Everglades Station Mimeo Report 57-10 March 1, 1957
PRODUCING BEEF CATTLE FOR FLORIDA
Re W, Kidder
Associate Animal Husbandman
Many herds of beef cattle have been maintained successfully for a
number of years on the abundant forage which grows so well on the muck and peat
soils of the Florida Everglades. The Experiment Station has maintained such a
herd for 25 years. The present herd consists of registered cattle in the Brah-
man, Devon and Angus breeds. Crossbreds have been produced by mating the Brah-
man with both the Devon and Angus. The purpose of this project is to determine
breeding programs which can be followed successfully by a cattleman or rancher.
Eight herds of 25 to 30 cows each are used, with two bulls of each of
the three breeds and two Brahman-devon crossbred bulls. Each cow is assigned
to a certain herd so that her calf will be sired by the breed represented in
the bull. This plan makes possible the maintenance of the three purebred herds
along with the crossbreeding which is divided into three major parts.
Program 1. This breeding program is called "criss-crossing" and con-
sists of breeding mostly second generation females to purebred sires of the two
parent breeds. Crossbred cows that are 3/4 Devon are bred to Brahman sires and
those that are 3/U Brahman are bred to Devon sires. The female progeny, when
they attain breeding age, if sired by Devon become replacements in the Brahman
herd. If they are sired by Brahman they are placed with the Devon bulls, This
program tends to produce cattle which are 2/3 the breeding of the parent sire,
It uses the best purebred sires available in each breed and can be readily
followed on most ranches.
Program 2. When purebred sires of one breed only are used the plan
is called "Grading up". The foundation cows in this program, range in breed-
ing from purebred Angus to 1/h Ant~ s and 3/4 Brahman, Only purebred Angus
sires are used. This breeding program may determine whether or not superior
crossbred animals can be produced with less than 1/4 of Brahman* There is a
possibility of developing and selecting better adapted strains of purebreds
in this program.
Program 3. This is designed to investigate the possibilities of
selecting crossbred cows and mating them to selected crossbred sires of the
same parent stock. Selection is based on growth rates, conformation scores,
temperament, size, reproductive regularity and "doing ability" as indicated
by fleshing qualities, growth of progeny and general health. This is called
the "Bravon" group as they are Brahman-Devon crossbreds.
Thebreeding plan, which was followed before these three programs,>;-
were initiated, was designed to produce animals which were 3/8 Brahman. '/8
Devon in the third generation. Animals of this percentage of crossbred ng
showed a considerable lack of uniformity in type, conformation and coo ',This
variety of characteristics was found in each of the first three gener ns b-
was greater in the third. In such a small herd, the numbers were inaq te to "
put into practice the degree of selection and culling in the third gen .rin th
appeared indicated. Hence, the emphasis was placed on selection from the whole
crossbred herd, without breeding especially for percentage of crossbreeding in
Progeny TestinSg Birth weights and growth records are maintained on
all animals. In addition to this, some of the best growing bulls are consigned
annually to the Bull Feeding Trials at Brooksville, Florida. The ability to grow
rapidly has been established as a highly inherited characteristic* The two
crossbred bulls, No. 1115 and No. 1147, presently in service, gained at the rate
of 3 pounds per day for 140 days in the 1956 feeding trials. Such sires may im-
prove the growing ability of the calves in the "Bravon" herds.
Analyses of Herd Records. Examination of the records of the Evorglados
Station herd for the last 25 yearL' indicates that the weight of calves at 180
days of age is a good measure of relative perfornance(l). The average 180 day
weights of animals of various breeding are listed in the following table. These
records are obtained from 877 calves in the Brahnan-Devon groups and 163 calves
in the Brahman-AnCus groups.
Table 1. Weight of purebred and crossbred calves at 180 days.(2)
Breeding of Sire Breeding of Dam Average Weight
1 Angus Angus 305 pounds
2 Brahman Brahman 320 pounds
3 Devon Devon 342 pounds
4 Brahman Devon 391 pounds
5 Devon Brahman 374 pounds
6 Brahman Angus 350 pounds
7 Angus Brahman 345 pounds
8 Devon Brahman x Devon 388 pounds
9 Brahman Brahman x Devon 374 pounds
10 Brahman Brahman x Angas t10 pounds
11 Brahman x Devon Devon 398 pounds
12 Brahman x Devon Brahnan x Devon 361 pounds
Breeding groups 1, 2 and 3 in the table represent the foundation pure-
breds in the three breeds, Angus, Brahman and Devon. All of the crossbred cattle
were heavier at 180 days than any of the purebred parent breeds. The reciprocal
crosses, groups 4 and 5 and groups 6 and 7, show a slightly higher weight when
the sire is Brahman and the dam European. These differences are too small, how-
ever, to be considered of practical significance.
These records indicate that crossbred cows have better calves frma
purebred sires than from crossbred sires. The data may require further investi-
gation or the increased numbers of successive generations for verification.
(1) Two graduate students have done this as their theses for Master's degrees at
the University of Florida. These men are Harold V. Clum and John Liddon,
(2) The weights are corrected for sex, age of dam, month and year of birth.
However, as the record is at present, the calves from crossbred cows sired by
either purebred parent, as shown in groups 8, 9 and 10, are heavier than their
crossbred parents at the same age, shown in groups 4, 5, 6 and 7. When these
crossbred cows are mated to crossbred bulls of the same parent stock the resulting
progeny, group 12, are not as heavy as their dams (groups 4 and 5). Crossbred
sires mated to Devon cows produced larger calves than from crossbred cows, shown
in groups 11 and 12.
In the Angus-Brahman crossbreeding, no crossbred sires have been used,
and in the data included in this table there were no back-crosses to the Angus.
Since all of the cows of Angus breeding are being bred to Angus sires, there are
Angus back-crosses among the younger animals, whose records will be included in
a future report.
Other Breeding Plans. Questions are frequently asked relative to the
merits of a "rotational" breeding program involving three breeds. Facilities
at this Station preclude such a program. The "Beef master" is an example of a
crossbred produced from three breeds, Hereford, Shorthorn and Brahman. Value
of such a rotational program would be difficult to measure but could produce
good crossbred cattle.
A large portion of the range cows of Florida have been produced
through a "grading up" program from native cows mated to Brahman sires. Suc-
cessive generations sired by Bulls of one breed produce cattle with the charac-
teristics of the purebred but additional improvement is not so rapid after the
first two or three generations. The use of selected crossbred sires in such
herds may be a good procedure. The record shown in group 11 in the table indi-
cate that crossbred sires on purebred cows produce superior calves.
"Grading up" is the recognized program of development for the Santa
Gertrudis breed. It is successful because it is supported by thorough culling
and selection plan.
No breeding plan can be carried out successfully without rigid
selection, adequate feed, good management and high quality foundation stock.
Recommendation. The present records from this crossbreeding program
indicate that the "criss-cross" breeding program(described in Program 1) can
be recommended as a system to follow in South Florida. Some of the advantages
of such a breeding program are:
1. It produces calves that are larger than the purebred parents.
2. It is simple and can be workable on many ranches.
3, It creates a market for good purebred bulls.
4. It permits early castration of calves since no crossbred bulls
will be selected for use as herd sires*