“The only free lunch in the cattle business is Heterosis.” Those were the words of my beef production and management professor, Dr. Daniel Kniffen, from Penn State University. This is also known as hybrid vigor. Heterosis is the increase in such characteristics as size, growth rate, fertility, and yield of a hybrid organism over those of its parents.
A recent study released by the American Hereford Association (AHA) in cooperation with California State University, Chico; Lacey Livestock; Harris Feeding Co.; and Harris Ranch Beef Co. examined the possible benefits of heterosis from crossing Angus and Hereford cattle. The objective of the research project was to conduct a controlled crossbreeding system, comparing progeny sired by Hereford and Angus bulls, under commercial conditions, emphasizing economic differences at the ranch, feedlot and packing plant. The study covered a three year period and compared the progeny by Hereford and Angus bulls when crossed on Angus-based cows.
The most prominent advantage found was that calves sired by Hereford bulls have a $30/head documented advantage in feedlot profitability and a 7% advantage in fertility when compared to Angus-sired calves. The study also found a maternal advantage of 7% higher pregnancy rate when comparing Hereford-sired females to Angus-sired females. CSU-Chico found the most notable and dramatic difference to be the lower feed conversion for the Hereford-sired calves over all three years. This combined with other favorable traits leads to lower costs of gain and breakevens for the Hereford-sired cattle.
To read more about this study check out “Cattle Breeds: Study Shows $30 Hereford Heterosis Advantage“.