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Documenting Maternal Efficiency

February 28, 2022

F1 females built with Hereford genetics continue to set the pace for efficiency in commercial cow-calf pastures across the nation. Part of that stems from heterosis and part of it is borne by the unique performance advantages Hereford genetics bring to the mix.

The American Hereford Association (AHA) conducted a three-year crossbreeding research study in partnership with Lacey Livestock, Harris Ranch Feeding Co. and Harris Ranch Beef Co. in California. The study compared the results of randomly mated commercial Angus- based cows to Hereford bulls and Angus bulls. The final analysis included 297 Angus-sired steers and 284 Hereford-sired steers.

Pregnancy rates for Hereford-sired females (black baldies) averaged 7% higher than those of the Angus-sired heifers. Economic performance favored Hereford-sired calves in the feedlot in two of the three years, with an average return of approximately $30 per head. Overall net return for the Hereford-sired calves was approximately $30 per head in a vertically coordinated beef marketing system, not including the maternal advantages of the baldy female.

More recently, researchers at Oklahoma State University (OSU) evaluated maintenance- energy requirements and voluntary feed intake of black baldy cows compared to straight bred Angus cows.

On average, OSU researchers measured about 2 pounds per day less moderate-quality forage intake in the crossbred (black baldy) cows. On an annual basis the black baldy cows would be expected to consume about 725 pounds less forage. The black baldy cows also averaged a superior body condition score throughout the study.

According to OSU researchers, producers using black baldy cows should be able to increase stocking rate or reduce the number of acres required by about 1 acre per cow-calf unit by taking advantage of heterosis and the lesser feed intake and maintenance requirements of Hereford cattle in the crossbreeding system.

AHA is taking another step toward documenting F1 maternal efficiency through a research project with the University of Illinois (UI). As with the research mentioned above, F1s will be evaluated from birth to harvest, but the new UI project dives much deeper. It will evaluate baldy females for differences in conception, pregnancy rate and calving compared to straightbred breeding females.” Feed intake will be measured during development and lactation in order to measure efficiency differences more precisely.

“The UI research project is another step the Hereford breed is taking to better understand the efficiency and maternal characteristics of the black baldy female,” says Shane Bedwell, director of breed improvement and chief operating officer. “Hereford genetics bring a lot to the table in terms of heterosis and I think we will continue seeing commercial cattlemen using Hereford bulls to get ideal females to have in production.”