
Live weight: pounds 200 216 243
Carcass weight: pounds 111 120 135
Florida beef consumption
Live weight: million pounds 1,569 2,049 2,617
Fed1 1,177 1,640 2,224
Nonfed 392 409 393
Florida beef production
Live weight: million pounds 595 754 935
Fed 155 329 612
Nonfed 440 425 323
Deficit (surplus): million pounds 974 1,295 1,682
Fed 1,022 1,311 1,612
Nonfed (48) (16) 70
1Based on fed cattle making up 75, 80 and 85 percent of cattle slaughtered in 1973,
1980 and 1985 respectively.
The data in Table 12 show that by 1985 Florida will be
producing 27.5 percent of the fed beef and 82 percent of the non-fed
beef which it consumes. Florida will still be shipping in
1,612,000,000 pounds of fed beef and 70,000,000 lbs. of non-fed beef
Table 12. Percentage of Florida fed and non-fed
beef consumption produced in Florida
1973 1980 1985
Florida beef production:
1. As a percent of
Florida consumption 38.0 37.0 36.0
Fed 1 13.0 20.0 27.5
Nonfed 112.0 104.0 82.0
2. As a percent of U.S.
consumption 1.42 1.51 1.56
1Based on fed beef making up 75, 80 and 85 percent of cattle slaughtered in 1973,
1980 and 1985 respectively.
Summary and Conclusions
The beef cattle industry in Florida will expand considerably
through 1985. The 1974-75 cost-price squeeze situation with beef
cattle will cause cattle numbers not to increase as rapidly in the
next 7 years as in the past 7 years. But by 1985 beef cattle
numbers will have increased 36 percent over 1974. Cattle numbers
will increase from 2,208,000 head in 1974 to 2,475,000 in 1980 and
3,000,000 head in 1985. Beef produced will increase from 662
million pounds in 1974 to 754 million in 1980 and 935 million
pounds in 1985. By 1985, Florida will be producing 27.5 percent of
the fed beef and 82 percent of the non-fed beef which it consumes.
But Florida will still be importing 1,612,000,000 pounds of fed beef
from other states in 1985. This will be the case even though
Florida will increase cattle fed in feedlots from 125,000 head in
1973 to 290,000 in 1980 and 565,000 head in 1985. Therefore, by
1985 there will still be plenty of room for expansion of the beef
cattle industry in Florida. By then, Florida will still have
11,426,000 acres devoted to beef cattle production but only
3,025,440 of these acres will be improved pasture grasses. There
will still be over 8,400,000 acres of unimproved pasture area
devoted to beef cattle. Based on 1967 dollars, the cash receipts from
marketing cattle and calves in Florida will be $275,000,000 in
1980 and $470,000,000 in 1985.
Florida has an excellent future in the beef cattle industry. It
faces many problems which research studies should help solve. In
addition to the production and marketing problems, Florida, like
other states, needs to meet problems associated with the
environment, waste disposal, land use regulations, increasing land
values and taxation rates as well as the present cost-price squeeze
Breeds of Beef Cattle in Florida
by Marvin Koger and J. F. Hentges, Jr.*
Breeds constitute the basic genetic resource for the production of
commercial livestock. They are the gene pools on which the
commercial producer must rely for seedstock to genetically
manipulate his herds to do the best job in an ever-changing
industry. There are few cattle in the United States in which less
than 90 percent of their genes trace to purebred sires although not
necessarily to sires of the same breed. In breeding programs
structured on the extensive use of purebred sires, it is axiomatic
that information on breed characteristics and the relationship of
these characteristics to productivity in commercial production is of
paramount importance in beef cattle breeding.
The methods by which breeds are improved and manner in
which breed differences are utilized are discussed in the next
section. The purpose of this chapter is to present a brief description
of the breeds which are of current or potential significance to the
commercial beef cattle industry of the state.
The 1955 edition of this book included descriptions of ten recog-
nized breeds or strains. Of these, only four were numerous enough
to be of economic significance to the area. Since that date however,
additional breeds have increased in number and artificial insemi-
nation has become widespread resulting in a tremendous expan-
sion in the number of breeds that can be utilized either by artificial
insemination or secondarily, by use of crossbred or grade bulls by
natural service. Currently, there is widespread institutional and
breeder experimentation with numerous breeds from continental
Europe. Information is not adequate at this time, however, to
assess adequately their utility in Florida.
Because of the number of breeds involved and limitation of
space, only a brief physical description and major characteristics
for which the breed is noted can be attempted. More detailed
descriptive literature and breed association policies may be
*Department of Animal Science, University of Florida.
obtained by contacting the associations listed at the end of this
Information of Importance in Breed Evaluation
The most important information relating to a beef breed is the
performance of progeny from sires of the breed mated to cows
typical of those on which bulls of the breed are to be used for
commercial production. A large majority of the commercial cows in
Florida are Brahman crosses; thus, in this area the most relevant
information on a breed is its performance as a sire breed used on
Brahman-cross cows. Progeny performance data should include
ease of calving, calf survival, growth rate, both on pasture and in
the feedlot, and the cow performance traits (fertility, calving ease
and maternal performance) of female progeny. The latter is the
most important item affecting total economy of beef production.
Breeds should be evaluated also on their performance as pure-
breds. The reasons for this are that (1) breed characteristics
generally are firmly fixed additive traits that are passed on to
their progeny (both purebreds and crosses) and (2) purebred
performance influences the cost of supplying bulls to commercial
breeders. Another feature is that bulls from purebred herds still
are used widely for straight-breeding in commercial operations.
Where this practice is followed, the faults of a breed are not
masked by crossbreeding.
The American Brahman
The American Brahman has resulted from blending a number of
Bos indicus breeds and selection for a modern beef type animal.
The foundation for the breed was formed by top-crossing commer-
cial cows with Indian bulls. Animals were admitted to registry
when Indian breeding reached the level of thirty-one thirty-
seconds (31/32). Foundation females were largely commercial cows
from the Southwest and Gulf Coast region of the United States.
A unique feature of the breed is that it is the only breed of
commercial importance in the United States that does not trace
exclusively, or predominantly in the case of derivative breeds
formed from Brahman-cross foundations, to stocks originating in
the temperate zone. Thus, while having acquired modern-day beef
characteristics, they also have retained certain distinguishing
attributes of tropical breeds. These include the hump along with
hair and skin characteristics prevalent in cattle of tropical origin,
The pure Brahman is moderate in size and matures less rapidly
than the improved British and European beef breeds and has good
longevity. Rate of maturity in the breed has increased considerably
during recent years. The cattle are alert and move freely, which
are desirable attributes for extensive range operations and where
cattle are worked during periods of high temperatures or high
humidity. Where the cattle are closely associated with humans,
they become among the gentlest of cattle. They tend to be
gregarious with individuals resisting isolation or separation from
The breed is valued most highly for its adaptability to warm
humid climates, good maternal ability, longevity and an
unparalleled combining ability with all of the European breeds
with which it has been crossed. An undercurrent of Brahman
breeding (% to % depending on circumstances) is considered by
most producers to be essential for commercial production of beef
throughout Florida and the Gulf Coast area. The use of Brahman-
cross cows has spread northward during recent years. Brahman
bulls in recent years have enjoyed a favorable reception both by
commercial producers and the export trade.
Black Angus cattle are familiar to everyone interested in beef
cattle production as they are the second most numerous of any
breed in the United States. They are widespread throughout most
of the world where improved beef cattle are produced.
Angus cattle generally have been considered as a breed of small
to intermediate size. In recent years however, emphasis has been
placed on increasing size and growth rate in the breed. This change
has been associated with some increase in leanness of carcass.
The Angus is of unparalleled prepotency for general type, color
and the polled character. Because of this prepotency, uniformity
within a herd can be established through up-grading to Angus
bulls in less time than with any other breed, figure 2.
With respect to production traits, Angus are valued most highly
for their early maturity, fertility, maternal ability and carcass
quality. Angus have a reputation for combining good marbling
with a satisfactory carcass yield grade. Because of these qualities,
along with dependability with respect to color and the polled
character, they are especially popular in crossbreeding programs.
The Angus-cross cow and black baldie steers have established
themselves among the favorites in beef cattle production circles.
Figure 1. Brahman bull, Courtesy Univ. of Florida
Figure 2. Angus bull, Courtesy American Angus Ass'n.
The Red Angus is a breed of more-recent vintage that was estab-
lished on a foundation of red cattle which appeared in Black Angus
herds. Consequently, they have many characteristics in common
with Black Angus, figure 3.
Early in their history, the breed association entered upon a
vigorous production performance program that enjoyed strong
support among breeders. As a result of this program, the breed
early became noted for their exceptional performance, both as
brood cows and feedlot animals.
The breed has the reputation of doing well in both straight-
breeding and crossbreeding programs. They are noted as a high
fertility breed with good maternal ability, good postweaning gain
and excellent high-yielding carcasses. On the average, they are
considered to be somewhat larger in size than the Black Angus.
The Hereford has played a dominant role in beef cattle
production in the United States for three quarters of a century. At
one time, grade commercial Hereford cattle constituted more than
50 percent of the entire beef cattle population of the country. An
attractive white face and underline are the trademark of the breed,
for which it is highly prepotent. The body is red in color and varies
from a dark red to a light red approaching yellow.
The Hereford is of moderate size and rate of maturity. The breed
is valued for its wide adaptability, docile manageable tempera-
ment, general hardiness, reproductive efficiency and good combin-
ing ability with other breeds in crossbreeding programs. Criticisms
of the breed most frequently heard include those of marginal
milking ability for production of heavy calves and eye maladies
including that of cancer eye. The frequency of these problems
varies widely with location and herd. In crossbreeding programs,
they usually disappear altogether.
The Polled Hereford
The Polled Hereford has gained in popularity since the first herd
was assembled in 1901 from polled animals which appeared in
horned Hereford herds. They have enjoyed a surge in popularity in
Since the breed descended from the horned breed and horned
animals were used for increasing numbers during the early
history, the breed has most characteristics valued in the horned
breed. Likewise, not all polled animals breed true for the polled
trait. The frequency of the horned gene in the breed has been
reduced markedly in recent years, making polled Hereford bulls
much more prepotent for the trait, figure 4.
Compared with the horned breed, the Polled Herefords average
slightly larger in size and as a whole are heavier milkers although
this is not true for all herds since there is a considerable overlap.
The Polled Hereford is valued most highly by industry for its
polled trait and general utility as a beef breed. It has a wide range
in adaptability, is a fertile breed and enjoys wide popularity for
crossbreeding in the Southeastern and Gulf Coast regions of the
Figure 3. Red Angus bull, Courtesy Red Angus Ass'n. of America
The Charolais breed originated in France and is noted for its
off-white color, tremendous size and muscularity. Most of the
Charolais cattle in the United States trace on the female side to
Charolais cattle introduced into Mexico during the 1930's. This
segment of the breed is frequently referred to as "domestic"
Figure 4. Polled Hereford bull, Courtesy American Polled Hereford Ass'n.
Figure 5. Charolais bull, Courtesy
American-International Charolais Ass'n.
Charolais to distinguish the cattle from those that have resulted
from top-crossing in recent years to French Charolais bulls. Bulls
for this purpose (figure 5) were introduced into Canada through a
government-controlled quarantine station.
The timing in introduction of this muscular breed was fortunate
as it preceded an emphasis change in the United States to meatier,
more muscular carcasses with less waste fat. The introduction of
the breed may in fact have contributed to this shift in emphasis. As
a result of this change in emphasis, the Charolais grew rapidly in
favor during the 1960's, supplanting the Shorthorn as the third or
fourth most popular breed in the United States, depending on
whether the horned and polled divisions of Herefords are counted
as one or two breeds.
In industry, the breed is valued most highly for its growth rate
and muscularity. Associated with rapid growth, heavy birth
weights and difficult birth may be encountered unless appropriate
management practices are followed and proper choice of females
made for mating to Charolais bulls. In industry, the Charolais has
been most popular as a terminal sire breed in producing
The Chianina originated in Italy and reportedly is the largest in
size of any breed. They are thought to have descended from the
large white cattle used in ceremonials in Rome shortly after the
birth of Christ. There have been speculations that the cattle are
related to Bos indicus cattle in the remote past, figure 6.
At the time of this publication, experimental data on crosses of
this breed are not adequate to assess their utility for beef produc-
tion in the United States. Because of their large size, it is known
that rate of growth should be rapid. Leanness of carcass would also
The Simmental is a large dual-purpose breed that originated in
Switzerland. It is one of the older breeds of economic significance to
originate in continental Europe. By 1900, the breed had become
widely spread throughout most of Europe. According to the
American Simmental Association, there are presently about 35
million head of the breed in Europe. As such it is the most impor-
tant dual-purpose breed on the continent. During recent years,
breeders of Simmental have enjoyed a brisk export business to
numerous parts of the world, figure 7.
The first Simmental cattle to reach North America arrived in
Canada in 1967. Through extensive use of artificial insemination,
the breed and its crosses expanded rapidly. In 1969 the American
Figure 6. Chianina bull, courtesy American Chianina Ass'n.
Figure 7. Simmental bull, Courtesy American Simmental Ass'n., Inc.
Simmental Association was formed with the first purebred bull
arriving in the United States in 1971. The Association has
promoted an active and rigorous performance testing program from
its inception. Performance records are required for registration.
The number of cattle registered by the Association reached over
168,000 by December, 1974. It is increasing in numbers more
rapidly than any other of the recently introduced breeds.
The Simmental is a large breed with mature bulls characteris-
tically reaching 2,200 to 2,400 lbs. in weight. Cows mature in the
1,300-1,600 lb. range. It would be anticipated that weights would
be somewhat less in Florida. Having been developed as dual
purpose cattle, the cows are good milkers as beef cattle, resulting
in rapid growth rate of calves. Under their natural habitat, the
cows are noted for good fertility. As would be anticipated from
their large size, postweaning gain is rapid being comparable to
that for the Charolais.
Early results from mating bulls of the large continental
European breeds to cows of smaller genetic size have shown a high
frequency of difficult calving in the Midwestern United States.
Preliminary results from Florida, however, have not indicated
difficult calving to be a serious problem. Results during the next
few years should clarify the situation in Florida with respect to
calving ease and preweaning mortality among calves sired by bulls
of the recently introduced breeds.
The Shorthorn is the oldest of the British beef breeds and at one
time was the dominant breed in the United States. They are the
largest of the British breeds but since the advent of the larger
"exotic" breeds into the United States, they generally are
considered as moderate in size.
Mature bulls generally weigh in the range of 1,600 lb. to over a
ton. The breed is a red-pigmented breed but varies widely in the
extension of color. Red, white, roan and spotted animals all occur
in the breed and none are discriminated against by association
rules, figure 8.
The Shorthorn generally has been considered to be the heaviest
milking of the British breeds. One segment of the breed is known
as the Milking Shorthorn and has been selected as dual-purpose
The breed has been utilized in Florida mainly for crossbreeding
purposes. Research data from the university system has shown the
Figure 8. Shorthorn bull, Courtesy American Shorthorn Ass'n.
Brahman-Shorthorn cow to wean extremely heavy calves. Fertility
was slightly lower than for other British crosses. Characteristics
for which the breed is most frequently criticized are a tendency to
store excessive fat covering and lack of adaptability to Florida
conditions in commercial straightbreeding operations. The breed is
valued most highly for crossbreeding purposes.
The Limousin is a French breed for which a herdbook was estab-
lished in 1886. Prior to this time, they had existed as a type in the
high-rainfall areas of South-central France over a long period of
history. In terms of numbers introduced into North America, they
rank third among recent introductions exceeded in this category by
the Charolais and Simmental.
In growth rate and mature size they rank intermediate between
the larger Charolais and Simmental and the British beef breeds.
Bulls of this tan-colored breed generally reach 2,000 to 2,400 lbs.
Cows characteristically weigh in the 1,150 to 1,350 lb. range,
Figure 9. Limousin bull, Courtesy North American Limousin Foundation
The breed is valued most highly for its muscularity, high
yielding carcasses and fine textured meat of high quality. In
common with other recent introductions the breed has not been
tested adequately to assess its overall value for commercial
production in Florida.
The Maine-Anjou breed originated in the province of Brittany in
France. The foundation animals of the breed resulted from crossing
of the Shorthorn and Mancelles breeds. The Maine-Anjou is red
and white in color, generally with white undermarkings and
occasional splotches of white over the remainder of the body. It is a
breed that is large in size, averaging slightly larger than the
Simmental and Charolais breeds. In height they are intermediate
between these breeds and the taller Chianina. Characteristically
they are rather upstanding, trim-middled, long-bodied and smooth-
muscled animals. In preliminary trials in Florida, they have
demonstrated superior growth rate and high yielding carcasses.
Evaluation of cow performance traits for beef production in Florida
is still in the initial stages, figure 10.
Figure 10. Maine-Anjou bull, Courtesy International Maine-Anjou Ass'n.
THE ZEBU-EUROPEAN DERIVATIVE BREEDS
There are six crossbred foundation groups of cattle which are of
interest to Florida cattle producers. In chronological order of
development, they include the Santa Gertrudis, Beefmaster and
Brangus with the Barzona, Braford and Charbray developing more
or less simultaneously.
The Santa Gertrudis
The Santa Gertrudis was the first breed of cattle to be developed
in the United States. It was developed by the King Ranch of Texas
in response to a need for a breed well adapted to the semi-tropical
climate of South Texas. The King Ranch was located in a semi-arid
region of the state.
In terms of breed composition, Santa Gertrudis are of approxi-
mately % Zebu and % Shorthorn breeding. The breed was carefully
linebred to develop a high relationship to the famous bull Monkey
which appeared early in the development of the breed.
In terms of physical characteristics, the breed is red in color with
limited white spotting only permissible on the underline. The
breed is of moderate to large size with mature bulls in pasture
conditions weighing 1,700 to 2,200 lbs. Cows under similar condi-
tions weigh up to 1,300 lbs., figure 11.
In production characteristics, the breed is noted for its adapt-
ability to tropical and semi-tropical areas, rapid rate of growth,
good calf survival and excellent maternal performance of cows. In
common with all large heavy milking cattle, pregnancy rate in
Santa Gertrudis cows is sensitive to adverse feed conditions during
the breeding season.
Growth rate, feed conversion and carcass yield grade in experi-
mental trials have been good. As would be anticipated, in view of
size and growth rate, marbling scores have averaged slightly below
those for British-sired steers. Under past standards, conformation
has been a limiting factor in carcass grade. Under the new regula-
tions being initiated however, this factor no longer will be
The history of the Beefinaster breed is summarized by the
Foundation Beefmaster Association as follows:
"The foundation herd of the Beefmaster breed can be
traced from Tom Lasater to his father, the late Edward
C. Lasater. The elder Lasater began introducing
Brahman blood into his Hereford and Shorthorn herds
near Falfurrias, Texas, in 1908. In 1931, Tom Lasater
began a crossbreeding program using his father's regis-
tered Hereford and Brahman herds and introduced some
registered Shorthorn blood.
"It was with this three-way cross; the Hereford, the
Shorthorn and the Brahman-that Beefmasters were
created. Lasater closed the foundation herd to outside
influence in the 1930's and it has remained that way
"In 1949, Lasater moved his herd to their present
location near Matheson, Colorado.
"The exact percentage of blood of each parent breed is
not known, because Lasater used a multiple-sire cross-
breeding program under range conditions. It is
estimated, however, that about 25 percent Hereford, 25
percent Shorthorn and 50 percent Brahman hereditary
material was incorporated in the breed.
"During the entire period of breed development, selec-
tion has been practiced for these six essentials: Disposi-
tion, Fertility, Weight, Conformation, Hardiness and
"The U.S. Department of Agriculture recognized Beef-
masters as a distinct breed in 1954."
A unique feature of the breed is that selection has been entirely
for economic traits with no attention being given to items such as
color or horns. Thus, it is not surprising that the breed is recog-
nized for superior production performance and utility over a wide
range of conditions. It is a breed that performs well in straight-
breeding as well as in crossbreeding programs, figure 12.
: ~ "
.*"_n;~t~: ;C C;' '
Figure 11. Santa Gertrudis bull, Courtesy
Santa Gertrudis Breeders International
The Brangus was developed by combining Brahman and Angus
breeding in a % % combination and selecting for the desired traits
of both breeds. Interest in developing the breed was stimulated by
the early work in crossing of Brahman and Angus cattle at the
United States Department of Agriculture Station at Jeannerette,
Louisiana. Private breeders recognized the potential of crossbred
foundation animals and initiated experimental programs of their
own to develop cattle that retained the ability of the Brahman to
survive under unfavorable conditions along with the beef quality
and fertility for which the Angus was noted. In 1949, interested
breeders formed the organization that later became the Inter-
national Brangus Breeders Association. They set as their goal that
of developing a breed that would produce beef economically under
a wide variety of range and climatic conditions.
The Association provides for three classifications for animals
used in the Brangus program:
1. Enrolled foundation Brahman and Angus stock to be used
in generating % % animals.
2. Certified intermediate crosses used in the program. These
include %, and % combinations. In addition, Brangus
animals produced in multiple sire herds are certified. Off-
spring of these may be registered if produced in single-sire
3. Registered Brangus must be % Brahman % Angus, solid
black in color, polled and approved by an Association
Figure 12. Beefmaster bull, Courtesy Beefmaster Breeders Universal
Through keeping the registry open to newly formed % %
animals, the Association has made possible a ready means for
rapidly increasing numbers in the breed or the introduction of new
genetic material into the breed as needed. By mating % Brahman
/4 Angus bulls to Angus cows (generally referred to as the shortcut
method) the progeny that are approved may be added immediately
to the breed registry. This is a new concept in breeding of
registered cattle. The utility of this approach has already been
demonstrated through the addition of large numbers of superior
cattle to the breed in recent years. Unfortunately, the requirement
that enrolled animals are restricted to registered cattle only closes
the door to more valuable genetic resources available in superior
unregistered cattle in commercial herds.
The feature of the Brangus breed for which it is most highly
valued is a balance of traits that makes it useful in straight-
breeding programs under a wide variety of conditions. Brangus
bulls in recent years have worked well in crossbreeding with cattle
principally of Hereford breeding in Southwestern United States.
Brangus females are noted for superior maternal ability and good
fertility. The criticism most frequently voiced is a tendency toward
a nervous disposition. This character has been improved upon in
recent years. The breed is of moderate size, thus, is not competitive
in growth rate with the larger breeds. It should be recognized that
this characteristic is not necessarily a fault and is related to the
ease of calving and calf survival observed in Brangus. In terms of
pounds of calf weaned per unit of cow weight maintained in the
herd, the Brangus merit a favorable rating. Brangus-sired feedlot
cattle have shown a moderate growth rate, good gradability of
carcass and moderately high yield of trimmed retail cuts.
The Red Brangus
Genes for red color are present in both the Brahman and Angus
breeds. Thus it is to be expected that a few red animals would
segregate from foundation Brangus cattle. Breeders with a prefer-
ence for red color have formed an association to promote Red
Other than for color, the characteristics of Red Brangus are the
same as those described above for the Brangus.
Barzona cattle are a selection that goes back to the early 1940's
when the Bard Ranch instituted a crossbreeding program using
Angus and Santa Gertrudis bulls on Afrikander-Hereford cows.
From this crossbred foundation Barzona cattle were selected for
performance under the rigors of the sparse feed supply and high
temperatures of the semi-desert range of Arizona. One of the
characteristics that was selected for was the ability to utilize
coarse fibrous browse plants.
The cattle have developed characteristics that make them
generally recognizable as a group and interest in the cattle has
increased in recent years. Cattle that are 15/16 Barzona can be
registered as foundation animals.
Research institutions have become interested in the cattle with
Mississippi State University obtaining an experimental herd.
During the next few years, data should become available that will
enable assessment of this group of cattle with an interesting and
Brahman-Hereford crosses have been one of the most popular
groups of cattle since crossbreeding was introduced into the Gulf
Coast region. It is a natural consequence that this breed combina-
tion would be used as a base for establishing a new breed. The
International Association of Braford Breeders was formed in
Florida in 1969 for the purpose of pursuing this goal. The Associa-
tion was formed after sensational progress already had been made
through an intensive large scale selection program by the Adams
Ranch of Fort Pierce, Florida.
Braford cattle are approximately % Hereford and % Brahman,
Superior Hereford-sired bull progeny from a Brahman-Hereford
sire rotation (crisscross) were mated to females of the same breed
composition to form first-generation Brafords. These cattle have
been straightbred for 3 to 7 generations to produce the cattle now
in the herd.
Five basic guidelines have been used in the selection program:
1. Cattle must be bred in the environment in which they are
to be used.
2. Selection must be based on traits having the greatest dollar
3. Natural selection is utilized.
4. Sires are selected from the widest base possible.
5. The best cows in the herd are grouped and mated to the
best herd sires.
The specific production traits which have been emphasized in
selection include fertility, calving ease, calf survival, weaning
weight, postweaning gain, moderate mature weight and adapt-
ability to their environment. A unique feature of the program has
been the practical ranch management procedures utilized in
generating the selection pressure necessary to achieve the desired
goals. The simple expediency of removing all non-nursing cows
(other than first-exposure heifers) at the end of the calving season
generates the maximum pressure attainable for fertility, calf
survival and adaptability to environment. Good weaning weight
was assured by grouping the best producing cows on the ranch and
selecting herd sires from this group, along with keeping the better
weanling heifers for replacement. Adequate growth potential to
assure good postweaning gain (on pasture or in the feedlot) was
achieved by eliminating any bulls which failed to reach the desired
yearling weight under pasture conditions.
This approach to selection for total performance has resulted in
one of the most successful ventures recorded in beef cattle
breeding. Weaning weights range from 500 to over 800 pounds
with no supplemental feed for either the cow or the calf. Steer
calves placed on feed at weaning will finish at 12 to 15 months as
1,000-pound choice cattle, or can be finished on roughage programs
when economics favor this practice.
It is of interest to note that this selection program has resulted
in rapid growth in young animals but that mature size is moderate
only. Mature bulls under pasture conditions vary from
approximately 1,500 to 2,000 pounds. Mature cows average around
1,150 pounds. In color the breed is basically red with a restricted
Hereford color pattern. The area around the eyes generally is
pigmented and is favored in selection. Brindling of the red areas is
common but the frequency of this factor appears to be reduced with
time without discrimination against it.
Brahman females were used extensively as foundation females
in the process of upgrading to the Charolais. Crosses of these two
breeds attracted wide attention because of their tremendous rate of
growth and size. The term Charbray was copyrighted to include
Charolais-Brahman crosses containing 1/16 to 1/2 Brahman. An
association was formed that was active in promoting the sale of
Because of the popularity of the Charolais, Charbray females
were utilized mostly for continued topcrossing to Charolais bulls.
As a result, inter-se mating of Charbray to Charbray has not been
widespread. Charbray bulls were used initially in the United
States mainly as a substitute for Charolais bulls before the latter
became plentiful. During recent years, they have been exported
principally for use in the more tropical areas where the pure
Charolais is not well adapted.
BEEF CATTLE BREED ASSOCIATIONS
American Angus Association
3201 Frederick Boulevard
St. Joseph, Missouri 64501
Breeders Association of America
P.O. Box 1421
Carefree, Arizona 85331
Beefalo East, Inc.
Tazewell, Virginia 24657
Beefmaster Breeders Universal
720 G.P.M. South Tower
800 N.W. Loop 410
San Antonio, Texas 78216
Same as Galloway
American Blonde D'Aquitaine Assoc.
Alta, Iowa 51002
Adams-Whiddon Farms, Inc.
P.O. Box 1450
Ft. Pierce, Florida 33450
American Brahman Breeders Asso.
1313 La Concha Lane
Houston, Texas 77054
Int. Brangus Breeders Assoc.
9500 Tioga Drive
San Antonio, Texas 78205
Brown Swiss Beef Int. Inc.
P.O. Box 1038, I
Beloit, Wisconsin 53511
Same as Charolais
American-Int. Charolais Assoc.
1610 Old Spanish Trail
Houston, Texas 77025
American Chianina Association
P.O. Box 11577
Kansas City, Missouri 64138
Devon Cattle Association
Goldendale, Washington 98620
Galloway Performance Int.
P.O. Box 620
Eureka, Kansas 67045
American Galloway Breeders Assoc.
801 E. San Francisco Street
Rapid City, South Dakota 57701
American Gelbvieh Association
202 Livestock Exchange Bldg.
Denver, Colorado 80216
American Hereford Association
715 Hereford Drive
Kansas City, Missouri 64105
North Am. Limousin Foundation
100 Livestock Exchange Bldg.
Denver, Colorado 80216
International Maine-Anjou Assoc.
564 Livestock Exchange Bldg.
Kansas City, Missouri 64102
Am. Milking Shorthorn Society
313 Glenstone Avenue
Springfield, Missouri 64102
MRI Cattle Breeders of Canada, Ltd.
200, 639-5 Avenue, S.W.
Calgary, Alberta, CANADA
American Murray Grey Assoc.
Route 4, Box 179A
Shelbyville, Kentucky 40065
American Normande Association
Kearney, Missouri 64060
North Am. Norwegian Red Assoc.
Route 1, Box 346
Burns, Texas 37029
American Pinzgauer Association
1415 Main Street
Alamosa, Colorado 81101
American Polled Hereford Assoc.
4700 East 63rd Street
Kansas City, Missouri 64130
Am. Polled Shorthorn Society
8288 Hascall Street
Omaha, Nebraska 68124
Ranger Cattle Company
P.O. Box 21300
North Pecos Station
Denver, Colorado 80221
Red Angus Assoc. of America
P.O. Box 776
Denton, Texas 76201
Am. Red Brangus Association
404 Colorado Street
P.O. Box 1326, Dept. E
Austin, Texas 78702
Red Poll Beef Breeders Int.
P.O. Box 176
Ross, Ohio 45061
Red Poll Cattle Club of Am.
3275 Holredge Street
Lincoln, Nebraska 68503
Santa Gertrudis Breeders Int.
P.O. Box 1257
Kingville, Texas 78363
Am. Scotch Highland Breeder's
P.O. Box E
Edgemont, South Dakota 57735
American Shorthorn Association
8288 Hascall Street
Omaha, Nebraska 68124
Am. Simmental Association
P.O. Box 24, 1 Simmental Way
Bozeman, Montana 59715
Int. South Devon Association
8527 University Avenue
Des Moines, Iowa 50311
Texas Longhorn Breeders Assoc. of
204 Alamo Plaza
San Antonio, Texas 78205
The Canadian Welsh Black Cattle
Taber, Alberta, CANADA
Breeding and Selection of Cattle
by Marvin Koger*
From a long-range point of view, the selection and breeding
practices employed in a cattle operation are of unprecedented
importance. Breeding methods are the only means available for
bringing about genetic improvement of cattle or for achieving the
qualities in animals which make them best suited for the produc-
tion of meat under the conditions prevalent on a particular ranch
To appreciate fully the tremendous variation in productivity of
animals, even within herds where animals on casual inspection
may appear quite uniform, one must study records of individual
animals. This will reveal that in many cattle enterprises, a large
portion of the profits returned by the more productive cows are
wasted in supporting a surprising number of animals which do not
pay their way.
The objectives of a breeding program thus should be two-fold.
First, because of economic reasons, it should assure that only the
most profitable animals produced will comprise the producing
herd. Second, and most important from the long-range view, the
breeding program should result in the greatest continued genetic
improvement possible with the breeding stock available.
Information Needed for Designing
The Most Effective Breeding Program
The type of enterprise engaged in, or the classes of animals sold,
will determine to a considerable extent the characteristics desired
in cattle. For example, if slaughter calves are to be sold, good
mothering qualities and milk production are of primary impor-
tance. Or, if feeders and stockers are sold, the qualities stressed by
feeder buyers (feeding and fleshing qualities, conformation,
temperament and uniformity) should be stressed. Thus, an impor-
tant matter to be considered in designing a breeding program is
*Department of Animal Science, University of Florida.
the type of enterprise in which the cattle are to be used, along with
the characteristics of cattle which contribute to efficiency of
production under the enterprise chosen. It is extremely important
that these matters be thought through carefully before embarking
on a breeding program. The other information needed for designing
an effective breeding plan is an understanding of the systems of
mating and methods of selection which may be used for developing,
to the greatest extent possible, these characteristics in cattle.
Kinds of Cattle Enterprises
Factors which influence the type of enterprise that should be
entered into include adaptability of the ranch for production of
various market classes of animals, and market outlets for the
various classes which can be produced. Obviously, fat slaughter
calves cannot be produced successfully on many native unimproved
ranges of Florida. Design the enterprise to produce animals for
which the area is adaptable. Also, animals should be produced that
will find a ready acceptance on the market because they will
command a higher price per pound.
Cattle enterprises may be classified as follows:
Purebred operations specialize in the sale of breeding stock.
There is some exchange of breeding stock among purebred
breeders, but the primary functions of the purebred industry is to
supply bulls to commercial producers.
In the past, the demand for good quality bulls in Florida sur-
passed the supply which resulted in large numbers of bulls from
other areas being sold in Florida. Unfortunately many of these
bulls were of poor quality. Also, bulls shipped in from other areas
generally are not acclimated to Florida conditions and conse-
quently do not thrive as well as bulls produced in the state.
Properly managed purebred operations have a good future in
Florida. It should be remembered however, that a purebred opera-
tion is a highly specialized enterprise and should be engaged in
only by those who are proficient in methods of breeding, feeding,
management and salesmanship.
Purebred breeders should never lose sight of the characteristics
needed in commercial cattle and should plan their breeding
program so that commercial producers can buy animals which will
correct the deficiencies in commercial herds. This means that all
purebred herds should not be alike. If a commercial herd is
deficient in milk production, bulls with extremely good milking
qualities in their background should be introduced. If the major
weakness of a herd is lack of muscling, bulls should be used which
will correct this condition. Since no one has yet been able to
develop a herd which is outstanding in all characteristics, commer-
cial producers must buy bulls which will do the best possible job in
correcting deficiencies which are present in their herds.
Commercial cow-calf operations may sell one or a combination of
the following market classes of animals: (1) light weight calves,
usually under 5 months of age and weighing less than 300 pounds;
(2) fat slaughter calves, generally weighing more than 500 pounds
at 8 to 10 months of age; (3) feeder and stocker calves; (4) feeder
and stocker yearlings; (5) grass finished cattle; or (6) feedlot
finished cattle. The relative importance of the various traits of
cattle in producing animals for sale in the different market classes
is shown graphically in Table 13.
Grazing of stocker cattle which are purchased may be a profitable
enterprise under certain conditions. If suitable stocker animals are
available and the quality of forage is adequate, more pounds of
Table 13. The Importance of Various Inherent
Characteristics of Cattle to Returns
When Selling Cattle in Different Market Classifications.t
Heavy Feeder Feeder
Light Slaugh- and and Grass Grain
Weight ter Stocker Stocker Finished Finished
Characteristics Calves Calves Calves Yearlings Cattle Cattle
Reproductive efficiency **** **** **** *** *** ***
qualities *** **** *** ** ** **
Good "doing ability" ** *** *** *** **** ***
Feeding and fleshing
qualities ** **** **** **** ****
Conformation ** ** ** **
Temperament *** *** ** ***
t Legend: indicates characteristic is not of particular importance.
indicates characteristic is of some importance.
** indicates characteristic is important.
*** indicates characteristic is very important.
**** indicates characteristic is of extreme importance.
The importance of mothering qualities in these classes would depend to some degree
on what age animals are finished. If put on feed directly after weaning, good
mothering qualities would be very important, because calves which go on feed with
good weight and condition will require a shorter feeding period. Cattle carried to
older ages will have partly outgrown the effects of mothering ability.
beef per acre of pasture can be produced with stockers than with a
cow-calf operation. However it is a more risky enterprise and the
supply of suitable stockers is often limited. It is a good operation in
many areas that are not suitable for cow herds. Also stockers are
frequently run in combination with other cattle to good advantage
in adjusting numbers to fit seasonal forage supply.
Commercial feedlot operations are highly specialized enterprises
which require large quantities of concentrate feeds.
Inherited Characteristics of Cattle Which
Contribute to Efficient Production
Reproductive efficiency probably affects economic returns from
an enterprise to an extent greater than any other single item.
Adequate nutrition and proper management are essential for
achieving a high rate of reproduction. Hereditary tendencies are
also important and neglect of this factor in the breeding program
will result in submaximum calving percentages. A difference of a
small percentage in reproductive efficiency can spell the difference
between financial disaster and profit in a cattle operation.
Good maternal ability is necessary for rapid growth, good condi-
tion and "bloom" of calves. It is important in any operation where
calves are sold because it increases the amount of weight sold and
the degree of finish. Good mothering and milking qualities are
essential where fat slaughter calves are sold directly off the cow.
Just how important high calving rate and heavy weaning weight
is can be illustrated with the following example: (While this is a
hypothetical case, a study of production records will show that
cows within a herd frequently will differ more in productivity than
the example chosen.)
Assume that calves are worth 350 per pound and that the cost of
maintaining a cow is $150.00 per year. A cow which produces
calves weighing 400 pounds per year, two out of three years, would
return an average gross of $93.33 per year and would return no
profit to the owner. A cow which raises a 550 pound calf 7 out of 8
years, would gross $168.44 yearly and would return an annual
profit of $18.44 to the owner.
Adaptability, or the ability to reproduce, grow and thrive under
local conditions is an extremely important characteristic. Without
it, herd costs and death loss are generally high. It is difficult to
achieve a high rate of production without adequate doing qualities.
Good doing ability is probably one of the two most important
factors contributing to overall efficiency of feed utilization.
Feeding and fleshing qualities are important because they in-
fluence the length of time required for animals to acquire a
Good feeding qualities are desired in all beef cattle, but are
extremely important in cattle to be used in feeding operations.
Since a high percentage of calves produced eventually reach the
feedlot, it is important that all beef cattle have good feeding
ability. Even in herds selling "vealers" or heavy slaughter calves, a
portion of the calves produced are not sold in these classes and
must necessarily move through feeder and stocker channels.
Feeder and stocker buyers will pay top prices only for animals with
good feedlot performance.
Good beef conformation is needed if cattle are to achieve the
maximum efficiency as a beef animal. The essential feature of good
beef conformation is heavy muscling. Soundness of skeletal
structure with good feet and legs are also important.
The importance of good feeding and fleshing qualities and beef
conformation can be illustrated by comparing the performance of a
dairy animal with that of a beef animal for producing high quality
beef. The dairy cow may compare favorably with the beef animal in
reproductive efficiency, mothering qualities, and indeed will
produce a pound of weight just as efficiently as a beef animal. The
dairy animal is inferior as a meat animal however, because it lacks
the feeding and fleshing qualities and the conformation of the beef
cow. The factors that determine weight production are essential for
success with beef cattle, but the factors that distinguish beef cattle
are their feeding qualities and beef conformation which makes
possible finishing quickly at a young age, and the production of
muscular high quality carcasses.
Temperament is important in cattle because it affects ease of
handling, labor cost, bruising, and their suitability for feedlot
operation. Beef cattle should be alert and capable of moving freely
but should be of a quiet, docile nature. Such cattle handle more
easily and waste less energy in unnecessary movement. Tempera-
ment appears to be one of the most heritable characteristics.
Ideal size in cattle is a subject about which there has been much
discussion in recent years. Any such discussion however, requires
some definition of what is meant by the term. The item of principal
interest is the genetic potential for size. What we see and measure,
or realized size, is determined by both genetic potential and
environmental influences such as climatic factors, level and
quality of feed supply and stress associated with production level.
The experimental evidence available indicates that there is no
one size of cattle that is best suited for all circumstances. The ideal
size in cattle varies with environmental conditions, management
practices, age at which cattle are marketed and market preference
for weight of carcass. Thus, one must define the type of operation,
age at which cattle are to be sold etc. before any intelligent
appraisal can be made.
One generalization is in order. Size should be scaled so that a
rapid growth is maintained in the feedlot until market age. Other-
wise the cost of gain becomes too high for economical beef
production. Under western range conditions where steers were
grazed until approximately 18 months of age and then fed for a
90-day period, cows that matured at approximately 1000 pounds
under range conditions were about ideal in size. Most of the gain
was made on cheap grass and the steers were old enough that they
had achieved the proper weight for a short feeding period. Compen-
satory gain in the feedlot, coupled with the ability to fatten rapidly
in the feedlot, made a near-ideal combination for a successful
In recent years however, the trend toward marketing cattle at a
younger age has changed the picture. In a rapid development
program where calves are put on high energy feed at weaning, the
ideal steer is one that will maintain a constant rate of gain to
approximately 1000 pounds to 1100 pounds in weight. It takes
cows from 1100 to 1300 pounds in weight to produce this kind of
steer. The principle involved here is that once a calf on this
program reaches approximately 80 percent of the mature weight of
cows, gains become expensive. Calves from 1000 pound cows reach
this stage at 750 to 850 pounds and the market generally prefers
carcasses from heavier cattle. If there were no preference for
carcass weight so that all cattle were marketed at the same
percent of mature weight, size would have little effect on efficiency
These two examples probably bracket the range in weights of
cows that are most useful in modern-day beef production. This may
change with time. In any case, size in beef cattle will be set by the
size of bulls required to meet the needs of the producer and market
demands. Genetic size apparently bears little or no relationship to
Model for Genetic Improvement of Performance
An evaluation of results from different breeding programs
involves consideration of the basic concepts underlying genetic
control of performance traits. A simple model expressing pheno-
typic performance may be written as follows:
where P is phenotype or performance, G is additive genotypic
value for a given production trait, F is the genotype for fitness or
adaptability to the prevailing environment, H is level of heterosis
due to genetic diversity (this may vary from highly positive values
for hybrids to strongly negative values for inbreds) and E is
environment, including climatic, nutritional, disease, and manage-
ment factors, along with any genotypic by environmental inter-
The value of G is governed by selection procedures and the
choice of breed where average breed values have already been
established. Adaptability (F) is similarly influenced but comes
about largely through natural selection combined with hybrid
vigor. Heterosis (H) is the result of heterozygosity; thus, is
achieved only through the appropriate choice of breeds for
crossbreeding and by avoiding inbreeding in straight-breeding
operations. The best that can be achieved in the latter is to avoid
negative values of H, or, inbreeding depression.
The next two sections deal with maximizing the values in this
equation through mating systems and selection procedures.
In academic circles, mating systems are classified on the basis of
how much inbreeding or outcrossing is involved, i.e., how much
inbreeding, random mating, outbreeding or crossbreeding is
involved. For purposes of this discussion a more functional classifi-
cation might be as follows:
1. Continuous topcrossing to bulls of one breed. Starting with a
cow herd of mixed breeding, the early generations would be con-
sidered as an upgrading program. Thereafter, it would correspond
to breeding within a "pure" group. An example of such a program
would be to use superior Angus sires exclusively, either by AI or
natural service. The use of superior sires would introduce good
genetic potential into the herd. Depending on source of bulls, there
likely would be little selection pressure for adaptation. Heterosis
would be at a minimum except during the first generations of
2. Upgrading through the utilization of both purebred and
grade ranch-raised bulls. By choosing bulls from dams of the
appropriate breed composition and alternating purebred and grade
bulls generation-wise (as in a crisscross) a high degree of hetero-
geneity and associated hybrid vigor could be maintained for many
years in a herd originating from a crossbred foundation. Additional
advantages of this approach over number one would be reduced
cost and improved quality of bulls for natural service as compared
to those that could be purchased, and assurance of good adapt-
ability and cow performance in the herd through choosing bulls
from elite cows produced on the ranch. Another feature would be a
maximum in flexibility made possible through the ability to
change the breed of purchased bulls (or semen) and control of the
kind of cows used to produce ranch-raised bulls. There are numer-
ous variations possible in a system of this type.
3. Selecting both males and females on the basis of production
performance with little or no regard to breed composition. If this
were done in a closed herd it would lead to a synthetic variety,
which conceivably could achieve the status of a breed if continued
for a long period of time. There is little doubt that what the United
States needs is more productive breeds than are now in existence.
Whether this can be achieved more easily through selection from
crossbred foundations, or through judicious introduction of some
outside genetic material and selection from within present breeds
(as in number two above) is problematical.
4. Systematic Crossbreeding. The two most important reasons
for crossbreeding is (1) to combine complimentary breed charac-
teristics or (2) to capitalize on hybrid vigor. Theoretically, it would
be possible to achieve the same combination of characteristics by
selection within a group as by breed combination, although it can
generally be done much more rapidly by the latter. Frequently
however, hybrid vigor may result in performance superior to that
of any existing straightbred. In this case, it is a bonus for which
there is no substitute in economy of production. It should be
remembered however, that total performance is a function of
additive genetic potential and heterosis. Thus, cattle properly
selected for genetic potential for economic traits and adaptation to
the ranch enterprise may be more productive than hybrids with
abundant heterosis but deficient in other characteristics. Four
possible crossbreeding schemes of interest in Florida will be
Crisscrossing, or a two-breed-of-sire rotation, is the simplest
form of systematic crossbreeding that can be practiced. In terms of
maintaining a high level of heterosis on a sustained basis, it is
doubtful if a Brahman-European crisscross can be improved upon.
Factors other than level of heterosis alone must be considered and
depending on the classes of market animals sold and age at first
breeding of heifers, other systems may have advantages. Rightly or
wrongly the feeder trade still prefers less than 50 percent
Brahman in feedlot cattle, although this is a preference that could
change rapidly if boning of meat becomes commonplace. On the
other hand, data has shown that the Brahman-sired crisscrosses
out-perform the British-sired generation on pasture in Florida.
Thus, if part of the steers are to be finished on pasture and part in
the feedlot, a Brahman-British crisscross program has merit, with
the Brahman-sired steers being finished on pasture and British-
sired crosses going into the feedlot. If heifers are to be bred as
yearlings, the Brahman-sired females presently would be at a
disadvantage because of age of puberty. Whether this can be
changed rapidly by selection or proper breed combination is not
known. With present-day stocks, crisscrosses between British
breeds have resulted only in a heterosis response of approximately
5 percent. Unless costs were increased by crossbreeding, net
returns would be increased by a much larger percentage. Other
breed combinations need to be tested, especially those that hold
promise for increasing persistence in milk production to support a
rapid pre-weaning rate of growth to ten months of age.
Three-breed rotations have been recommended frequently by pro-
fessional animal breeders on the theory that more hybrid vigor will
be realized than from two-breed crosses. Where combining ability
in the various breed combinations is equal, the generalization
theoretically would be correct. However no other cross exhibits the
level of heterosis observed in Brahman-European crosses. With
this being true, a three-breed rotation may result in less hybrid
vigor than a Brahman-British crisscross. Complimentarity might
or might not be superior for the three-breed cross. Where com-
plimentarity for the three-breed cross is superior, it is possible but
unproven that the use of an F1 bull in a two-sire crisscross may be
preferable to a three-breed rotation using all purebred sires.
Three-breed terminal crosses have been promoted as the ideal
way for utilizing crossbreeding for the production of commercial
animals. For example, breeding establishments have been formed
recently with the stated objective of marketing F1 heifers for
production of three-breed cross progeny. A goal frequently stated is
to have a small, highly productive female to be mated to big bulls
in order to produce genetically large calves from small cows with a
low maintenance cost. However, this system cannot be made
practical, except on a limited scale. For a self-contained herd or
industry as a whole, to proceed in this fashion would require that
half of the total cow population be straightbred. Further, little or
no selection would be practiced since all of the straightbred and
F1 females born would be required to maintain numbers. This is
the reason why rotation crossbreeding, which utilizes all genera-
tions of females as potential replacements, is generally to be
recommended for cattle.
A modification of the above concept is mentioned here because it
may hold some promise for making effective use of bulls of the
large breeds. Straightbreeding or rotation crossbreeding produces a
surplus of females. Where strict culling for infertility, loss of calf
and poor production are practiced approximately 25 percent of the
heifers produced may be culled. As an alternative to merchandis-
ing these heifers in the customary manner, how would income be
affected by reducing the scale of the regular breeding program to
permit retaining all heifers and mating those that normally would
be culled as surplus to bulls of the large breeds? Females from this
terminal cross would be sold and would not enter into the ranch
breeding program. The advantages of this procedure would be
ranch utilization of a class of animals that sometimes do not
market to good advantage and a possible advantage of producing
large calves from small cows in one segment of the herd. Disadvan-
tages of the procedure would be reduced selection pressure in the
cow herd and an additional breeding herd to keep sorted. Further,
the use of large bulls on small females frequently results in
difficult birth and reduced calf survival.
An Approximate Evaluation of Various Systems
In Table 14, a subjective evaluation of the relative impact of the
different mating systems on various genetic attributes and produc-
tion characteristics of the herd is presented. These estimates are
based on the assumptions of good husbandry and management
practices in conjunction with the use of good bulls for all systems.
While this subjective evaluation admittedly is incomplete and
subject to valid criticism, it would suggest that:
1. Adaptability to Florida conditions and the specific ranch
enterprise are important for commercial production of beef.
2. Since existing breeds are not well adapted for straight-
breeding in Florida, adaptability must be obtained by
a. Proper combination of breeds, in crossbreeding, and/or
b. Selection of bulls from elite cow herds maintained under
3. Consequently, the use of highly productive purchased bulls
or semen in combination with ranch-raised bulls (Method 2)
or a systematic crossbreeding system combining the proper
breeds (System 4) have the most promise for the majority of
commercial operations. Probably a combination of the two
would represent the ultimate in productivity. This was
essentially the plan followed by Mr. P.E. Williams, who
pioneered in the development of a highly productive
commercial herd at Davenport, Florida. While selection
from a crossbred foundation to produce a new synthetic
variety has merit from a long term point of view, it is
doubtful if many herds should attempt this approach.
There are many different specific programs that could be
designed under each of the systems outlined. For example, in
upgrading to one breed (System 1) bulls of any one of several
breeds could be chosen. In system 2, the introduced bulls might be
of one breed only or left flexible, and a variety of introduced bulls
included. Any desired foundation could be used for a synthetic
variety. There is almost an infinite number of breed combinations
possible for crossbreeding. The bulls used could be of any breed.
Crossbred bulls could be used but have not as yet been tested. The
availability of bulls, production characteristics desired and
personal preference usually will limit consideration of programs to
a relatively small number.
The major decisions to be reached include:
1. The system (or systems) of mating to be used.
2. The breeds of bulls to be used.
3. How many of these bulls (or semen) are to be purchased;
how many are to be produced on the ranch.
4. Selection criteria to be used in selection of bulls. These may
differ somewhat for purchased and ranch-raised bulls.
5. Culling procedures to be used in the cow herd.
Selection and Culling Procedures
Certain herd characteristics are determined mostly by sire selec-
tion while others are achieved largely through selection and
culling of the female herd. Failure to recognize this fact has led to
many of the deficiencies of the modern day beef breeds.
For traits where selection can be direct in the male (such as
growth rate, conformation etc.) approximately 90 percent of all
progress made will be through sire selection. Some of the most
vital traits influencing production however, are not expressed
directly in males but rather in female performance. These traits
include female fertility, maternal ability and adaptability. Much of
the progress for these traits is achieved through rigid culling of the
Table 14. Evaluation of Mating Systems on Various Genetic Traits
and Characteristics of the Beef Herd
Grading to Purebred and
Purebred Grade Bulls Synthetic Systematic
Bulls (1) Alternated (2) Variety (3) Crossbreeding (4)
additive genetic potential good good good good
adaptability av. for breed good good good2
heterosis none some ? good2
Age of puberty good good ?2 2
Regularity of reproduction ?3 good good good
Maternal ability ?3 good good good
Growth rate ?3 good good good
Feedlot performance good good ?3 fair-excellent 2
Response to change in selection goals slow fair slow good
Market value of surplus breeding stock ?3 good ? good
1Number in parenthesis refers to system described more fully in text.
2Variable depending on breed or cross represented.
3Would vary with breed and source of bulls, i.e., adaptability.
cow herd on the basis of performance and by selecting bulls out of
cows with good production performance. In theory, progeny testing
of sires is an effective tool for improving sex limited traits. In
practice however, the time required to get production records on
daughters makes the procedure expensive and time consuming.
Thus, progeny testing for such traits is, of limited utility only.
Female selection in beef cattle consists principally in breeding a
large number of heifers and heavy culling of cows, i.e., selection
should be based on culling cows on production performance rather
than "selecting" a limited number of heifers on appearance and
size. Culling for infertility is achieved easily by eliminating open
cows at palpation. Pressure for good survival in calves can be
exerted by removing non-nursing cows at the beginning of the
breeding season. This practice also helps reduce disease problems.
Identification of cows which wean substandard calves is a more
difficult task for large commercial ranches. Another facet of female
selection is the need for identifying the superior cows so that they
can be sorted into elite cow herds for the purpose of bull
production. One possibility for solving the problem of identifying
both the poor and good mother cows would be to keep individual
records on all replacement heifers for their first calf. Data shows
that repeatability of records is good enough that this record is
effective in removing most of the poor milkers. The more promising
heifers could be moved to the elite herd where individual records
and further selection would continue.
Selection of bulls is without doubt the most important feature of
the breeding program. Ideally, bulls should come from cows that
have good records, and these records should be made under
conditions prevailing on the ranch where the bulls are to be used.
Otherwise, there is no pressure for adaptability exerted through
bull selection. In addition, the bull should have a superior perfor-
mance record and possess the characteristics indicative of desirable
But how does a ranch acquire such bulls? From the above it
becomes obvious that ultimately a large ranch enterprise should
produce most of its own bulls. That is the only way to gain control
over the cow herd that produces the bulls. Once such cow herds are
in existence, it is an easy matter to performance test the male
progeny in order to identify the superior performers and select
those with characteristics indicative of good carcass merit. Rapid
progress in the initial stages of herd improvement requires the use
of good bulls. This poses a real problem for Florida ranches because
good bulls in the area are scarce and expensive. The best solution
to the problem, where facilities will permit, appears to be the use
of proven bulls by artificial insemination. Fortunately, semen from
such bulls is becoming available. By using such bulls on elite cow
herds to produce high quality ranch-raised bulls for use on most of
the herd, would appear to offer the best assurance of combining
good genetic potential for the production traits with good adapt-
ability to the area. By proper breed combination in systematic
crossbreeding it is possible to "tailor make" the type of cattle
desired and also profit by a bonus from hybrid vigor. There is a
need for more information on the response to specific breed com-
Reproduction and Fertility in Beef Cattle
by A. C. Warnick and M. J. Fields*
Calving percentage and overall reproduction rate are the most
important factors influencing success and profit in the cattle
business. The Southeastern part of the country has the lowest
calving percentage of any area in the nation and Florida is one of
the lowest states with a 78 percent calf crop according to the
U.S.D.A. statistics. We know that a good reproduction rate can be
achieved since some ranchers are getting a 90 percent calf crop.
The cattleman can improve his calf crop by knowing more about
basic physiology and applying good principles of herd management.
Anatomy of the Female and Male Reproductive System
1. Female reproductive system
a. Ovaries Paired oblong structures 1V2 x 1 x % inches
which have follicles that contain the developing egg and a
corpus luteum which develops after the egg is shed. The
follicles and corpus luteum secrete the estrogen and pro-
gesterone hormone which regulates the heat cycle.
b. Oviducts Are paired tubes near the ovary about five
inches long and V inch in diameter which pick up the egg
when the follicle ruptures. It is here the egg is fertilized by
the sperm cell and develops to the four to eight cell embryo
stage before entering the uterus at four days.
c. Uterus Has two horns with a very short body of the
uterus. Here the embryo develops and gets early nutrition
from the secretions of the uterine glands until a placenta is
established for exchange of nutrients and wastes, between
the fetal and maternal circulation.
d. Cervix It is cartilaginous tissue with three well-
developed rings in the inner lining which form an effective
seal during pregnancy. The lumen of the cervix opens up
during heat so sperm can pass to the uterus and an insemi-
nation tube can be inserted during, and shortly after heat.
*Department of Animal Science, University of Florida.
e. Vagina Forms a passageway from the outside vulva to
the cervix for semen disposition in natural service, and
forms part of the birth canal.
f. Vulva Is the external tissue just below the anus which
provides an opening to the inner tract and increases in
vascularity and size during heat.
2. Male reproductive system
a. Scrotum Specialized skin area that covers the testicles
and raises and lowers the testes so a low temperature is
maintained for sperm production.
b. Testicles Paired cylindrical structures 5 x 3 inches
where the sperm cells and the male hormone, testosterone,
are produced. An epididymis is closely attached to each
testis where the sperm cells mature and are stored until
c. Ductus deferens A long duct going from the base of
each testis through the inguinal canal and into the pelvic
area to join with the urethra.
d. Secondary glands Seminal vesical (paired), prostate
(diffuse) and Cowper's gland (paired) in the pelvic canal
which provide nutrients, buffer and fluid for the sperm
e. Pelvic Urethra The common carrier of urine and semen
through the penis.
f. Penis Extends from pelvic area to the sheath to carry
urine and becomes engorged with blood for an erection so
ejaculation of semen can occur.
Definition of Reproductive Terms
1. Puberty The time of first estrus or heat in the female, and
earliest actual mounting and mating of the bull with a female
with ejaculation of viable sperm. Average age at puberty in
heifers of the British breeds is 8 to 12 months depending on
level of nutrition while Brahman heifers average 18 to 24
months, again depending on the nutritional program. Bulls of
the British breeds first mate at 12 to 16 months of age while
Brahman bulls mate first at 18 to 24 months of age.
2. Estrus or heat Period when the cow will accept the bull
in mating or stand for the riding of other cows. Heat lasts
about 10 to 14 hours in the British breeds and 6 to 8 hours in
Brahman females. This time is characterized by a restless and
nervous condition in which the female coming into heat rides
other cows and stands for the riding by other cows. There is
Table 15. Gestation Table
Service on Date Given in First Column Should Bring Calf on Date Given in Second Column
Jan. Oct. Feb. Nov. Mar. Dec. April Jan. May Feb. June Mar. July April Aug. May Sept. June Oct. July Nov. Aug. Dec. Sept.
1 10 1 10 1 8 1 8 1 7 1 10 1 9 1 10 1 10 1 10 1 10 1 9
2 11 2 11 2 9 2 9 2 8 2 11 2 10 2 11 2 11 2 11 2 11 2 10
3 12 3 12 3 10 3 10 3 9 3 12 3 11 3 12 3 12 3 12 3 12 3 11
4 13 4 13 4 11 4 11 4 10 4 13 4 12 4 13 4 13 4 13 4 13 4 12
5 14 5 14 5 12 5 12 5 11 5 14 5 13 5 14 5 14 5 14 5 14 5 13
6 15 6 15 6 13 6 13 6 12 6 15 6 14 6 15 6 15 6 15 6 15 6 14
7 16 7 16 7 14 7 14 7 13 7 16 7 15 7 16 7 16 7 16 7 16 7 15
8 17 8 17 8 15 8 15 8 14 8 17 8 16 8 17 8 17 8 17 8 17 8 16
9 18 9 18 9 16 9 16 9 15 9 18 9 17 9 18 9 18 9 18 9 18 9 17
10 19 10 19 10 17 10 17 10 16 10 19 10 18 10 19 10 19 10 19 10 19 10 18
11 20 11 20 11 18 11 18 11 17 11 20 11 19 11 20 11 20 11 20 11 20 11 19
12 21 12 21 12 19 12 19 12 18 12 21 12 20 12 21 12 21 12 21 12 21 12 20
13 22 13 22 13 20 13 20 13 19 13 22 13 21 13 22 13 22 13 22 13 22 13 21
0 14 23 14 23 14 21 14 21 14 20 14 23 14 22 14 23 14 23 14 23 14 23 14 22
Co 15 24 15 24 15 22 15 22 15 21 15 24 15 23 15 24 15 24 15 24 15 24 15 23
16 25 16 25 16 23 16 23 16 22 16 25 16 24 16 25 16 25 16 25 16 25 16 24
17 26 17 26 17 24 17 24 17 23 17 26 17 25 17 26 17 26 17 26 17 26 17 25
18 27 18 27 18 25 18 25 18 24 18 27 18 26 18 27 18 27 18 27 18 27 18 26
19 28 19 28 19 26 19 26 19 25 19 28 19 27 19 28 19 28 19 28 19 28 19 27
20 29 20 29 20 27 20 27 20 26 20 29 20 28 20 29 20 29 20 29 20 29 20 28
21 30 21 30 21 28 21 28 21 27 21 30 21 29 21 30 21 30 21 30 21 30 21 29
22 31 22 29 22 29 22 28 22 31 22 30 22 31 22 31 22 31 22 30
usually a clear mucous discharge from the vulva during, and
shortly after heat. A bloody discharge occurs about 35 to 45
hours after the end of heat in most females, but this condition
is not associated with fertility of the cow.
3. Estrous cycle Interval from the beginning of one heat
period to the beginning of the next heat. The average cycle
length is 21 days with 79 percent of all cycles between 17 and
23 days. There is considerable variation in cycle length within
and between females which is caused largely by unknown
factors. Some females go into a non-breeding condition
(anestrous) during the winter on grasses low in protein. We
have found that heifers on rations deficient in protein and
energy have ovaries which are inactive and the heifers do not
4. Gestation period or pregnancy Interval from breeding
until parturition or birth of the calf. It lasts approximately 285
days with some difference due to breeds. The average for
Angus is 282 days, Shorthorn is 281 days, Hereford is 285 days
and Brahman is 292 days. A gestation table which gives breed-
ing dates and expected calving dates is shown in Table 15.
Usually gestation length in the Brahman x British crossbred
females is intermediate between the two parent breeds.
5. Libido The desire and ability of the bull to mate with a
female in heat.
Age of Heifers at First Breeding
Recently many ranchers have been breeding heifers at approxi-
mately 15 months of age to calve first at two years of age. This
saves one year of maintenance for the replacement heifers, but
improved nutrition and management are required if it is to be
successful. An experiment at the Beef Research Unit near Gaines-
ville with British x Brahman crossbred heifers compares the
production of heifers bred to calve first at two years versus those
calving first at three years of age, Table 16.
We see that 67 percent of the heifers exposed at two years
weaned calves weighing 447 lbs. and there was a slight advantage
in later reproduction in the early bred heifers. These heifers
weighed 516 pounds at weaning in August and 640 pounds when
exposed to the bulls in March at 15 months of age.
The success of a program of breeding to calve at two years is
based on (1) a heavy weaning heifer that continues to gain 1
pounds daily from weaning to breeding at 15 months of age, (2) good
care and management at calving time and (3) adequate nutrition
Table 16. Production of heifers calving first at either two
or three years of age.
Production 2 year 3 year
Criteria 2 year old calving calving
% Pregnancy 76 98 88
% Weaning 67 88 82
Weaning wt., lbs. 447 497 501
after calving so female will come into heat and become pregnant on
Length of Breeding Season and Bull Management
In general, cows should calve ahead of the season of best quality
and quantity of forage production so the breeding season occurs
with good forage and cows are gaining weight. Also, as good
pasture comes and the calf is older, it can utilize the increased
milk production of the cow. A breeding season lasting three to five
months should be long enough under most conditions. A short,
controlled breeding season gives uniformity to calf crop at weaning
and simplifies winter supplementation of the cow herd. In South
Florida, breeding usually begins in January while in North Florida
most ranchers begin breeding in March. Bulls should also be given
some supplemental feeding before the breeding season begins so
that they are in moderate and vigorous condition. Bulls should be
checked for semen quality and breeding soundness well ahead of
the breeding season. This is especially true of newly-purchased
bulls. This test can be done by a qualified veterinarian.
Bulls are usually used first at two years of age although well-
developed bulls at 18 months may be used on a limited number (10
to 15) of cows during the breeding season. Usually about four
percent bulls or 20 to 30 cows per bull are used in multiple sire
herds. However, good fertility has been attained with mature bulls
breeding 35 cows during a limited breeding season. Bulls can
handle more cows under improved pasture conditions with small
areas than on native pasture with large acreages. Bulls should be
watched closely at the beginning of the breeding season to deter-
mine that normal mating is occurring. After the breeding season,
bulls should be put in well-fenced pastures somewhat removed
from the main cow herd if possible.
Interval from Calving to First Estrus
A cow must return to estrus and conceive within three months
after calving if it produces a calf once each year. Time after calving
is required for the uterus to involute and return to its normal non-
pregnant size. Soon after calving the hormones responsible for heat
and ovulation are at low levels. Under adequate levels of nutrition
cows usually exhibit their first heat 50 to 70 days post-calving.
Cows that grazed Clover-grass pasture had a 72-day post-partum
estrous interval versus 90 days for similar cows grazing straight
grass pastures. Other experiments by Dr. James Wiltbank at the
University of Nebraska have shown a shorter post-partum interval
to first heat when cows are getting adequate nutrition.
In well managed herds, 65 to 75 percent of the cows should
become pregnant at the first breeding. Some cows return to heat
following breeding to fertile bulls and may have to be bred several
times before conceiving. Such cows should be checked for genital
abnormalities and considered for culling from the herd.
The pregnancy percentage in lactating cows and especially first
calving heifers is lower than nonlactating cows. This is especially
noticeable where the quality of forage is poor and cows are not
getting adequate nutrition. The heifer nursing her first calf is
under the greatest physiological stress since she is producing milk
and growing which apparently have priority over the subsequent
Pregnancy Diagnosis in Cows
One of the useful tools a rancher can use is that of pregnancy
diagnosis in the cow herd to detect the pregnant and nonpregnant
cows. This checking should be done approximately three months
after the bulls are removed from the cow herd. Pregnancy can be
detected as early as 35 to 45 days following breeding, but this
requires considerable experience and training. This diagnosis can
be done when the cows are being handled for other reasons, such as
weighing, weaning or spraying to avoid an additional handling.
The cow needs to be restrained in a squeeze chute or narrow chute
with a two-inch board or small pole back of the hind legs so the
examiner does not get kicked. A small gate in the side of the chute
behind the cow makes easy access for the examining person to
enter and exit and will facilitate the work. The cow's head doesn't
need to be restrained and usually the cow is quiet following entry
This is a rectal examination where the operator's hand enters
the rectum to have access to feel the uterus. The fingernails should
be closely trimmed so there is no irritation to the lining of the
rectum. A plastic or rubber combination glove and sleeve is worn
to protect the person from possible disease and to keep the arm
clean and prevent irritation. The sleeved arm is lubricated with
mineral oil or a mild soap to facilitate entry into the rectum. The
hand is pushed forward into the rectum about six to ten inches
until the cervix can be felt. The cervix is a hard cartilaginous
tissue about three to four inches long and 1 to 1% inches in
diameter. After locating the cervix, the fingers are pushed forward
to grasp the uterine horns through the rectal wall. The rectal wall
is pliable so the horn can be picked up and held between the thumb
and fingers. If the cow is pregnant, either the right or left horn will
be enlarged with fluid, fetus and membranes. At three months, the
fetus can be felt and by five months, the fetal head, legs and body
are easily felt. Only gentle pressure is required to feel the
pregnant uterus and if done carefully, there is no harm or damage
to the cow or developing fetal calf.
If the cow is not pregnant or "open," both horns of the uterus are
small (one to two inches in diameter) and approximately the same
size. Also, the entire uterus of a non-pregnant cow can be pulled
back into the pelvic cavity and each horn can be felt to verify that
there is no embryo or fluids. The uterus of an older non-pregnant
cow that has had several calves will often extend over the edge of
the pelvic floor; whereas, the uterus of a non-pregnant heifer will
be in the pelvic canal just a few inches anterior to the vulva.
This method of pregnancy diagnosis is between 98 and 100
percent accurate when done by an experienced operator. It is
possible that some cows were pregnant at time of examination and
later the fetus dies and is resorbed or aborted so the cow does not
calve. This is not an error in diagnosis. The examination is rapid
and if crews are available to put cows through the chutes, 300 to
700 cows can be examined in one day.
The non-pregnant cows should be identified by a brand or ear
mark so they can be considered for culling then or at a future date.
If the pregnant and non-pregnant cows are separated, the pregnant
cows can be given the best pasture and care to insure good reproduc-
tion and calf production the following spring and summer. The preg-
nancy diagnosis also tells you how many calves will be born and
available for marketing the following fall in order to estimate future
income. This information allows for changes in overall herd
management according to the expected number of calves for the
Those non-pregnant females should be considered for culling
since it will be two years before a marketable calf is produced if the
cow becomes pregnant the next breeding season. The chances for a
"shy" breeding or low fertility cow to become pregnant the follow-
ing year are about one in five or 20 percent. If the cow is non-
pregnant and fat, she can be sold with a good return and replaced
with a pregnant heifer.
Artificial Insemination in the Cow
The discovery of techniques and procedures to successfully freeze
bull semen has greatly enhanced the possibility of using artificial
insemination with beef cattle. At the present time, semen is
diluted with approximately ten percent glycerol and the regular
egg yolk-citrate diluters or those containing milk products. Semen
from bulls of all the beef and dairy breeds are available from
commercial breeding services. Mobile laboratories are available to
collect semen from individual bulls and process and freeze the
semen. Also, bulls may be sent to commercial companies that do
custom freezing for individual owners. Semen is processed and
frozen in individual vials or straws and stored in liquid nitrogen
which is -190 C. Semen samples are stored and shipped in large
specially constructed tanks of liquid nitrogen which will last up to
14 weeks before refilling. The commercial companies which supply
semen have "field men" that service the tanks with liquid nitrogen
to maintain good quality semen. It is possible to dilute the semen
from two ejaculates of a highly fertile bull to get up to 1,000 vials of
semen to inseminate that number of cows. Earlier dry ice (solid
carbon dioxide) in alcohol at -790 C was used to store frozen semen
and it can be used where liquid nitrogen is not available.
When freezing facilities are not available, semen can be collected
and diluted with fresh egg yolk and sodium citrate with added
antibiotics and held at refrigerator temperatures (35" F). The
fertility begins to decline after three days, so it is necessary to
collect twice weekly to have a continuous supply of semen from a
Procedure for Collecting Semen From Bulls
Semen may be collected with either the artificial vagina or the
electrical ejaculator. It is best to collect semen with the artificial
vagina from bulls that are gentle and used to handling. With bulls
that are wild and not used to handling, it is necessary to use the
The artificial vagina consists of a heavy rubber hose 14" to 16"
long x 2" in diameter with a thin rubber inner liner put inside
with the ends turned back over each end of the heavy rubber hose.
Rubber bands over each end hold the inner liner in place. This
forms a water jacket which is filled with warm water at 1150 F so
that the temperature at time of collection is 1050 to 1100F. A thin
rubber funnel with a plastic collection tube is placed on one end of
the inner liner. The other end of the inner liner is lubricated with
a small amount of a water-soluble lubricant to receive the penis of
It is necessary to have a cow in heat held in a breeding stanchion
or near a fence where the bull is admitted to the pen. The bull is
prepared by allowing him to approach the cow in heat and then
taken away. As the bull is ready to mount, the person holding the
assembled artificial vagina stands alongside the cow so the penis
can be intercepted into the artificial vagina where the bull ejacu-
lates as if he were actually breeding the cow. As the bull is trained
to use the artificial vagina, it may not be necessary to have a cow
in heat for mounting but any cow or even another bull can be used.
It is important to establish a regular routine in the same area so
the bull learns to know what is expected of him.
When collecting semen with the electrical ejaculator, the bull is
restrained in a squeeze chute with sides that let down to gain
access to the sheath area. Several models of ejaculators are avail-
able from livestock and veterinary supply companies. Most ejacu-
lators can be operated with either a 110 volt alternating current or
a 12 volt direct current from the car battery. Many veterinarians
have this equipment and are qualified to collect and evaluate the
Procedures for Artificial Insemination of the Cow
When frozen semen is used, the vial of frozen semen is removed
just before insemination and placed in water with ice until it is
completely defrosted and can be drawn into the insemination tube.
The cow to be inseminated is put in a chute or stanchion so the
operator will not be kicked and the cow does not move around
excessively. The inseminator should wear a plastic or rubber sleeve
that can be lubricated with a soap solution before the hand is
inserted into the rectum. The feces is removed from the rectum and
then the vulva is cleaned with paper towels before the plastic tube
(16" long x 5 mm. diameter) is inserted into the vagina pointed up
at a 300 angle to avoid entry into the urethra. The os cervix is
grasped with the thumb and forefinger through the rectal wall to
help guide the tube into the opening of the cervix. There are
circular rings lining the cervix so the tube is carefully worked past
the rings and the semen is deposited partly in the uterine body and
partly in the cervix. Where it is difficult to go through the cervix,
especially in young heifers, it would be better to deposit the semen
in the cervix rather than set up irritations of the tissue. The semen
is expelled from the tube with a small plastic bulb or a 2 cc. plastic
The insemination tube is discarded after the cow is inseminated,
using a clean tube for each cow to avoid the spread of disease.
Where nonfrozen semen is used, the vials of semen are held at
refrigerator temperatures until just before use. Where well-trained
personnel are doing the inseminating and good quality semen is
available, the fertility rate should be equivalent to natural
breeding which is approximately 1.4 services per pregnancy.
Heat Synchronization of Cows
Several materials have been used in the treatment of cows
showing regular heat periods to control the time of heat so all cows
show heat within a two to five day period. The primary objective is
to concentrate the calving period and save labor so cows do not
need to be checked for heat two or three times per day during an
extended breeding season.
The earlier materials given were progesterone or progestin
hormones which inhibit heat and ovulation during the treatment
period until the ovaries of all cows are in the same stage of
development. The treatment stops and then ovarian follicular
development occurs and heat begins two to five days after the end
of treatment. Usually treatment lasted from 9 to 18 days
depending on the specific material. Some of the materials were
given by subcutaneous injection, some implanted under the skin
and some were fed with a feed supplement.
Some of these materials caused 80 to 90 percent of the cows to
show heat within a five to seven day period but the fertility was
usually 20 to 30 percent below control on nontreated cows. Thus,
these materials have not been adopted by the cattle industry.
Recently a new material, Prostaglandin has been used to inject
into cycling cows with the possibility of better fertility. The
prostaglandins are unsaturated 20-carbon fatty acids that can be
synthesized from arachidonic acid. Cows are injected subcutane-
ously with 30 mg. Prostaglandin F2o and heat usually occurs two
to five days after treatment. Cows that were in heat within five
days before treatment do not respond, indicating a rather mature
corpus luteum is necessary for a positive response. In a cooperative
experiment by Dr. J. W. Lauderdale of the Upjohn Company
mostly with dairy cattle, fertility in cows getting Prostaglandin
that came into heat was similar to nontreated cows. However,
recent work in the Animal Science department with beef cows has
not been so encouraging.
It is possible to inject a Gonadotrophin Releasing Hormone
following Prostaglandin to give a specific time for ovulation so
insemination could be done at a precise time. However, this is a
field for additional research. At the present, Prostaglandin has not
been approved for commercial use by the Food and Drug Adminis-
tration so more experimental work is required.
At the present time there are no available materials that can
be recommended for a heat control program in cows. However, this
is a technique that will probably be developed so that cycling cows
can be treated and inseminated at a specific time to obtain good
fertility. Such a program would greatly reduce labor requirements
and increase the use of artificial insemination.
Ideas to Improve the Calf Crop
The following ideas should help to improve the reproduction rate
in our beef herds.
1. Wherever possible, white clover should be seeded in pastures
since it gives a good late-winter feed supply and increases calf
crop compared to the same grasses without clover. The overall
pregnancy rate during a five-year study on clover-grass
pastures was 84 percent compared to 64 percent on straight
grass pastures. The low pregnancy percentage in lactating
cows on straight grass pastures was a failure of heat and
ovulation rather than failure of conception.
2. The addition of a protein and energy supplement during the
winter on grass pastures increases the calf crop as well as
causing earlier calving. This was shown where 112 lbs. daily of
a 41 percent protein cottonseed meal was fed to heifers and
cows during the winter at our Beef Research Unit. The feeding
of five lbs. daily of Blackstrap molasses to Brahman cows
during winter in the Everglades increased pregnancy rate 15
percent over nonsupplemented cows. Also, research work with
heifers indicates that heifers will stop coming into heat or heat
can be delayed when they are on a protein deficient ration.
3. The semen of bulls should be checked before the breeding
season begins to eliminate bulls with low quality semen or
bulls with no sperm; collections of semen can be obtained
using the electrical ejaculation technique when the bull is
restrained in a chute. This checking is especially important in
single-sire breeding pastures where only one bull is exposed to
25 to 30 cows.
4. The length of the breeding season should be limited to three to
five months at the time of maximum forage quality and quan-
tity to help in uniformity of calves and to better manage the
Winter Supplementation program.
5. Check cows for pregnancy in late summer or early fall and cull
the non-pregnant cows to avoid winter feed cost for nonproduc-
ing cows. In a herd of typical Florida commercial cows, the
pregnancy rate increased from 42 percent to 93 percent over a
five-year period by culling cows that were non-pregnant. All
first-exposure heifers and cows that didn't wean a calf that are
not pregnant should be culled without compromise.
6. Cows that react positively to the Brucellosis test should be
culled from the herd. In a herd in South Florida that had some
reactor cows, the pregnancy rate at five months was 72 percent
in the clean herd (Brucella negative) compared to 52 percent
in the positive reactor cows. This difference would be even
greater at calving time as there were some abortions in the
positive reactor cows.
Management of the Beef Cattle
Ranch or Farm
by J. F. Hentges, Jr.*
The job of the ranch or farm manager is to develop and coordi-
nate programs which have the best chance to result in profit from a
given set of resources (land, facilities, cattle, personnel). This job is
best accomplished by "advance planning" for the future with the
plans based on reliable records from previous years of experience.
The key words to remember are Records, Advance Planning,
Programs for action and Profit.
On large farms and ranches, the administrative decision-making
may be initiated by the owner and his enterprise managers,
perhaps with the aid of a professional consultant, meeting once a
year to approve proposed short-term plans and budgets for the next
year and probably to review long-term objectives for each enter-
prise on the ranch. Once the budget and work programs for the
next year are approved by the owner, the cow-calf ranch manager
(Fig. 13) becomes the sole "boss" of that enterprise with all direc-
tions to employees coming through him. On smaller owner-
operated ranches and farms, the need for "advance planning" of a
budget and work calendar for the forthcoming year is equally
important for efficient management of all resources.
The land-use system adopted by a ranch or farm will dictate the
acreage and budget to be devoted to various enterprises such as
cattle, timber, groves, vegetables, field crops, recreation and hay.
See Figure 14. It is the job of each enterprise manager to develop
programs within his enterprise to make the best use of that land-
use system. In a beef cattle enterprise, large or small, the following
six programs are needed:
I. General Administration program:
Land survey, aerial photograph, soils map, land capability
*Department of Animal Science, University of Florida.
Inventory of all resources-land, vegetation, cattle, facilities,
Long-range (5-20 years) land-use objectives
Short-range objectives: pre-planned budget and work calendar
for next two years.
Personnel roster with job specifications, salary ranges and side
Communications system: telephones, radios, bulletin board,
Year-round ranch work calendar planned one year in advance.
II. Herd Improvement program:
Objectives of program: description of ideal calf to be produced,
calf crop expected, undesirable existing genes to be "weeded
out," stress situations to be prevented, etc.
Long-range mating (breeding) program.
Cow production records.
Bull selection procedure.
Schedule for breeding, calving, weaning, pregnancy testing,
bull breeding soundness testing, etc.
III. Land-use and supplemental feeding program:
Chart of monthly forage production (cow grazing days) per
Plan for cool-season forage: hay, silage, reserved grazing,
Range grassland plan: deferred grazing, chopping, burning,
Planted pasture plan: soil sampling, fertilizing, mowing,
spraying, haymaking, etc.
Plan for supplemental mineral feeding.
Plan for supplemental protein and energy feeding (feed ingre-
dient formulas or nutrient specifications, delivery dates,
purchase agreements, inspection procedure, feeding
IV. Herd Health program:
D.V.M. service agreement.
Reliable source of biologicals and medicines.
Inventory of medical supplies.
Cattle restraint equipment.
Calendar of jobs to be done throughout year.
V. Cattle Marketing program:
Plan for grouping and conditioning cattle and calves for
Contract or plan for sales.
Marketing information sourcess.
Facilities to sort, weigh and ship.
VI. Record Keeping program (sometimes included in Administra-
Inventories of resources: cattle, vehicles, machinery, etc.
Budget approved for current year
Income: Budgeted Actual Variance
Expenses: Budgeted Actual Variance
Plan for tax management and computation.
Analysis of each program to determine which practices caused
profits and losses.
Figure 13. Illustration of relationship of enterprise (cow-
calf) manager to his employees and their work programs
after an administration program has been jointly developed
by the ownerss, consultants) and manager.
Figure 14. Illustration of programs for one of the enter-
prises on a ranch and its relationship to other enterprises
and the ranch/land use system.
The greatest benefit from a set of programs for ranch manage-
ment is the fact that all involved in the operation--owner,
manager, office staff, field staff, banker, attorney, tax accountant,
etc., have some knowledge about the overall management and
goals of the ranch and also have an opportunity to suggest
improvements for each pre-planned budget and work program.
Table 17 illustrates the number of factors which govern income
from cattle and the complexity of management programs designed
to achieve overall efficiency of beef produced per acre of land and
Many of the factors which govern ranch income from cattle are
influenced largely by management decisions and long-range plans
which may add little or no expense in operation. An example is the
Table 17. Factors Governing Ranch Income From Cattle
Pounds Sold C
Genetic reproductive potential
Nutritional status of cows
Milking ability of cows
Pasture and stored forage quality
Adequacy of supplemental feeding
Inherent rate and efficiency of gain
Method of marketing
Calving season (ages)
Polled, dehorned, castrated,
Expected optimum slaughter age
Consumer, packer and feedlot
Experience with previous cattle
planning of a breeding (mating) program for 10 years into the
future coupled with smart bull selection so that calves produced in
the future will be in demand for top prices. Another is the planning
for adequate nutrition and care during critical times, usually 100
days before and after calving, to ensure a high calf crop born and
weaned and a high percentage of cows bred back for next year's
Table 18 shows that approximately 70 percent of the annual
carrying cost for a beef cow is attributed to land, forage and supple-
mental feed costs.
The influence of "calf crop weaned" and "sale weight of calves" is
illustrated in Table 19.
Note that there are little or no labor returns and money earned
to reimburse the operator's labor when both calf weights and calf
crop (85%) are small, but is rewarding with heavier calves when
90-94 percent calf crops are weaned. It is important to note that
with top production, the labor returns from a 500-cow operation
may be only adequate to reimburse a full-time working manager.
Consequently, smaller size cow herds may have to rely on
part-time management and labor, probably owner-operators who
have a non-farm income.
Table 18. Sources of feed and non-feed costs to maintain a
500-cow herd for one year*
Per cow Per 500-cow
Unit unit ranch
Direct and indirect costs for cattle feed
Pasture fertilization (1000 Ib/cow unit) $ 50.00 $25,000
Pasture maintenance: fuel, sprays, etc. 5.00 2,500
Depreciation: machinery for land use 7.50 3,750
Depreciation: water and feeding systems 1.50 750
Protein: pellets, liquid 12.00 6,000
Mineral: blocks, complete mix 3.00 1,500
Energy: hay, silage, molasses 25.00 12,500
Manufactured feeds: horse, calf, bull 5.00 2,500
Total direct & indirect costs for cattle feed: $109.00 $54,500
Veterinary and medicine $ 7.50 $ 3,750
Bull service or semen 5,000
Insurance, cattle and buildings 1.00 500
Taxes: personal property 1.00 500
Interest on operating capital 7.00 3,500
Maintenance and repair: buildings,
fences, etc. 2.50 1,250
Interest on Operating Capital 7.00 3,500
Miscellaneous: supplies, repairs, etc. 10.00 5,000
Total non-feed costs $ 46.00 $23,000
Estimated annual costs, less labor $155.00 $77,500
*Estimates to illustrate sources of costs and relative importance of costs for pasture
forage and supplemental feeds for cattle. To reflect all costs at least $7,500 should
be added for labor cost ($15.00 per cow unit). Land costs (taxes, etc.) were omitted.
Management Practices Which Contribute to
Efficient Beef Production
1. What is the proper stocking rate?
Obviously the proper stocking rate will vary from operation to
operation, since the carrying capacity of pastures vary tremen-
dously due to soil fertility, moisture conditions, pasture plants and
management. Nevertheless, it is important for the individual
operator to arrive at the proper stocking rate for his pastures
because it vitally affects total weight production and prices
received per pound. If stocking rate is too low, income will be
submaximal because too few livestock units will be sold.
Additional animals, up to the point of optimal stocking rate, will
result in greater total returns from the enterprise, even though
production per cow unit may be slightly reduced. Beyond this
point, any additional animals added to the stocking load will result
in overstocking and will decrease income by an amount more than
the income from the additional cattle. Overstocking is one of the
most common items of mismanagement. It not only reduces profit
from an enterprise, but results in thin cattle, a high death loss,
lack of pride in the operation and the other ills characteristic of a
poorly managed operation.
Table 19. Effect of calf crop weaned and calf weaning
weight on value of annual calf crop*
Av. calf Calf crop Value per Per cow Per 500-cow
wt, lb. weaned, % cwt, $ unit, $ unit ranch, $
450 85 $35 $133.88 $66,937.50
550 85 35 163.63 81,812.50
450 90 35 141.75 70,875.00
550 90 35 173.25 86,625.00
450 95 35 149.63 74,812.50
550 95 35 182.88 91,437.50
*Value of weaned calves kept constant to illustrate effect of calf weaning weight
and calf crop weaned on returns. To reflect actual annual return from beef sold,
receipts from culled cows, culled heifers and differential in price between heifer
and steer calves would have to be considered.
To determine the proper stocking rates for the various areas and
pasture conditions of Florida, it is necessary to draw on experience
and records of the amount of grazable forage or hay available
during the various seasons of the year. There should be ample feed
for the cattle to eat at all times. On most ranches, hay or silage
should be made during the summer months in order to supplement
permanent pastures during the winter months. Winter pastures
like rye, ryegrass and oats may sometimes be profitable if soil and
moisture conditions are optimal. Needs for winter forage may
sometimes be met by storing grass on reserved pastures for winter
grazing. Quality of feed becomes a problem with this practice due
to maturity of forage and leaching of nutrients. Supplemental feeds
are required on such pastures. If there are periods when sufficient
forage is not available in the form of pasture, hay or silage, the
stocking rate is too high and should be reduced. A guide in
adjusting the stocking rate is level of performance of the herd. A
rule of thumb used in some localities is that mature cows should
weigh a minimum of 900 to 1,000 pounds, calves should weigh 450
pounds or more at seven months of age, and the calf crop should be
above 90 percent. Any time performance falls below these figures,
it means that either management is poor, the breeding and selec-
tion program is faulty, the stocking rate is excessive or that more
supplemental feeding is needed.
2. Supplemental Feeding
There are times when the available pasture forage, because of
quality or quantity, will not meet the minimum nutritional
demands of the cattle. During these periods, supplemental feeding
becomes an essential feature if maximum efficiency is to be
achieved. Supplemental feeding is particularly important for
gestating cows during the fall and winter months. The calf crop
will be adversely affected if the breeding herd must subsist for
prolonged periods of time on insufficient amounts of forage or on
frosted grass pastures which are low in protein. Cows which are in
good flesh in the summer can lose some of their maximum summer
weight in the winter without seriously affecting the calf crop if the
loss is kept to about 100 pounds at parturition. Cows which are
thin in the summer should not be permitted to lose weight during
the winter months. Cows which are thin at calving must be fed
liberally enough to permit them to maintain their weight while
lactating or they may fail to come into heat during the breeding
season. Faulty nutrition during the winter and breeding season is
one of the major factors contributing to cows calving only every
3. Seasonal versus year-round breeding
In most all regions there is one season of the year when it is most
favorable for the calf to be born. Cows in central Florida are
usually bred during a season extending from March 1 to July 1;
therefore, the calves are born between December 10 and April 15.
In the southern and northwestern parts of Florida where green
grass or temporary pastures may be available the year round,
many breeders prefer to calve from November 1 to March 1. In this
case, the breeding season extends from January 15 to May 1.
Obviously, if all calves are born during the most favorable season,
production will be higher than when part of the calves are born out
of this season. The theory is advanced frequently that if breeding is
restricted to one season of three to four months, the calf crop would
be lower than when year-round breeding is practiced. This appears
plausible on thought, but experience and study of the problem have
shown that this is not the case. The calving percentage of herds
bred in a season of three to four months is almost invariably
higher than that of herds which are bred on a year-round basis.
The advantages of seasonal breeding over year-round breeding
are several: (1) Labor costs are reduced. The calves are all born in
one season, reducing the labor required for watching cows during
this period and taking care of new-born calves. Calves can be
weaned, branded, etc., at the same time. (2) More uniformity of
sale calves is obtained when breeding is done in a season. (3)
Seasonal breeding results in lower death loss in both cows and
calves. This is due to the fact that the cows are in better condition
at the time of calving. (4) Heavier average weaning weights of
calves are obtained. (5) Less supplemental feed is needed to help
thin cows through the winter and at calving time. (6) A higher
calving percentage is obtained with seasonal breeding under
With seasonal breeding, a bull pasture is required to keep bulls
separated from cow herds between breeding seasons. A few more
bulls may be needed than where year-round breeding is practiced.
On the other hand, bulls stay in better condition when seasonal
breeding is practiced, and frequently no more bulls will be required
to breed in a restricted season than on a year-round basis.
4. Age of breeding heifers.
Experience has shown that heifers should not be bred until they
weigh over 700 pounds. Under Florida range grassland conditions,
this means that heifers usually should not calve until they are
three years old. With improved pastures and good management,
heifers can be bred as yearlings (about 15 months) to calve as
two-year-olds. Calving when the heifers are too small results in
difficult birth, requiring extra labor and attention to prevent an
extremely heavy death loss. Also growth of the heifers may be
stunted and weight of their calves will be reduced. They may
undergo such stress during lactation that they fail to come into
heat and are not bred the following spring.
5. Number of bulls used.
Bulls should be two years old or more and in good condition. In
single-sire herds, a mature bull in good breeding condition will
serve up to 35 cows on improved pasture in a breeding season of 90
to 120 days. When several bulls are run in the same improved
pasture, however, more than 20 cows per bull may result in a
lowered calf crop. If cattle are run in large range grassland or
woods pastures, 14 cows per bull is near optimum. There are
individual bulls which will breed more cows than the averages
indicated above, but a program should be based on the average
rather than the maximum number.
6. Weaning of calves.
Calves are usually weaned at an average age of not more than
eight months, and should be weaned early enough in the fall for
the cow to build up her body reserves for winter and for calving
again. A cow that has had three months rest before calving will
raise a heavier calf and be much more likely to breed back and
calve again the following year. Early weaning causes expensive
care and feeding of calves similar to dairy calf feeding programs or
sale of the calf as a veal calf. This practice is done when necessary
to get thin cows to recover and breed back quickly for a calf that
might be born under better feed and price conditions.
7. Selection and culling for production.
Adherence to the following rules for culling will lead to a highly
efficient and productive brood cow herd:
(1) Record weight and market grade on each heifer calf at
weaning. Select best for replacement heifers in order to maintain a
"closed" cow herd adapted to the region and free of diseases. This
selection will identify the heifers from the heaviest milking cows.
(2) Prior to first breeding season, weigh and score them again,
keeping those with best size and conformation. This selection will
eliminate those which failed to develop on their own under ranch
(3) At weaning time, cull and sell each cow with a lightweight,
low grading calf.
(4) Culling for failure to reproduce is necessary. On ranches
trying to increase cow numbers, a cow should be sold the second
time dry. In other cases, cows should be sold the first time they fail
to conceive. Dry cows are usually fat and heavy. Their sale is a
good economic practice and will insure that only regular producers
are kept in the herd.
(5) At calf weaning time or approximately two to three months
after the end of the breeding season, examine all cows for
pregnancy. This permits the sale of open cows at the end of the
grass season to avoid wintering an open cow.
(6) Cull cows with big teats, bad temperament, damaged udders,
eye disorders, lameness, record of retained placenta, loss of incisor
Horns are expensive, whether on the range or in the feedlot.
Dehorned or polled cattle have obvious advantages over cattle with
horns, assuming quality to be equal.
The following are methods of dehorning at various ages:
1 to 3 months ..............Hot iron, caustic, dehorning scoop
3 to 6 months ......................Hot iron, dehorning scoop
6 to 12 months ............Barnes dehorner (scoop), large size
12 months or older ..............Saw, lever type horn clippers
After mechanical removal of horn or horn button, the wound
may be cauterized with a hot iron. If bleeding persists, the artery
can be clamped and pulled out. Apply fly repellent over the wound
and adjoining areas. Cattle should be dehorned in cool weather
when there is less danger from flies. An opening in the head may
be plugged with clean gauze or antiseptic cotton covered with a fly
Young calves bleed very little and recover sooner after the
operation than older animals; consequently, most prefer to castrate
when they are from a few hours to a few weeks old.
The calf should be restrained and the scrotum washed well with
an antiseptic solution. The lower one-third or one-fourth of the
scrotum should be cut off with a clean knife, thereby exposing the
lower portion of each testicle. Then cut through the membranes
which enclose the testicles, and pull the testicle outward,
stretching the cord. Scrape the stretched cord with the sharp edge
of the knife until the cord severs. Bleeding is less if the cord is
severed by scraping rather than by a clean cut. Good drainage is
provided by this method.
In steers that are to be exhibited as fat animals, it is preferable
to leave the scrotum in its entirety. The testicles are removed
through slits on either side of the scrotum. The incisions should
extend well down to the lower end of the scrotum to provide good
Bloodless castrators (Burdizzo) or emasculators are not recom-
mended unless used by a highly skilled operator who has sufficient
time to assure that the animal is satisfactorily emasculated. Many
buyers discriminate against calves which were clamped with
bloodless castrators because of the high percentage of "slips."
Elastrators which are used to place a heavy rubber ring around
the upper part of the scrotum are effective in the hands of
experienced operators, but a mistake can result in a gangrenous
swollen scrotum. In time, the scrotum and testicles are expected to
atrophy with this method of castration.
10. Tattooing, Marking and Branding.
Tattoo marks and brands are used to identify individual animals
for record keeping purposes and to establish ownership.
Tattooing assures permanent identification and is easily done by
one person when calves are a few hours of age. Tattoos are
required in the ears of most registered cattle. To prevent confusion
in bookkeeping, the tattoo number should be the same as the herd
number, hide brand, horn brand, neck chain number or any other
means of identification. Many breeders use the last number of the
year as the first number of the tattoo. For example, a rancher with
one thousand calves in 1977 could number his calves from 71 to
7999 in order of their birth. A few rules to follow in tattooing are:
1. Prepare in advance a chart listing calf number, dam and sex
if tattooing several calves at one time.
2. Equipment needed is a rotary tattoo instrument or tattoo
pliers plus three or four sets of digits, alcohol, cotton, a piece of
cardboard and tattoo paste or ink. Green paste is preferred.
3. Hold calf closely to prevent movement.
4. Clean grease and dirt out of ear with alcohol and cotton.
5. Select area free of pigment, between cords or ribs, near center
of ear and close to the head. Do not put numbers in fringe of ear
where ear is colored or across the ribs of the ear.
6. Clamp pliers on cardboard and read the number to be sure
digits are in pliers properly.
7. Clamp pliers quickly and firmly-avoid tearing.
8. Use plenty of paste or ink-rub in with thumb until each hole
is full. A toothbrush or other applicator is not effective.
9. Never use same number again for 10 years.
10. Check tattoos again at weaning time for mistakes.
Metal and plastic ear tags are easily attached to the ears of
newborn calves but may be lost in heavily wooded regions.
Ear notching with a knife or ear notcher may be used for
individual identification as shown in Figure 15. Ear marks are
shown in Figure 16.
Neck chains with number plates may be used. The standard neck
chain for mature cattle is a 40-inch case hardened twisted link
steel chain with 3Y2 inch to 4 inch brass, aluminum, nylon or
plastic tag bearing the desired numerals. Neck chains for calves
should be light weight, usually 30 inches long and bearing light
weight, small number plates. Neck straps bearing metal number
plates may also be used for calves.
Horn branding of cattle over two years of age with /8 inch
numbers leaves a number which is easy to read. The horn brand
should be identical with the ear tattoo for easy record keeping.
Figure 15. Example of ear notching and numbering system
for individual identification of beef calves.
Figure 16. Common earmarks
SWALLOW FORK ...............
........ y -
STEEPLE FORK .......................... -
OVERSLOPE ............................. .
UNDERSLOPE ............................" ;
SPLIT .............................. .....-
BIT, UNDER OR OVER ....................
Figure 17. A corral with a long working chute and steel
squeeze chute is essential on every ranch. The concrete
floor, roof, electric outlet, lights and water make it
convenient for good cattle health care.
Hide brands are a permanent means of individual identification
if applied properly. The hot iron brand is preferred over liquid
chemical branding compounds which are applied with a cold iron.
Freeze branding of cattle with dark colored hair is preferred over
hot iron branding but is expensive in time involved and initial cost
of irons. Dry ice, alcohol, hair clippers and an insulated box are
needed in addition to two or four sets of numberals from 0 to 9.
Avoid use of irons with sharp angles, enclosed zeros, heavy welded
areas or complicated designs which may cause sloughing of the
entire skin area within the brand. A ranch holding brand is often
placed on all calves when they are gathered for vaccinating, and
the permanent herd record number brand is placed on the
replacement heifers at weaning time. In Florida, holding brands
must be registered with the Division of Animal Industry,
Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Tallahassee.
11. Making a herd health program.
The objective of a herd health program is to prevent obvious
clinical as well as hidden sub-clinical diseases which lower
efficiency of beef production. This can be done by obtaining the
services of a doctor of veterinary medicine either on a fee or
contractual basis and together working out the jobs to be done on
the ranch to prevent disease and accidents.
Some of the practices the ranch manager should understand and
be equipped to perform are listed:
a. Design and build corrals and working pens equipped with
squeeze chutes and loading chutes to permit fast handling of any
emergency, Figure 17.
b. Keep instruments and equipment in appropriate carrying
cases) ready for use. Include ropes, nose tongs, calf puller, trocar
and cannula, castrating knife, disinfectant, disposable gloves,
disposable syringes and needles, drenching syringe, rectal ther-
mometer, pinkeye powder, etc.
c. Maintain closed cow herds by keeping best heifers for
replacements. Avoid purchasing cows and introduction of disease.
Buy only young bulls which have not been in service.
d. Maintain isolation pasture where newly acquired cattle can
be isolated for 60 days and be re-tested for Brucellosis and TB
before entering herd.
e. If possible, purchase new bulls at owner's farm and insist
upon a health and breeding guarantee. Be sure his herd is free of
venereal and other diseases affecting reproduction-his calf crop is
a good criterion. Check skeletal soundness and semen before
f. Blood test cow herd for Bangs and TB annually-preferably
soon after end of calving season. Calfhood vaccinate all heifer
calves three to six months of age against Brucellosis.
g. Vaccinate all calves shortly after birth and again at weaning
with blackleg bacterins if disease is prevalent in the area. If not
prevalent, one vaccination at four to six months of age may be
sufficient. Consult D.V.M. about choice of bacterins because mixed
clostridia bacterins, chauveii, novyii, sordelli and septicum are
available in different combinations.
h. Check livers of all cattle sold for slaughter for liver fluke
damage. If present, drench annually with hexachlorethane and
eliminate breeding grounds by drainage and copper sulfate
treatment, if possible.
i. Use plenty of backrubbers with big reservoirs for insecticides
and spray or use pour-on insecticide every time cattle go through a
corral. Do not put insecticide on baby calves.
j. Where ticks are suspected of spreading anaplasmosis among
cattle, mow or chop the pastures regularly, dip all cattle
frequently, rotate pastures every eight to ten months and burn or
plow a strip around the perimeter if ticks are prevalent on the
k. Annually treat cattle with a recommended systemic insecti-
cide to eliminate grubs. Treat cattle going into feedlot as well as
the breeding herds and young replacement stock. Obtain approval
of D.V.M. before using certain insecticides on Brahman cattle.
1. If internal parasites are suspected, collect fecal samples from
a cross-section of the herd. If a high fecal egg count is observed at
the diagnostic laboratory, plan a pasture rotation program, drench
or inject and move cattle to clean ground and treat again in three
m. Treat eye infections when eyes first start to become inflamed
with "multiple antibiotic medication." Remove infected animals
from herd and isolate them in a dark barn free from flies if
possible. This should slow its spread through the herd. Keep down
the fly and gnat population. Mow or chop weeds and grasses with
seedheads. Avoid areas with blowing sand or dust.
n. Treat foot rot cases when first seen (swelling above hoof) by
injections. Eliminate mudholes around water tanks, silos, feed-
bunks, mineral boxes and wherever germs might multiply and
o. Bury or burn dead animals. Don't permit a truck loaded with
other dead or diseased animals into your pasture.
p. Don't attempt to manually pull retained placentas until about
72 hours after calving. This should be done by a D.V.M. Don't
handle aborted fetuses or diseased tissues without gloves. Always
disinfect well after handling. Let veterinarians perform all
post-mortem examinations on dead animals.
q. Keep cattle away from machinery, lubricants, fertilizers, lead
paints, post preservatives and toxic materials. Eliminate poisonous
r. Ground fences to prevent lightning stroke, especially next to
s. Learn the deficiency and toxicity symptoms of vitamins and
mineral elements. Keep on the alert for their appearance. If
suspected, have your veterinarian refer the animal in question to
the diagnostic laboratory for a complete diagnosis.
t. Learn to avoid bloat, founder, sand colic, hardware disease,
ergotism, weed poisoning, urinary calculi, fluorosis, photosensitiza-
tion, dehydration, diarrhea, muscular dystrophy (white muscle
disease), grass staggers, anemia, avitaminosis A, rickets, entero-
toxemia and other conditions by proper nutrition and manage-
ment. Have a good veterinary medical handbook available for
reference on questionable cases.
12. Making a year-round work calendar.
In December, a calendar should be prepared listing each job to be
done month-by-month during the next year. Although the
following example is for a North-Central Florida ranch, it could be
adapted to any region by changing dates:
December Start calving season. Check herds daily treating
navels of newborns with iodine and putting tattoo
in both ears.
Start feeding hay or silage as needed.
Double quantity of supplemental feed for cows
nursing calves. Take out "cow-calf pairs" when-
Complete work on proposed budget and work
calendar for next year.
January Make closing inventory for tax records, get
appointment with tax accountant to complete last
year's income tax report and to make manage-
ment plan for next year's taxes.
-Work out herd health program with D.V.M. and
put jobs on work calendar.
Check herd bulls for soundness and condition.
Trim feet if needed. Check semen of questionable
Get soils samples analyzed.
February Study soils data and order fertilizer.
Make up breeding (mating) list of cows and bulls
for each cow herd.
Use flexible-tine harrow to scatter manure piles
March Corral herds to (1) separate cows into breeding
pastures, (2) either separate dry cows into "dry
cow pasture" or mark them for culling, (3) weigh
and cull yearling heifers that failed to develop, (4)
spray to control lice and other external parasites,
(5) put bulls out for 90-day breeding season.
Fertilize improved pastures when frost danger is
Plant corn or sorghum for silage.
Kill thistles in pastures.
April Put up backrubbers for fly control in each herd.
Prepare land for grass establishment; repair
fences, clear land, build drainage ditches, etc., be-
fore rainy season starts.
Continue checking cows daily after calving season
ends in order to catch cows coming into heat.
Rotate bulls in pastures if too many cows are
being bred the second time.
May Mow, chop or spray undesirable and poisonous
plants in pastures before they produce seed.
Attend Beef Cattle Short Course at University.
June Start grass pasture establishment after rainy
Get silos and ensiling machinery ready to go.
Corral herds to (1) take bulls away from cow
herds, (2) vaccinate all calves, (3) castrate all
remaining bull calves, (4) Bangs vaccinate heifer
calves born before February 1st, (5) separate cows
with calves to be started on creep feed, if any, (6)
spray all cattle while they are penned.
July Mow weeds in newly established pastures.
Put up hay and silage for winter feed.
August Examine "dry cow pasture" herd for pregnancy
and sell to a packer (not at auction) those barren
for second time.
Arrange for supply of protein supplement in truck
or carload lots delivered in fall.
Fertilize reserved grass pastures for fall grazing
or for haymaking in October when rains cease.
September Corral herds to (1) wean calves. Keep in small
pens to limit "fence running" and weight loss, (2)
weigh and grade all calves from herds being
production tested, (3) select herd replacement
heifers, (4) separate into uniform groups all calves
to be sold, (5) pregnancy test cow herd and sell or
send open cows to "cull pasture", (6) Bangs
vaccinate heifer calves which were too young to
vaccinate when cows were corraled in June,
(7) spray all cattle while they are penned.
Teach replacement heifer calves to eat pellets,
liquid supplement and hay in drylot for a few
weeks before pasture.
Start performance testing bull calves by feeding
all of them exactly alike on pasture with plenty of
silage or hay and supplement.
-Purchase hay in field at baling time. Buy on
weight basis and watch moisture content.
October When rains cease, start making grass hay from
fields fertilized in late August.
Plant temporary pasture crops of oats, rye or rye-
grass on cropland.
Graze clover-grass pastures fairly short before
they are fertilized.
Purchase ear corn at harvest. Arrange for drying,
grinding, fumigating and storage. Watch moisture
content and quality.
November Fertilize clover-grass pastures according to soils
Start feeding supplement before cattle lose much
Order ear tags and tattoo paste before calving
General Nutrition of Beef Cattle
by T. J. Cunha*
The importance of breeding and management has been em-
phasized in the preceding chapters. But, the genetic capabilities of
high quality animals cannot be expressed without adequate
nutrition. It is also impossible to produce a high-percentage calf
crop, wean heavy calves, grow out satisfactory herd replacements
or profitably market finished cattle from the feedlot without a well
Feed, whether purchased or produced on the ranch, represents a
large part of the cost incurred in beef cattle production; thus, it is
important that cattlemen have a basic understanding of nutrition
and be familiar with the more common terms. These terms are
defined as follows:
1. Nutrition is the act or process of nourishing or being
nourished; the sum of the processes by which an animal or
plant takes in and utilizes feed substances.
2. Digestion is the process of rendering feed absorbable by
dissolving it and breaking it down into simpler chemical
3. Assimilation is the incorporation of the feed nutrients into
4. Metabolism is the sum of the processes incidental to life. This
includes the building-up processes whereby absorbed nutrients
are used in the formation or repair of body tissues, as well as
the breaking-down processes in which nutrients are used for
the production of heat and work.
5. Ration is the amount of feed supplied to an animal for a
definite period, usually for one day.
6. A balanced ration is one which contains feed nutrients in the
proper amounts and proportion to meet the requirements of
the animal for a given purpose.
7. A maintenance ration is one that supplies the needs of an
animal without gain or loss of body substance and without
*Chairman, Department of Animal Science, University of Florida.
producing any labor.
8. A productive ration allows growth, weight gain, work, repro-
duction, or milk production in addition to maintenance.
Principal Feed Groups or Classes
All feeds may be divided into two major groups or classes,
(1) Concentrates. These feeds, such as corn, oats, citrus pulp,
cottonseed meal and others contain a large proportion of feed
nutrients per unit of weight. Although relatively high in
moisture content, molasses is considered to be a concentrate
because of its high energy value. Concentrates are high in
total digestible nutrients and low in fiber.
(2) Roughages. They are usually coarse and bulky in nature,
are less digestible and thus contain less feed value per unit
of weight than concentrates. They are high in fiber and low
in total digestible nutrients. Roughages are classified
according to moisture content into dry roughages, such as
hay, straw, fodder and others; and green roughages, such as
forage, silage, root crops and others.
Feeds contain the following constituents which are essential for
the health and well-being of the animal body: water, minerals,
protein, carbohydrates, fats and vitamins. Some question whether
or not water is a nutrient. Either way, it is still very essential for
proper body function and life.
All feeds contain water. The common farm grains contain 8-15
percent; dry roughages, such as hay, contain 10-20 percent; and
silage and green forages may have as much as 70-90 percent water.
Water makes up from 50-60 percent of an animal's body, depending
upon species, age and condition. Many tissues in the body contain
70-90 percent water. The importance of this substance is
demonstrated by the fact that a starving animal may lose nearly
all of its fat, half of its body protein and about 40 percent of its
body weight, and still live; whereas disorders in the body will occur
if 10 percent of its water is lost, and the loss of 20 percent of water
results in death.
The many functions of water in the animal body include its
function (1) as a solvent needed to transport nutrients; (2) as a
lubricating agent; (3) as an aid in regulation of body temperature;
(4) as a cushion for the nervous system; (5) in transportation of
sounds in the ear; and (6) with sight.
Clean, fresh water should be constantly available for beef cattle
of all ages. This is particularly important in hot weather. A steer
or dry cow on green pasture will consume 10-12 gallons of water
per day. A lactating cow or animals consuming dry feed will
require approximately twice this amount daily.
Mineral elements found in the bodies of cattle include calcium,
phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, sodium, chlorine, manganese,
copper, iron, cobalt, sulfur, iodine, fluorine, zinc, aluminum,
selenium, molybdenum and traces of several others. At least 15
mineral elements are essential to animal life, as many important
functions of the body depend on mineral compounds. The skeleton
and teeth contain high proportions of mineral matter, but minerals
are also present in every cell of the body.
Functions of The Mineral Elements
Calcium is a necessary constituent of the bones and teeth, and is
essential for normal blood clotting, regular heart action and
muscular activity. A calcium deficiency results in poor growth and
bone development in growing animals. Milk production is reduced
in lactating cows receiving low-calcium rations. In general, beef
cattle receiving sufficient grass or legume roughages will have
very little, if any, need for supplemental calcium. Some supple-
mental sources of calcium include steamed bonemeal, mono- and
dicalcium phosphate, calcium carbonate and defluorinated
Phosphorus is an essential part of blood and of all cells in the
body, being involved in chemical reactions which release energy in
the body. Bones and teeth contain relatively large amounts of
phosphorus (as well as calcium). A lack of this mineral element in
the ration results in poor utilization of feed, slow growth, weak
bones, low milk production and serious reproductive failure. Feed
grains and protein supplements are good sources of phosphorus.
Steamed bonemeal, defluorinated phosphate and mono- and
dicalcium phosphate salts are supplementary sources of phos-
Calcium and phosphorus are interrelated. While an adequate
supply of each one is required, they must also be present in the
ration in the proper proportion or ratio to each other for optimum
utilization. The most desirable calcium to phosphorus ratio is
between one and two parts of calcium to one of phosphorus.
A salt (sodium+chlorine) deficiency produces a marked hunger
for salt, loss of appetite, loss of weight and reduced milk
production. Chlorine is necessary for the proper digestion of
nutrients and sodium is essential for regulation of cell reactions.
Iron is necessary for formation of blood hemoglobin. This
compound is essential for respiration. Anemia (low hemoglobin)
and poor performance in general are associated with an iron
Copper is also essential for hemoglobin formation. Copper aids
the body in assimilating iron and is involved in hair pigmentation.
Severe scouring, anemia, fading of the hair coat, loss in weight and
difficult movement are characteristic of a copper deficiency. A
copper deficiency occurs in Florida on soils low in copper and on
soils which contain excess molybdenum. Excess molybdenum in
the soil increases the need for copper in the ration of cattle.
Cobalt is also important for hemoglobin formation. Cobalt and
copper deficiency symptoms in cattle are very similar. Cobalt has
been shown to be a part of Vitamin B12. Cobalt is converted into
Vitamin B12 in the rumen of cattle. Many of the grazing areas of
Florida are deficient in cobalt.
Since the mineral needs of cattle vary according to the stage of
the life cycle of the animal, kind and quality of the forage, kind
and amount of supplemental feeds, season of the year and other
factors, the animals should have free access to minerals at all
times. If given free access to the mineral box, cattle will usually
balance their mineral requirements although an occasional animal
may not. Consumption will vary according to the mineral content
of the forage. However, the yearly cost for mineral supplements
will amount to such a small fraction of the total feed cost (about
one to three percent) that animals should have free access to
minerals at all times. (Bulletin 683 of the Florida Agricultural
Experiment Station discusses more fully the mineral needs of beef
cattle in Florida. Copies can be obtained from the University of
Florida at Gainesville, or the County Extension Director.)
Protein is the principal constituent of the organs and soft
structures of the body. A daily supply of protein is required by all
animals throughout life for growth and tissue repair. The present
tendency to produce rapid growth in beef cattle, so that they can be
used for breeding or marketed at an early age, makes the protein
needs of these animals a critical factor in the feeding program. A
deficiency of protein slows the growth rate and development of
young animals, reduces the fertility of the breeding herd, reduces
appetite and retards gains of finishing cattle.
Proteins are composed of amino acids. The "quality" of a protein
is determined by the quantity and proportion of the essential
amino acids in the feed. Young calves require a high quality
protein in their ration before rumen function is adequate for the
micro-organisms there to synthesize the amino acids needed. In
older animals, protein quality is of much less importance because
the essential amino acids are synthesized by the micro-organisms
in the rumen. Under proper conditions, from one-third to one-half
of the protein needs of older animals can be met by feeding non-
protein-nitrogen (NPN) compounds such as urea. These compounds
are not protein but contain nitrogen which is converted into body
proteins by the micro-organisms in the rumen.
Urea, an NPN, is sold commercially-mixed in a carrier to
prevent it from caking and to make it easier to mix with other
feeds. This urea product usually has a protein equivalent value of
262 percent protein, but, the level of protein will vary depending
on the carrier used. When protein feeds, such as cottonseed,
soybean, linseed or peanut meal are too high priced or scarce, urea
can be used to replace part of these protein feeds in the ration.
Since the micro-organisms in the rumen need highly digestible
carbohydrates (molasses or grains) in order to properly utilize
urea, the urea is usually fed to cattle by mixing it in molasses,
grain, or other energy sources.
The following suggestions are made in the use of urea:
1. Urea can safely be substituted for one-third to one-half of the
protein in beef cattle rations. For the person without too much
experience in feeding cattle, it is recommended that urea be used
at a level no higher than one-third of the total protein in the
2. Urea should not be mixed with raw or incompletely cooked
soybeans or soybean oil meal. Such soybeans contain the enzyme
urease, which breaks down urea into ammonia and carbon dioxide.
In this case the urea would be lost and thus would have no feeding
value to the animal.
3. Since excess quantities of urea are toxic to cattle, it should be
thoroughly mixed in molasses, grains or other feeds before feeding.
Symptoms of urea toxicity are uneasiness, muscle and skin
tremors, excess salivation, labored breathing, incoordination,
bloat, tetany and death. One gallon of vinegar may prevent death
if given orally to the cattle before the development of severe tetany
4. Proper feeding of roughages, minerals and available carbo-
hydrates are necessary for efficient utilization of urea or other
NPN compounds by ruminants. The micro-organisms which use
the urea need to have these feeds and nutrients in order to
properly utilize the urea. In other words, the micro-organisms in
the rumen also need a well balanced ration of their own for best
results in making use of urea and building it into their own body
protein. When the micro-organisms go into the fourth stomach of
the cow, they are digested and their body protein becomes
available to the animal.
(More information on urea toxicity can be obtained by writing
the University of Florida or County Extension Director for
Agricultural Experiment Station Bulletin 611.)
Cost Per Pound of Protein
When purchasing protein supplements, one should choose them
on the basis of cost per pound of protein rather than the cost per
100 pounds of the protein supplement. Many times the bag of feed
which costs the least often costs the most per unit of protein.
Many farmers buy feed and consider only the cost per 100 lb.
bag. Protein supplements should be purchased on a basis on units
of protein. Let us say that 41 percent protein cottonseed meal costs
$82 a ton. That means that each percent (or unit) of protein costs
$2. Each 100 pound sack of this meal costs $4.10 (20 sacks per ton).
Let us say that 36 percent protein cottonseed meal costs $76 a ton.
That means that each unit of protein costs $2.11, but, each sack of
this meal costs only $3.80. Thus, some farmers will buy the low
protein cottonseed meal since each sack of it costs less. But, he is
paying $2.11 for each percent or unit of protein as compared to
$2.00 if he had bought the 41 percent protein cottonseed meal,
even though it cost more per sack.
This is an easy and valuable calculation for a cattleman to make.
Cottonseed meal has been used as an example in presenting this
information. However, other protein supplements can likewise be
Protein Needs in Winter
It is extremely important that cattle receive adequate amounts
of protein during the winter months. Not only does grass have a
lower protein content in the winter, but the protein is less-
available because the plant is more fibrous. Dry grasses also tend
to be unpalatable, so animals may not consume sufficient amounts
Planting of winter clovers is one answer to supplying some, or all
of the protein supplementation needed. If cattle are consuming
only low protein dry grass or grass hays during the winter, they
should receive enough protein supplement to at least maintain
their weight, or better yet, to remain in a thrifty condition with a
reasonable amount of gain.
Although carbohydrates make up the greatest portion of feeds
consumed by animals, only very small amounts of carbohydrates
occur as constituents of the animal's body. The principal
carbohydrates in the feedstuffs are sugars, starches, cellulose and
lignin. Sugars and starches are easily utilized by all farm animals.
However, only the bacteria in the rumen of cattle are able to break
down a certain percentage of the cellulose present in feeds, thereby
making them available to the animal.
The first and most important function of feeds is to furnish
sufficient energy to meet the daily maintenance requirements of
the body. Only after the energy needs of the body are met can there
be growth or finishing. It is fortunate that cows can fulfill their
energy requirements by utilizing low-cost roughages which are
available in large quantities such as grass, legumes, silages and
other bulky feeds.
Certain fatty acids and related substances are necessary for
growth and the well being of the animal's body. These substances,
or their precursors, are synthesized in the rumen. Therefore, as far
as we know, fatty acids do not need to be added to the ration of
ruminants. However, low levels of fat in the ration increases
palatability and under certain conditions improve performance. It
has been shown that lactating cows require some fat in the ration
to maintain maximum milk production.
Based on present knowledge one should not add more than three
to five percent fat to the rations of finishing steers. Higher levels
do not give as good results. Research information is needed to
determine how to successfully use higher levels of fat in the ration
of finishing cattle.
Vitamins are organic compounds which are necessary for normal
growth, health and reproduction. Although cattle require many
vitamins, just as other animals do, their dietary vitamin
requirements are relatively simple due to the nature of the feeds
they ordinarily consume and to rumen synthesis of vitamins.
Except for a few situations, it appears that sufficient amounts of
the B-complex vitamins are manufactured in the digestive tract of
cattle receiving well balanced rations. Recent work at Kansas
however, indicates that thiamine (Vitamin B1) may be needed
under certain conditions. also, choline has been shown to help
cattle at Washington State. So we need to keep an open mind on
the B-complex vitamin needs of beef cattle. Vitamin E is found in
almost all cattle feeds. Recent reports however, indicate that
Vitamin E treatment has been helpful with muscular dystrophy in
calves. In a few instances it helped finishing cattle in the feedlot.
Thus, the present status on the need for Vitamin E is not clear.
One should carefully watch new developments to determine
whether Vitamin E supplementation might be warranted under
Vitamin D is essential for normal calcium and phosphorus
absorption, metabolism and utilization. This vitamin is synthe-
sized in the skin of the animal in the presence of sunlight. Animals
confined inside barns almost constantly need Vitamin D supple-
mentation. Vitamin D is most helpful when the calcium to
phosphorus level and ratio, is not correct. However, Vitamin D
alone cannot overcome a lack of calcium and phosphorus or correct
an abnormal ratio of calcium to phosphorus.
Green forages, grass silage and yellow corn are good sources of
carotene which the animal changes to Vitamin A in its body.
However, deficiency symptoms could appear under certain condi-
tions such as: (1) a prolonged drought, resulting in dry, bleached
grass on overstocked pastures; (2) wintering cattle on no feed
except dry grass, which is very low in carotene; or (3) feeding
finishing cattle over a prolonged period of time on rations
containing neither green feeds nor yellow corn. Under certain
conditions the use of corn silage will increase the need for Vitamin
Symptoms of Vitamin A deficiency are: night blindness, swelling
of the legs and forequarters, loss of appetite, severe diarrhea,
muscular incoordination and staggering gait, excessive watering of
the eyes, dry hair coat, reduced feed intake, reduced rate of gain
and feed efficiency, stiffness, lameness and convulsions. Breeding
animals may lose their reproductive ability in cases of an advanced
Vitamin A deficiency. There is a decline in sexual activity in bulls,
a low conception rate in the breeding herd, abortion and the birth
of weak, dead or blind calves.
Recent studies indicate that cattle may not be able to convert
carotene to Vitamin A very efficiently under some conditions. It is
not known exactly why this is so because the rations presumably
contain more carotene than it is thought the animals need. Some
think the increased need for Vitamin A is due to the higher levels
of nitrogen fertilizer being used with crops. The high level of
nitrogen fertilization (or certain forms of nitrogen) results in
increased levels of nitrates in feeds which are not changed to
protein in the plant. These nitrates are changed to nitrites in the
rumen. These nitrites, in some way not yet understood, either
interfere with the conversion of carotene to Vitamin A or increase
the animal's needs for Vitamin A.
There are other reasons for the increased need for Vitamin A
since many rations which are low in nitrates are benefited by
Vitamin A supplementation. It is recommended that feedlot cattle
be supplemented with at least 20,000 to 30,000 I.U. per animal
daily. In some cases, as high as 60,000 I.U. of Vitamin A are given
each animal daily.
Anyone interested in trying Vitamin A to determine if it will
help with the breeding herd can use levels of about 40,000 I.U.
daily with cows and bulls. Another guide to use with breeding
animals is 3,000 4,000 I.U. per 100 pounds of body weight daily.
An injectable form of Vitamin A is available. One can inject steers
with 1 million I.U. of Vitamin A per month they will be on feed, or
the same Vitamin A level for each month the breeding cattle need
supplementation during the winter. All of these animals need
about 1,000,000 I.U. per month of injectable Vitamin A. A dose of
four to six million I.U. of Vitamin A should last four to six months.
It is best to inject the A in the top of the hip area. Anyone
interested in determining whether or not Vitamin A will be of help
under his conditions can inject half the cattle and observe if any
response is obtained. (More information on Vitamin A can be
obtained by writing to the University of Florida for Circular 262.)
The use of antibiotics in beef cattle feeding is very important. A
review of the experimental information on antibiotics can be
summarized as follows:
(1) They increase rate of gain about five percent and increase
feed efficiency about five percent.
(2) They are more helpful with high roughage as compared to
high concentrate rations. The reason for this is not known.
(3) Most feeders will use a level of 350-500 mg. of antibiotics for
one to four weeks in combating high disease level outbreaks
or when first starting cattle on feed. Some use a combination
of an antibiotic and a sulfa drug during the first four weeks.
After this period of high-level antibiotic feeding they usually
continue feeding at a level of 70-80 mg. of antibiotic per
steer per day, depending on the disease level and other
stress conditions encountered in their premises.
(4) Antibiotics are increasingly more helpful as the level of
stress and subclinical disease increases on the farm.
(5) Antibiotics have been shown to be beneficial with increasing
hair coat bloom as well as combating scours, foot rot,
shipping fever and liver abscesses.
(6) There is no scientific proof that feeding antibiotics to
animals cause any harmful effect to the animal, those
feeding the animals and to humans consuming the meat or
other animal products. Therefore, its use in animal
production should definitely be continued.
A summary of all the experimental work to date shows the
following response from the use of stilbestrol:
Kind of Ration Increase in gain Per lb. gain
Finishing in dry-lot 18% 12%
Growing ration 11% 10%
Pasture feeding 9% 8%
The above figures show that a high energy ration is needed in
order to get the maximum response from stilbestrol. The greatest
response occurs with full-fed animals in dry-lot.
Following are other conclusions from the use of stilbestrol with
(1) Carcass grade as well as cooler and transit shrink are not
appreciably affected if proper levels of stilbestrol are used.
(2) The use of stilbestrol results in about three percent more
protein and three percent less fat being deposited in the
(3) Combinations of hormones are being experimented with and
some of them give about the same results as stilbestrol.
(4) There is not much difference in the response to either oral or
implant methods. The one to use would depend on the
situation and conditions encountered.
(5) Implants last approximately 150 days according to various
(6) Steers respond more to stilbestrol than heifers. This is
because heifers produce a certain amount of natural
estrogen themselves (stilbestrol is a synthetic estrogen).
(7) The response to stilbestrol on pasture will vary considerably.
This is because pasture has natural estrogenic activity
which will vary according to the kind of soil, level of
fertilization, kind of forage, stage of maturity, season of the
year and other factors. Thus, the only sure way to know
which level of stilbestrol to use on pasture is to try various
levels and determine which is the best.
(8) The levels of stilbestrol being used are:
(a) 10 mg. per day per steer in the feed. Many steer feeders
use a level of 24 mg. implants of stilbestrol with steers
in the feedlot.
(b) 6-36 mg. implants, depending on the size of animal and
the ration being fed.
(9) There is no harmful effect to the human from consuming the
meat of cattle given stilbestrol during the finishing period.
Exaggerated reports have appeared in the press but there is
no scientific proof of any detrimental effect to humans.
A great deal has been done with enzymes in the last few years.
Most of the work has been conducted with starch and protein
splitting enzymes. Sometimes they help and other times they do
not. As a result, the enzyme picture is not clear. In the future,
studies should also be concentrated on cellulose and lignin
splitting enzymes. This could result in the more efficient use of
high roughage rations in cattle feeding. Termites do well on wood,
which is cellulose and lignin; thus, chemists would do well to
determine the enzymes used by the termite. These enzymes might
then be used with cattle to increase digestibility of high roughage
feeds which are in abundance.
Many studies have been conducted with tranquilizers during the
past few years. The response obtained to date has not been
consistent. In some trials the response has been favorable while in
others there has been no beneficial effect. Further studies are
needed to learn why the response is not consistent and why
animals vary in it. There is interest in the use of tranquilizers
because they can be helpful for reducing shipping shrink, shock of
weaning, calming wild animals, operations and other stress
Beef Cattle Ration Formulation and
Comparative Nutrient Value of Available
by James F. Hentges, Jr.*
The beef cattle industry is based on the conversion of feeds which
are inedible by humans into a nutritious, protein-rich human
food-beef. Florida is blessed with abundant resources of water,
mild weather, sunshine and approximately 12 million acres of land
in native grasslands, forests and planted pastures. When properly
utilized, these resources provide a huge supply of forage plant
material which represents a highly efficient and inexpensive
means of trapping solar energy for conversion into biochemical
energy. Although most forage plant energy, namely cellulose, is
not biologically available to humans, it can be converted within
the unique gastrointestinal system of ruminating cattle into
energy forms which can be used by the cow for production of milk
The Unique Digestive System of Beef Cattle
High quality pastures, hay and silage form the cornerstone for
successful beef cattle production in the Gulf Coast states. They are
unexcelled for feeding the breeding herd and produce the cheapest
gains on stockers and feeders. An understanding of the unique
features of the digestive system of beef cattle is necessary to
properly formulate cattle rations of forages and supplements.
The physical structure of the four-compartment stomach of the
cow is superbly designed for the incubation and propagation of
large populations of bacteria, protozoa and other microorganisms
which have the remarkable power of converting fibrous roughages
and all other feedstuffs into nutrients which are used in the cow's
body metabolism. The first two compartments of the stomach
function as one unit called the reticulo-rumen or paunch. This
*Department of Animal Science, University of Florida.
large compartment normally provides the proper conditions of
temperature, moisture, acidity and nutrients for billions of
microbes to thrive on the feedstuffs eaten by cattle. These
feedstuffs are swallowed with little chewing but the roughage
portion is softened in the paunch and later regurgitated to be
chewed as the cud. When the cud is chewed, the surfaces of the
plant stems and leaves will be fractured making sites available for
the microbes to get to the plant nutrients. The cow benefits from
the microorganisms in the reticulo-rumen in three ways. First, the
microbial breakdown of plant cellulose and other feed carbo-
hydrates results in the production of volatile fatty acids, primarily
acetic, propionic and butyric acids which are absorbed through
tongue-shaped papillae on the interior of the rumen wall and pass
into the blood stream. These fatty acids are metabolized in the
liver and other tissues and used for tissue growth, milk production
and work energy. Unlike the simple-stomached animals whose
major source of energy is simple sugars absorbed from the small
intestine, the cow obtains the majority of her energy from the
volatile fatty acids produced by the microorganisms in the paunch.
The second benefit derived from paunch microbes is their synthesis
of protein. A constant flow of microbes passes from the reticulo-
rumen through the omasum to be digested in the "true stomach" or
abomasum and the small intestine like meat scraps or any other
animal protein. Since the microbes in the paunch can use urea or
other non-protein nitrogenous materials and carbohydrates to
build their own body cells, the ruminating cow is attributed with
the remarkable ability of being able to subsist on low quality
proteins and non-protein urea. The third benefit from paunch
microbes is derived from their synthesis of the B-complex vitamins,
riboflavin (B2), niacin, pyridoxine (Be), biotin, folic acid and
cobalamin (B12), in rates sufficient to meet the needs of the cow.
Vitamins K and C are also synthesized within the cow's body
leaving only vitamins A, D and E to be supplied by the diet.
Because of the unique physical structure and microbial popu-
lation of the cow forestomach, the following basic facts relative to
feed formulation and feeding methods are important:
1. Appetite of cattle is largely governed by the rate of passage of
feeds through the paunch which in turn is dependent on the time
required for microbes to break down and utilize fibrous carbohy-
drates. Processing methods like grinding and cooking as is done in
flaking or pelleting, lessens the work load for the microbes. Also,
the feeding of green forage, hay or silage made from immature,
tender plants provides the microbes with more easily digested
carbohydrates then roughage from fibrous, highly-lignified mature
plants. A feed intake of three percent of body weight in air-dry feed
is expected with rapidly-digested concentrates and immature
legume forages whereas not more than two percent is expected
with slowly-digested mature grasses and roughages.
2. Changes in rations offered to cattle will result in a decline in
population of certain microbes and an increase in others which are
capable of digesting the new ration. These microbial shifts require
time thereby explaining why ration and feeding changes "throw
cattle off feed" for several days. This same explanation holds for
changes from pasture to drylot or dam's milk to dry feeds, etc.
3. Cattle restricted to poor quality, frosted pasture grass, browse
and native plants need a supplemental feed designed to maintain a
large paunch population of microorganisms capable of digesting
the poor quality roughages. The forage supplement should contain
the following four sources of nutrients: (1) sources of protein;
(2) readily-available carbohydrates like sugars from molasses
and/or starches in grains; (3) major and minor mineral elements;
and, if possible, (4) sources of unknown factors like alfalfa meal.
The customary addition of vitamin A to such supplements is done
for the direct benefit of the cow, not for the paunch micro-
organisms. The recommendation of high protein range pellets
containing these additional nutrients is justified over a single
source of protein for wintering beef breeding cattle on poor quality
4. A danger of toxicity exists when non-protein nitrogen
compounds like urea are fed because of the rapid conversion of the
urea to ammonia or related compounds which may be absorbed if
not immediately incorporated by the microorganisms into protein.
5. Microbial action results in formation of methane and carbon
dioxide gases in the paunch. If the eosophagus becomes obstructed
with foam or if ruminal motion stops, these gases will accumulate
in the paunch resulting in "bloat" which may be toxic. Cattle
grazing pure stands of clover or alfalfa pasture and cattle on
all-grain diets must be watched carefully for bloat. To aid belching
of gas and rumination, the feeding of some hay, chopped corn cobs,
cottonseed hulls, or other bulky ingredients is recommended.
6. Excessive consumption of concentrates by cattle taken from
pastures to feedlots often results in "founder," a condition
characterized by extreme pain in the toes of the front feet. The
physiological cause is unknown but changes in rumen microbes,
increased acidity of rumen ingesta and production of certain
amines are suspected as contributing to the cause. Preventive
methods are inclusion of lots of bulky ingredients in the starting
feed or hand-feeding while they are gradually brought up to a full
feed over a period of two or three weeks.
7. Granting the reticulo-rumen with its microflora enables the
cow to utilize fibrous plants and non-protein nitrogen, it is a
liability in the sense that it is a wasteful converter of grain energy
to beef; consequently, the cow is the least efficient utilizer of grain
among farm livestock. Experimental methods of feeding limited
grain diets to calves and finishing cattle offers future promise of
more efficient feed utilization.
Information Needed to Formulate Beef Cattle Rations
The determination of the nutritional adequacy of a cattle ration
consisting of pasture forage being grazed plus hay or silage and a
supplemental feed is possible by use of the form shown as Table 20
and the following information:
1. The quantity of forage and supplement being eaten per day,
expressed on a dry basis, must be measured or estimated.
2. The daily requirements of the cattle for food nutrients, at
least protein, energy, calcium and phosphorus, must be obtained
from the National Academy of Sciences-National Research Council
(NAS-NRC) publication entitled "Nutrient Requirements of Beef
Cattle" (See Table 25, Chapter 8 and Table 30, Chapter 9).
3. The nutrient content of the pasture grass, other forage, and
supplement ingredients must be determined by a feed chemist or
obtained from published sources such as the Florida Agricultural
Experiment Station Bulletins or NAS-NRC Atlas of Nutritional
Data on United States and Canadian Feeds (see Table 21). Because
the major ration ingredients for breeding beef cattle will be
home-grown pasture grass and hay or silage, cattlemen are
advised to acquaint themselves with the protein (nitrogen x 6.25)
and digestible dry matter content of these feed ingredients by
having representative samples collected throughout the growing
season and analyzed. If excesses or deficiencies of mineral elements
exist in the soil, air or water, it is advisable to obtain forage plant
and water analyses as a guide for formulation of safe, productive
4. The ingredients which are available for supplements and
their nutritional characteristics must be known so that the
nutrients missing from pasture forage can be provided at least cost
and in the most efficient manner.
Nutritional Characteristics of Available Feed Ingredients
High Energy Concentrates:
Surplus grains: sorghum (milo), corn, oats, barley, wheat,
Industrial by-products: molasses, citrus products, milling
by-products of corn, rice, wheat, sugarcane
Grains are unsurpassed as sources of energy because of their
high starch content which is highly digestible. Quality measure-
ments of grains for cattle feeding are needed because damaged and
adulterated grains which are not edible by humans are sold for
livestock feeding. Grain should be inspected for (1) adulteration by
toxic seeds such as Crotolaria spectablis or inexpensive materials
like ground limestone in meals; (2) overheating or inadequate
drying resulting in molds; (3) insect or weevil damage; (4) weight
per bushel; and (5) chemical composition which can be determined
by the Feed Laboratory Chemist, Florida Department of Agri-
culture and Consumer Services. The latter is very important for
sorghums which may vary in protein content as much as five
percent among sources.
The cattle feeder needs to know the official weight per bushel of
grains because most are sold on a bushel instead of a ton basis.
Weight per bushel is widely used as a measure of oat quality with
top quality oats weighing 38 pounds or more a bushel.
Shelled corn 56
Ear corn with shuck 70
Whole oats 32
Whole barley 48
Grain sorghum, milo 56
Grain processing methods include hammermill grinding, crack-
ing, cold and steam crimping, steamed rolled--often called flaked,
popping, micronizing, extruding, pelleting, cooking, ensiling and
others. Many kinds of mill machinery exist for these processes and
much variation in processed product is observed. Records of cattle
response (quantity eaten/day and daily weight gain per pound of
feed eaten) are the best measures of processing effect on grains. In
general, small hard seeds of milo and wheat are benefitted by
rolling or crimping. In all-concentrate rations for feedlot cattle,
Table 20. Ration Formulation
Diet Name (8 digits)
Cattle Description: Age, mo. Weight, lb. lb.
Form for calculating balanced rations (feed eaten/day) for grazing cattle. First, compare nutrient intake from forage with nutrient requirements, then, formulate a supplement of
concentrates to provide required quantities of nutrients not obtained from forage.
Wt. of feed intake Protein or Equivalent
Ration As fed Dry Total Dig. N from TDN
Ingredients* lb. lb. lb. lb. NPN, lb. lb.
P Cost, $
Total in forage
Needed in supplement
Total in supplement
*Nutrient composition taken from NAS-NRC Atlas of Nutritional Data on U.S. and Canadian Feeds.
**Requirements taken from NAS-NRC publication "Nutrient Requirements of Beef Cattle."
Analysis of Supplement (Nutrient concentration in % or Mcal/lb)
Protein or equivalent % crude % digestible- % equivalent protein from NPN
Energy: TDN% NE, Mcal/lb. NE, Mcal/lb.
Ratio of calcium to phosphorous Ca: P
Name of F
Table 21. Average composition of cattle diet ingredients on as-fed basis.*
Dry Total Dig. TDN NE NE
Feedstuff matter protein protein energy maint. gain Calcium Phosphorus
% % % % Mcal/lb.** % %
Dry Roughages & Stored Forage***
Alfalfa hay, all analyses 89.7 15.6 11.0 52.0 .64 .36 1.48 .23
Alfalfa meal, dehydrated 92.5 17.4 12.2 47.0 .60 .31 1.32 .32
Bahiagrass hay, mature 90.8 4.3 0.9 44 .44 .14
Bermudagrass hay, Coastal, immature 92.9 8.8 4.8 52 .59 .22 .37 .19
Bermudagrass hay, Coastal, mature 90.0 5.8 2.3 43 .31 .14
Clover hay, Alyce 90.0 11.2 6.9 48.3 1.40 .20
Corn cobs, ground 89.8 2.8 0.0 44.8 .43 .13 .11 .04
Corn stover 84.4 5.7 2.3 51.4 .50 .24 .50 .08
Cottonseed hulls 90.3 3.9 0.0 38.0 .42 .09 .14 .09
Hairy indigo hay, mature 89.0 10.7 6.5 47.0 1.34 .19
Oats hay 85.0 7.8 4.3 52.1 .47 .16 .25 .30
Pangolagrass hay, immature 87.5 8.4 4.6 58.0 .42 .20
Pangolagrass hay, mature 87.6 4.0 2.2 50.0 .39 .12
Peanut hay, without nuts, stemmy 90.5 8.6 4.7 38.2 1.16 .21
Peanut hay, with nuts 91.6 13.3 10.1 61.0 1.23 .19
St. Augustine grass hay, muckland 90.5 10.9 6.6 52.0 .64 .20
Spanish moss, dried 90.3 4.9 1.5 51.4 .04
Sugarcane, whole plant, dried 92.0 3.4 1.7 46.0 .42 .15
Sugarcane bagasse, dried, whole 89.8 1.8 0.0 20.0
Sugarcane bagasse, screened, pelleted 93.8 3.0 0.0 25.0
Green Roughages-Growing Forages
Bahiagrass pasture, not fertilized 31.0
Bahiagrass pasture, fertilized 30.3 2.5 1.5 15.8 .13 .04
Bermudagrass pasture, fertilized 30.9 3.5 2.3 18.6 .17 .06
Bluestemgrass, pasture, immature 39.8 3.4 2.3 16.6 .16 .05
Carpetgrass pasture, immature 31.6 2.7 1.2 16.0 .13 .05
Clover, sweet, pasture, mature 32.7 5.5 4.5 21.7 .43 .07
Clover, white, pasture, mature 17.7 5.0 3.5 13.5 .25 .09
Lupine fodder, sweet 17.8 3.0 2.1 11.9 .17 .03
Millet, pearl, pasture 20.7 2.1 1.3 12.7
Napiergrass, pasture, immature 22.3 1.6 0.9 14.0 .11 .08
Oats, pasture, immature 15.3 4.2 2.5 11.0 .09 .08
Pangolagrass, immature 30.0 3.3 1.9 18.6 .13 .06
Ryegrass, pasture, immature 21.5 2.0 1.3 14.5 .16 .08
St. Augustine grass pasture, immature 31.3 5.5 2.6 15.6 .16 .07
Sugarcane, whole plant, chopped 25.1 1.5 0.8 14.3 .12 .04
Transvala digitgrass, immature 31.0 3.3 1.9 18.0 .13 .06