Hereford-Angus cross profitability proven

May 1, 2009
by WLJ
Hereford-Angus cross profitability proven

Using Hereford bulls on Angus-based cows will give producers advantages in profitability, cash flow, herd size, and retained female fertility and longevity, according to a recently completed study at Circle A Angus Ranch. In fact, when the data was further analyzed for economic emphasis, the results showed an advantage of $514 net per cow over a period of 10 years. That’s a $51 difference per cow per year. Economic models also predicted that if replacement females are retained over a period of 10 years, Hereford-sired females will generate a 20 percent advantage in herd size for the same relative cost versus the straight Angus commercial cows because of increased fertility and longevity.

The study, conducted by Circle A Ranch headquartered in Iberia, MO, in cooperation with the American Hereford Association was started in 2007. Mark Akin, Circle A Ranch manager, says, “The female side was what really peaked my interest, because we’ve bred purebred Angus for all these years and I was curious if the heterosis from the cross would make available a better conception rate for us, and it did.” To start the project, Circle A Ranch AIbred 600 commercial Angus cows to 10 Hereford bulls with the goal of comparing the best of its Angus herd to the best of the Hereford-Angus cross. The control group included progeny from three proven Angus sires. The average expected progeny differences (EPDs) of the Angus sires would place them in the top 30 percent of the Angus breed for birth weight and top 20 percent of the breed for weaning weight.

All of the cows and resulting calves were commingled and managed the same. Data was collected by Circle A staff and interpreted by Dan Moser, Kansas State University associate professor of genetics, and Vern Pierce, University of Missouri associate professor of agricultural economics.

The Hereford-cross calves showed the advantage from birth. Average birth weight for the Hereford-sired calves was 72 pounds, three pounds heavier than the Angus sires, but still desirable and nearly ideal for commercial operations, according to Moser.

At weaning, the Hereford-sired calves were 11.9 pounds heavier than the Angussired calves, despite the Angus sires ranking in the top 20 percent of their breed for weaning weight EPD. After being weaned, a portion of the steers were fed at Circle A’s feedlot in Huntsville, MO, where the Hereford-cross steers outgained the Angus by about 0.15 pounds per day. While both breed groups were similar for fat thickness (Angus = 0.52 versus Hereford = 0.54), the Hereford-sired steers had about 13 more pounds of carcass weight and about 3/4 of an inch more ribeye area. Heifer calves were developed and bred at Circle A’s Lineville, IA, ranch. The Hereford-sired heifers showed their prowess as productive females by boasting a 7 percent advantage in conception rate over the Angus heifers.

Seventy-five of the bred heifers were sold at Circle A’s annual production sale and averaged $110 more per head than their commercial Angus counterparts.

Maternal traits and the effect on birth and weaning weights of the calves will continue to be measured as the retained heifers calve and re-breed.

Although difficult to measure, Circle A staff members say they were impressed with the Baldies’ quiet, easy-to-handle disposition as well. Pierce evaluated the performance differences between the Hereford and Angus groups including birth, weaning and feedlot growth, and carcass data on the steer calves, and pregnancy rates from the female progeny of the sire groups. He developed an economic model projecting the added value of Hereford heterosis over a 10-year period.

Pierce says, “The bottom line is if a rancher with Angus-based cows uses Hereford bulls, compared to using Angus bulls, and gets the same response as we had in this study, he will have improved cash flow, increased herd size, and have more calves to sell over a 10-year period.” — WLJ