The popular breeds of beef cattle in the United States—the Aberdeen-Angus, Hereford, and Shorthorn, all of British origin—have adapted themselves well to the greater portion of our vast beef-production areas. Owing to a combination of factors largely climatic, the breeds mentioned do not meet fully the requirements of the extreme South, particularly the Gulf coast area. The principal reasons appear to be the warm climate, low feeding value of native vegetation, and lack of sufficient hardiness in highly bred beef cattle to combat semitropical conditions.
The solution to this difficulty of adaptation appears to be not the finding or development of an entirely new breed, but rather a combining of the beef-producing ability of the British breeds with hardiness to tropical or semitropical conditions, as observed in some other foreign breeds and types. A distinct beginning in this direction was made in 1906, when the Pierce Estate of Wharton County, Tex., brought from India 30 bulls and 3 cows of the Nellore and other breeds of Brahman cattle. These were used largely in crossing with Herefords and Shorthorns. In 1924 another noteworthy importation of Indian cattle was made by John T. Martin, San Antonio, Tex. It consisted of 29 bulls, principally of the Guzerat breed, that had previously been imported into Mexico from South America. The Guzerat bulls were larger and beefier than those of any previous importations, and they have "nicked" well with the native cattle, as well as with Herefords and Shorthorns in southern Texas.
Using both Indian and British breeds of cattle, Robert J. Kleberg, Jr., Kingsville, Tex., has been successful, after about 15 years of constructive crossbreeding, in developing a meritorious Brahman-Shorthorn crossbred type of approximately three-eighths Brahman five-eighths Shorthorn blood. This type, which he named “Santa Gertrudis", is red in color, very deep of body, of good beef conformation, hardy with extreme "scale" (weight for age), showing great adaptability and seemingly breeding true to type.
The value of Brahman breeds crossed with Hereford and Shorthorn cattle is evident also in breeding and feeding experiments conducted by the United States Department of Agriculture at the Iberia Livestock Experiment Farm, Jeanerette, La., and at Kingsville, Tex., in cooperation with the State agricultural experiment stations of Louisiana and Texas. These and other investigations of the Department in cooperation with private breeders indicate that Guzerat and Nellore cattle have considerable value when crossed with established beef breeds in the development of a beef-type crossbred that will utilize the native grasses of the Gulf coast country to advantage in the production of cattle to be finished on pasture.
Experimental data show that part-Brahman calves weighed 91 pounds more at weaning time off grass than highly bred calves of the British breeds under the same conditions. This increased weight, together with a slight increase in selling price, enabled the part-Brahman calves to bring a greater gross return of approximately $6 per calf. In dry-lot fattening the part-Brahmans compared favorably with highly bred beef calves in fattening periods of 150 days or less, but for longer periods they were not so satisfactory, making smaller gains and using more feed per unit of gain. Part-Brahman cattle, however, were usually superior in dressing percentage and this usually offset the higher carcass value of the non-Brahmans.
The foregoing observations of the comparative performance of purebred beef cattle and Brahman crossbreds indicated the possibility of developing beef cattle still more adaptable to the area and more acceptable to the meat trade than any yet produced. About 3 years ago, in the hope of developing a crossbred having a small percentage of Brahman blood and the polled characteristic, solid color, and beefy conformation of the Aberdeen-Angus breed, the Department began a project at Jeanerette, La. Here purebred Aberdeen-Angus females were bred to a purebred Guzerat bull. More than 83 percent of the first generation of calves were black in color, but all the bull calves had either horns or scurs and 73 percent of the heifers showed signs of horns. The conformation and color of the first-generation crossbred Guzerat-Aberdeen-Angus offspring (fig. 6) have been rather satisfactory, being superior to those produced in the early experiments with Brahman bulls and Hereford and Shorthorn cows. Four first-generation heifers were bred to an Aberdeen-Angus bull with the result that the next generation of calves (one-fourth Guzerat and three-fourths Angus) were 100 percent polled and 100 percent black.
The desire of cattlemen in southern Texas to import additional foreign cattle, developed under semitropical conditions, to cross with their beef breeds and the impossibility of importing more Brahman cattle because of quarantine restrictions, led to an importation of Africander cattle. The Bureau of Animal Industry cooperated in this undertaking by furnishing the writer’s services for selecting the cattle and handling the importation from Africa to the United States.
During October 1931, 16 bulls and 13 females of the Africander breed were selected in the Provinces of Transvaal, Orange Free State, and Cape of Good Hope, in the Union of South Africa. The cattle arrived at New York in December, were quarantined for 90 days, and sent to the King and Kenedy ranches at Kingsville and Sarita, Tex., respectively.
The cows and heifers of this importation (fig. 7) have been bred each year to purebred bulls of the same breed, to increase the number of purebred Africanders. Every female in the original importation has proved to be a breeder, the older cows having produced calves each year since their arrival.
The Africander bulls, in addition to their use as sires of purebreds, have been used extensively in crossbreeding experiments with Shorthorn, Hereford, Devon, and Brahman cows on ranches in southern Texas. Several hundred crossbred calves have been produced from these matings. The crossbreds from the Shorthorn cows have been very promising as calves and yearlings. They have excellent beef conformation, being deep, wide, and smooth, and are of a deep-red color. Crossbred calves from the Hereford cows have shown great uniformity in type, conformation, and color markings, and have responded wéll to feeding in the dry lot. Their gentleness in the feed lot, as compared with other breeds and crossbreds having Brahman blood, was particularly noticeable. In the crossbreds having Africander blood, there has been a degree of smoothness not found in the crossbreds carrying Brahman blood.
At Jeanerette, La., the Department is testing a cross resulting from the use of Africander bulls with Aberdeen-Angus cows. Ten choice registered Aberdeen-Angus heifers and two purebred red Aberdeen-Angus females—red color being unusual in this breed which is typically black—were bred during the summer of 1934 to an Africander bull, in the hope of developing and fixing a polled type of crossbred that will be beefy and of a desirable color, either red or black.
Although cattle with either Brahman or Africander blood may not have a commercial place in many of the important beef-production areas, their hardiness and ability to utilize the southern grasses near the Gulf coast advantageously make the studies here outlined of interest to producers in that section and in regions where droughts are frequent. Brahman and Africander cattle were developed in countries where grazing conditions were extremely poor and watering places often far apart.
It must be kept in mind, however, that nothwithstanding the merits of Indian and African cattle the characteristics which are most sought after in the desirable beef carcass probably can be obtained best by using a predominance of blood of beef breeds of British origin.