Bulletin 787 (technical)
PREWEANING GROWTH OF CALVES AND REPRODUCTION OF COWS FROM
MATINGS AMONG BEEF AND DAIRY BREEDS IN NORTH FLORIDA
D. E. Franke
."li0 ". ,
Agricultural Experiment Stations, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences
University of Florida, Gainesville,
Preweaning Growth of Calves and
Reproduction of Cows from Matings Among
Beef and Dairy Breeds in North Florida
D. E. Franke
Dr. Franke was an Associate Professor in the Animal Science
Department, University of Florida, Gainesville, and is currently in
the Department of Animal Science, Louisiana State University,
Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
This public document was promulgated at an annual cost of
$750.04, or a cost of 121/:, per copy to present information
on dairy x beef crossbreeding to ranchers and cattlemen in
Introduction ..--_.__....... ..-------------- 1
Experimental Procedure ---.-..-----..---------- 1
Results and Discussion .---........----.------ .---------- 3
Weight Data ----...... .-- -... --....... --.. ..------ 3
Reproduction Data .........------.------- ------------ 9
Summary .---.-..--...------....-- ------ ----- ---------10
Literature Cited __..-._.-__.... --.. .--. -----..----...--. 11
The author acknowledges the assistance of Mr. B. M. Town-
send of Marianna, Florida, formally with A. G. Dozier School
for Boys, and Mr. W. McClamma of Sneads, Florida, with Apala-
chaee Correctional Institution, in collection of the data.
Preweaning Growth of Calves and
Reproduction of Cows from Matings Among
Beef and Dairy Breeds in North Florida
Considerable interest has developed in use of dairy breeds in
commercial crossbreeding programs to increase the level of milk
production in beef cow herds. This interest is understandable
because cows that give more milk usually wean heavier calves,
which return more income to the owner than smaller calves.
Several research reports have indicated that dairy or dairy x
beef females excel in maternal ability over beef or beef x beef
females (Pahnish et al., 1969; Deutscher and Whiteman, 1971;
Thomas and Cartwright, 1971; Chapman et al., 1971). Repro-
ductive ability of dairy crossbred or dairy x beef females man-
aged as beef herds under range conditions has been quite vari-
able, ranging from very poor (Deutscher and Whiteman, 1971)
to acceptable (Thomas and Cartwright, 1971).
The purpose of this report is to present information from a
study designed to evaluate preweaning growth of calves and
calving rates of cows in beef, beef x beef and dairy x beef herds
on semi-improved pastures in North Florida.
Data for this study came from a cooperative project between
the Florida Agricultural Experiment Station and The Division
of Corrections, Department of Health and Rehabilitative Serv-
ices, State of Florida. The herd of cattle involved in the project
was located at Marianna, Florida, and was supervised by per-
sonnel from A. G. Dozier School of Boys, Marianna, and Apala-
chaee Correctional Institution, Sneads, Florida.
Approximately 220 Angus, Hereford, and Fi Angus x Here-
ford cows of varying ages and 30 Fi dairy x beef yearling heifers
were available at the beginning of the study. Brown Swiss (S),
Holstein (F), Angus (A), Hereford (H), and Charolais (C)
bulls were used to produce beef, beef x beef and dairy x beef
calves as outlined in the mating design (Table 1). Angus males
were mated to A, A x H, S x A, and F x A females to produce
straightbred A or backcross calves (A3H1, A3S1 or A3Fi). Here-
ford bulls were mated similarly to produce straightbred H or
backcross calves (H3Ai, H3Si or H3Fi). Brown Swiss and Hol-
stein bulls were mated to Angus and Hereford cows to produce
firstcross calves (S x A, S x H, F x A, F x H), to Ax H cows
to produce threebreed cross calves (S'AIHi, F2AIHi), and to
dairy x beef cross females to produce backcross calves (S.Ai,
S:3Hi, F3Ai, FaHi). Charolais bulls were mated to each of the
dairy x beef crosses to produce threebreed cross calves (C-SiAi,
C2SiHi, C2FIAi, C2FiHi).
TABLE 1. NUMBER OF CALVES PRODUCED FROM MATINGS BETWEEN
VARIOUS SIRE AND COW BREEDS.:
Sire Breed A H AxH SxA SxH FxA FxH
A 52 73 17 16 -
C 21 26 18 20
H 46 47 20 22
S 46 113 27 9 2 -
F 20 98 28 15 30
"Dashes in table indicate no matings were made of that particular cross.
Attempts to standardize management practices from year to
year were not always successful, particularly with respect to
winter feeding of the cow herd. The winter program consisted
of sorghum silage with limited amounts of cottonseed meal and
blackstrap molasses. In some years winter and spring grazing
of rye and ryegrass was available. During the summer cows
were grazed on Pensacola bahiagrass and common bermudagrass
pastures. Bulls were placed in multi-sire breeding herds around
the first of April for approximately 90 days, and calves were
dropped in January, February, and March. Calves were identi-
fied, dehorned if necessary, and ear tagged at birth; information
was recorded on sex, birth weight, birth date, and identification
of dam. Male calves were castrated before three months of age,
and weaning weights were obtained on all calves in mid-Septem-
ber. Cows were palpated for pregnancy in September and were
culled for various undersirable characteristics such as cancer
eye, loss of teeth, and general unthriftiness. Cows were not al-
ways culled for failing to reproduce. Yearling A, HI, and dairy
x beef heifers weighing at least 575 pounds were assigned to
breeding herds so they would have an opportunity to calve at two
years of age; other heifers were culled.
In some years, 15% to 20% of the calf ear tags were lost be-
fore weaning, which made it difficult to identify the appropriate
breeding group of these calves. If the calf could not be identified,
its data were deleted from this analysis. Statistical procedures
were used to evaluate influences of year, sire breed, dam breed
within sire breed, sex of calf at weaning, and age of cow on birth
weight, daily gain to weaning, and weaning weight. Records that
did not have complete identification and weight data were omit-
ted from this study.
Results and Discussion
The number of calves having complete identification and
weight data within each breed group is shown in Table 1. Because
of unequal numbers of calves evaluated across breed groups, the
statistical method of least squares was used to analyze the data.
Analysis of variance mean squares and tests of significance for
sources of variation are given in Table 2. Least squares means
for birth weight, gain to weaning, and weaning weight are shown
in Table 3. The mean birth weight, rate of gain from birth to
weaning, and weaning weight for all 766 calves was 65, 1.48, and
411 pounds, respectively. Weaning weights were adjusted to an
average weaning age of 225 days.
Differences in birth weight from year to year were expected
and were typical of those reported by other researchers (Stewart,
TABLE 2. ANALYSIS OF VARIANCE, MEAN SQUARES, AND TESTS OF
SIGNIFICANCE FOR FACTORS INFLUENCING BIRTH WEIGHT,
GAIN PER DAY, AND WEANING WEIGHT.
Birth Gain Weaning
Source of Variation df weight per day weight
Year 4 1499** 2.44** 135181**
Sex of calf 1 2132"* 1.12" 79784**
Sire breed 4 1517** .80** 60100**
Cow breeds: Angusod 3 716** .71** 48886"*
Cow breeds: Charolaisdc 3 516** .24** 18999**
Cow breeds: Hereford 3 448** .88*" 53675**
Cow breeds: Swissc 4 239** .22** 11315**
Cow breeds: Holsteind 4 396** .36** 27495**
Calf age, linear 1 11 .17* 79792**
Calf age, quadratic 1 1 .24** 36236*
Cow age, linear 1 2087** 3.91"* 268361**
Cow age, quadratic 1 914** 2.60** 169478**
Residual 735 78 .06 3369
TABLE 3. BIRTH WEIGHT, GAIN PER DAY, AND WEANING WEIGHT FOR
CALVES BY YEAR, SEX, BREED OF SIRE AND BREED OF COW.
Number of Birth Gain per Weaning
Factor Calves Weight Day Weight
Ibs. Ibs. Ibs
Mean 766 65 1.48 411
70 194 72 1.37 392
71 155 66 1.45 405
72 163 65 1.65 451
73 126 61 1.33 372
74 128 61 1.59 434
Steer 358 67 1.52 422
Heifer 408 64 1.44 400
Breed of Sire
Angus 158 61 1.41 391
Charolais 85 73 1.67 464
Hereford 135 64 1.42 397
Brown Swiss 197 65 1.44 403
Holstein 191 64 1.44 401
Breed of cow
Angus 118 58 1.32 367
Hereford 257 63 1.28 362
Angus x Hereford 175 61 1.42 392
Swiss x Angus 47 65 1.50 418
Swiss x Hereford 48 69 1.59 439
Holstein x Angus 49 69 1.63 452
Holstein x Hereford 72 71 1.62 453
1974; Brinks et al., 1965). Bull calves weighed 3 pounds more at
birth than heifer calves. This difference is similar to that ex-
pected if one assumes bull calves are carried about 1.5 days
longer during gestation than heifer calves (Bellows et al., 1971).
Charolais-sired calves were heaviest at birth and Angus-sired
calves were smallest. Larger birth weights of Charolais-sired
calves were expected, but results in this study could be due par-
tially to the types of cows bred to Charolais bulls, all being beef
x dairy Fi crosses. Hereford-sired calves were similar in birth
weight to Brown Swiss- and Holstein-sired calves. Birth weights
of calves from Angus cows were smallest (58 pounds) and those
from Holstein x Hereford cows largest (71 pounds). Birth
weights of calves from Angus x Hereford cows were interme-
diate to weights of calves dropped by Angus and Hereford cows.
A better evaluation of sire and dam effects on birth weight can
be made by studying Table 4, which shows birth weights of
calves from sire and dam breed-group combinations. For exam-
ple, calves from Brown Swiss x Angus or Holstein x Angus cows
sired by Angus bulls were heavier than those from Angus or
Angus x Hereford cows and sired by Angus bulls. In general,
TABLE 4. BIRTH WEIGHT, GAIN PER DAY, AND WEANING WEIGHT FOR
CALVES FROM BREED OF SIRE-BREED OF COW COMBINA-
No. of Birth Gain per Weaning
Calves Weight Day Weight
Ibs. Ibs. Ibs.
Breed of Cow within Breed of Sire
Angus C' mated to
Angus 9 52 54 1.20 336
Angus x Hereford 9 73 57 1.34 371
Swiss x Angus 17 65 1.49 414
Holstein x Angus 9 16 66 1.60 442
Charolais d' mated to
Swiss x Angus 9 21 68 1.54 429
Swiss x Hereford 9 26 72 1.65 452
Holstein x Angus$ 18 72 1.71 474
Holstein x Hereford 20 80 1.79 501
Hereford ct mated to
Hereford 9 46 61 1.17 336
Angus x Hereford 9 47 60 1.40 386
Swiss x Hereford 20 70 1.56 435
Holstein x Hereford 22 66 1.56 432
Swiss fo mated to
Angus9 46 60 1.41 388
Hereford 9 113 66 1.30 369
Angus x Hereford 27 65 1.45 405
Swiss x Angus9 9 65 1.51 419
Swiss x Hereford 2 67 1.57 432
Holstein '" mated to
Angus9 20 58 1.32 369
Hereford 98 61 1.34 372
Angus x Hereford? 28 61 1.39 382
Holstein x Angusy 15 68 1.59 441
Holstein x Hereford 30 69 1.58 440
birth weights of calves from crossbred dairy x beef cows were
heavier regardless of breed of sire, and calves sired by Charolais
bulls were heavier than calves from Angus or Hereford bulls.
Birth weights of crossbred calves should be of interest to the
commercial producer. It is well known that heavier calves at
birth usually are heavier at weaning. This relationship was
demonstrated in these data by a correlation of .32 between birth
weight and weaning weight. However, as birth weights increase,
so does the incidence of dystocia or difficult births. The chance
for dystocia was increased when large breeds of sire such as
Brown Swiss, Holstein, or Charolais were mated to smaller fe-
males such as Angus, Hereford, Angus x Hereford, or yearling
dairy x beef heifers, but in this study very little dystocia was
observed. Angus, Hereford, and Angus x Hereford females bred
to Brown Swiss and Holstein males required assistance less than
2% of the time. When Charolais sires were mated to dairy x beef
females, assistance needed varied from 0 to 10% across years.
In general, it was observed that more assistance was needed for
yearling females carrying moderate amounts of flesh than for
those that were thin. Another factor which may have reduced
the assistance needed in these yearlings was that potential re-
placements must have weighed at least 575 pounds before being
placed in the breeding pasture; consequently they generally were
large enough to calve without difficulty. Bellows et al., (1971)
found that heavier Angus and Hereford yearling heifers calved
with less difficulty than smaller heifers. Also, birth weight of the
calf was found to be related to calving difficulty by Sagabiel
et al., (1969).
Means for rate of gain to weaning and weaning weight are
presented in Tables 3 and 4. Steer calves gained more rapidly
than heifers (P<.01) and consequently weighed more at wean-
ing. The 5.2% advantage of steers over heifers agrees with other
reports from Florida (Franke et al., 1975) and elsewhere (Cun-
diff et al., 1966; Marlowe et al., 1965). A close relationship ex-
isted between rate of gain to weaning and weaning weight. The
ranking of breed groups in these data was the same for both
traits. In studying the weaning weight means in Tables 3 and 4,
it is important to remember that all females were not mated to
all breeds of sires. Calves from Angus, Hereford, Brown Swiss,
and Holstein bulls were similar in rates of gain and weaning
weight but these measures were less than those for calves from
Charolais sires. The superiority of the Charolais is well docu-
mented as a sire breed. Part of the superiority shown by Char-
olais-sired calves in this study was probably due to the maternal
ability of the crossbred dairy x beef females (Patterson et al.,
1974; Cundiff, 1970). This point also was apparent in the wean-
ing weights of calves from various cow breeds (Table 3). Calves
from crossbred dairy x beef females gained faster and weighed
more at weaning than calves from Angus, Hereford, or Angus
x Hereford cows, but breed of sire is partially confounded with
breed of dam and could bias certain comparisons.
Weaning weights of calves from breed of sire-breed of cow
combinations (Table 4) illustrated to a greater degree the im-
portance of maternal and sire breed contributions. Straightbred
Angus and Hereford calves were the smallest of all combinations,
both weighing 336 pounds. Yet, when dairy sires were mated to
Angus and Hereford females, weaning weights of Fi calves were
increased 39 pounds over straightbred Angus and Hereford
calves. When the two beef sire breeds were mated to crossbred
dairy x beef females to produce backcross calves, weaning
weights were increased approximately 95 pounds over straight-
bred beef calves. These differences strongly suggest that mater-
nal ability in Angus and Hereford cows in this herd was a limit-
ing factor. Charolais-sired calves from Holstein x Angus or Hol-
stein x Hereford cows were heavier than other crosses.
Age of cow effects on birth weight, gain to weaning, and wean-
ing weight are shown in Figure 1. Maximum influence on wean-
ing weight due to age of cow occurred at about 7 years of age.
After cows in this study reached 10 years of age, weaning
weights of their calves decreased sharply. Similar effects on daily
gain from birth to weaning were found. Birth weights increased
Weaning weight I.8
---- Birth weight
.. Gain per day
S440 68 .'" .- 1.6
420 66 1.5
Z 64 /
400 1/ .4
S380 / .3
3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11
Cow Age, Years
Figure 1.-The changes in birth weight, weaning weight, and gain per day
with age of cow.
TABLE 5. CALVING RATES OF BEEF AND DAIRY X BEEF FEMALES
Breed Group 1970 1971 1972 1973 1974 over years
Angus and Hereford first
exposure heifers ( % ) 94 90 96 90 88 92
Angus and Hereford females
exposed for second calves ( %) 90 75 88 85 85 85
Angus, Hereford and
oo Angus x Hereford mature cows ( %) 92 79 95 88 85 88
Dairy x beef Fi first
exposure heifers (% ) 97 85 88 85 89
Dairy x beef Fi females
exposed for second calves (%) 17 75 62 51
Dairy x beef Fi females
exposed for third or
fourth calves ( % ) 81 76 65 74
No dairy x beef yearling heifers were bred in the 1972 breeding season.
as age of cow increased up to about 9 years of age and then
Numerous beef cattle specialists have suggested that repro-
duction is the most important factor influencing profitability in
a beef cattle enterprise. Therefore, breed of sire-breed of cow
combinations which wean heavy calves may not be best if the
cows do not rebreed at an acceptable rate while nursing a calf.
Reproduction data are presented for calving rate, defined as
the number of live calves born per group of cows exposed to
sires during the breeding season. This measure of reproduction
was used instead of weaning rate because of difficulties involved
with proper identification of all calves at weaning. Calf survival
to weaning was about the same for all types of calves; therefore,
calving rate differences can be used as an acceptable measure of
weaning rate differences.
Calving rates by age of cow and mating types of females are
presented in Table 5. Females were grouped into mating types
because of small numbers of specific types of crossbred females
exposed in some years. No statistical analyses of these data were
Calving rates of mature Angus, Hereford, and Angus x Here-
ford cows averaged about 88%. This was slightly lower than the
calving rate of Angus cows at the Research and Education Cen-
ter, Quincy, Florida (F. S. Baker, Jr., personal communication)
and in all likelihood greater than that in the typical commercial
beef herd in the area. Calving rates of first exposure Angus and
Hereford heifers were generally acceptable, 88% or higher, but
varied from year to year. Calving rates of Angus and Hereford
females bred for their second calf were slightly lower than for
mature or first exposure heifers. This was expected because these
females required nutrients for lactation and growth as well as
reproduction. If nutrients are limited, it is generally recognized
that reproduction is the first response to be affected.
Dairy x beef first exposure heifers calved at a rate similar to
but slightly lower than first exposure beef heifers. Conception
rates of dairy x beef females while nursing first calves were
lower than contemporary beef heifers nursing their first calves.
It is probable that the dairy x beef heifers were providing more
milk for their calves and had genetic potential for larger body
size than the beef heifers; therefore, their nutrient requirement
was larger. On a limited nutritional plane, dairy x beef females
probably would be more stressed than beef females. Calving
rates of dairy x beef females three years and older were also
lower than for mature beef females but improved over the
calving rates of first-calf dairy x beef females. The lower repro-
duction of dairy x beef females under range conditions has been
observed by several workers. Deutscher and Whiteman (1971)
in Oklahoma found Holstein x Angus females nursing first calves
rebred at a 13% rate compared to 66% for contemporary Angus
females. Patterson et al. (1974) reported that Holstein x Here-
ford cows weaned 72% of their calves, whereas Hereford, Brown
Swiss x Hereford, and Charolais x Hereford cows weaned 80.6%,
88.9%, and 79.8% of their calves, respectively. Thomas and Cart-
wright (1971) reported that Jersey x Angus cows averaged a
90% calf crop weaned over a three-year period, but they were
not subjected to range conditions.
The calf growth and cow reproduction data reported here from
a crossbreeding study involving Angus, Hereford, Charolais,
Brown Swiss, and Holstein breeds of cattle producing under
semi-improved pasture conditions in North Florida suggest the
1. Calves sired by Charolais bulls out of dairy x beef females
were larger at birth and weaning than calves sired by
Brown Swiss or Holstein bulls from dairy x beef females.
2. Angus and Hereford-sired crossbred calves were slightly
smaller at birth and weaning than Brown Swiss and Hol-
stein sired calves. Angus and Hereford straightbred calves
were smallest at birth and weaning.
3. Dairy x beef females weaned calves heavier than beef or
beef x beef females, demonstrating maternal capabilities
for milk production.
4. Calving rates of Angus and Hereford females were greater
than calving rates of contemporary dairy x beef females.
5. Reproduction in dairy x beef females under semi-improved
pasture conditions similar to those in this study may not
be adequate for economical calf production.
Bellows, R. A., R. E. Short, D. C. Anderson, B. W. Knapp, and 0. F.
Pahnish. 1971. 'Cause and effect relationships associated with calving
difficulty and calf birth weight. J. Anim. Sci. 33:407.
Brinks, J. S., R. T. Clark, and N. M. Kieffer. 1965. Evaluation of re-
sponse to selection and inbreeding in a closed line of Hereford cattle.
U.S.D.A. Tech. Bul. No. 1323.
Chapman, H. D., T. M. Clyburn, and W. C. McCormick. 1971. Brown
Swiss crosses compared with beef crosses for beef production, Ga. Agr.
Exp. Sta. Res. Rpt. 105.
Cundiff, L. V. 1970. Experimental results on crossbreeding beef cattle
for beef production. J. Anim. Sci. 30:694.
Cundiff, L. V., R. L. Willham, and C. A. Pratt. 1966. Effects of certain
factors and their two-way interactions on weaning weight. J. Anim.
Deutscher, G. H., and J. V. Whiteman. 1971. Productivity as two-year-
olds of Angus-Holstein crossbreeds compared to Angus heifers under
range conditions. J. Anim. Sci. 33:337.
Franke, D. E., J. E. Pace, and H. Martojo. 1975. Factors influencing
weaning performances in Florida BCIA herds. Fla. Agr. Exp. Sta.
Tech. Bull. 772.
Marlowe, T. J., C. C. Mast, and R. R. Schalles. 1965. Some non-genetic
influences on calf performance. J. Anim Sci. 24:494.
Pahnish, O. F., J. S. Brinks, J. J. Urick, B. W. Knapp, and T. M. Riley.
1969. Results from crossing beef x beef and beef x dairy breeds:
calf performance to weaning. J. Anim. Sci. 28:291.
Patterson, T. B., J. A. McGuire and R. A. Moore. 1974. Effects of Brown
Swiss, Charolais, Holstein, and Hereford breeding on production in a
grade beef herd. Ala. Agr. Exp. Sta. Bull. 461.
Sagabiel, J. A., G. F. Krause, B. Sibbit, L. Langfoed, J. E. Comfort, A. J.
Dryer, and J. F. Lasley. 1969. Dystocia in reciprocally crossed
Angus, Hereford and Charolais cattle. J. Anim. Sci. 29:245.
Stewart, T. S. 1974. Genetic trends, heritabilities and genetic correla-
tions for growth in Angus cattle. M.S. Thesis. University of Florida,
Thomas, R. C., and T. C. Cartwright. 1971. Efficiency of Fi Angus-Jersey
cows in three-way-crosses. Tex. Agr. Exp. Prog. Rept. 2980. College
Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences
TEACHING I FAS
RESEARCH 9 I