by: Matt Woolfolk and David Riley
Texas A&M University Department of Animal Science

Across the United States, the makeup of commercial cow herds varies to fit various environments. In the South, increased heat and humidity require cattle that are able to perform in these conditions. The ability of Brahman cattle to withstand these conditions allowed the breed to become a staple of commercial cattle production in the Deep South. In particular, the use of Brahman in crossbreeding, primarily with British breeds, to produce extremely popular F1 offspring is perhaps the most common source of influence on the commercial cow herd of the Southeast. While the F1's are most noted for their superior reproduction and maternal ability, there are other redeeming qualities of F1's to consider. The ability of these cattle to grow and perform to weaning outshines crossbred calves solely of British and Continental breed origin. In the feedlot, F1 Brahman calves are able to successfully grow and convert feed to pounds of product in the proper environment. However, the importance of the F1 female as an elite brood cow in the Deep South can't be overlooked.

When a vast majority of the commercial cow base is British and Continental influenced, using Brahman bulls presents the opportunity for added offspring performance due to heterosis. Heterosis, or hybrid vigor, is the added performance of crossbred individuals over the averages of their straight bred parents. The greater differences between two breeds result in greater effects from heterosis. It has been documented and widely known for over 50 years that crossing Brahman, a Bos indicus breeds, with a British or Continental breed (Bos taurus), results in much more heterosis than crossbred cows of any other breeds.

Added Growth and Performance

Heterosis affects performance traits, such as weights and growth rates. Brahman F1 calves exhibit as much as a five percent increase in weaning weight over the average of purebred parents due to heterosis. If the average weaning weight for two parent breeds was 500 pounds, and F1 Brahman cross calf would be expected to weigh 525 pounds at weaning. In today's market, that's approximately a $50 increase in calf value due to the added performance of heterosis.

In the right environment, Brahman-influenced feeder cattle can perform as well as their Bos taurus counterparts in gain. F1 Brahman steers often outgain straightbred calves of the parent breeds in feedlots in warmer climates or seasons. Feeders in the southern Great Plains realize the ability of these cattle to grow while handling the harsh temperatures. Half-blood Brahmans have the ability to produce carcasses that meet industry standards.

The perception that Brahman and Brahman-influenced cattle do not produce high-quality retail product is a bit of a misconception. In a Texas A&M study in the 1990's, Brahman-sired steers out of Angus and Hereford cows were placed into a feedlot at weaning and fed for 180 days. At approximately 14 months, the steers were harvested. Almost 60 percent of the carcasses graded USDA Choice, comparing favorably to industry-wide averages for percentage of Choice cattle. Over 90 percent of carcasses tested with acceptable ratings for tenderness using the Warner-Bratzler Shear-Force test. Traits such as carcass weight, dressing percentage and yield grade are another area that Brahman-cross feeder cattle excel in. Heavier carcasses with a high dressing percentage and less backfat are common. Brahman steers with average carcass weights over 800 pounds, with dressing percentages approaching 65 percent (accepted industry standard is 62 percent) were part of recent American Brahman Breeders Association (ABBA) Carcass Evaluation.

The F1 Female

The biggest impact of Brahman cattle on commercial cattle production is through the influence of the F1 females as a brood cow in the south. Half-blood Brahman cows are highly regarded for their ability to thrive in hot, humid environments like the Brahman.

The influence of heterosis on traits that are not easily improved with selection programs is what distinguishes the F1 female as a superior performer. Traits such as pregnancy rate, calving rate, and weaning rate are always greater in F1 females than in straightbred or Bos taurus cross females. Studies conducted in Florida in the early 2000s have shown the superior performance of Brahman-Angus females over both parent breeds. Pregnancy and calving rates in both Angus and Brahman-sired females (93 percent) were 11 to 16 percent greater than the purebred Angus (82 percent) or Brahman (77 percent). Weaning rates were also 15 percent higher than the weighted average of the parent breeds. The increased pregnancy, calving, and weaning rates of F1 Brahman females result in more calves for producers to market and a greater impact on an operation's bottom line. In addition, F1Brahman-influenced cattle have increased longevity compared to purebred counterparts. A 1988 research project in Texas showed that Brahman-sired Fl cows out of Angus and Hereford dams had an average lifespan of almost 14 years, compared to 10 year average lifespan of the parent breeds. Another study from Nevada reported that F1 females with Brahman inheritance having more calves over their lifetime than Bos taurus F1s and purebred Bos taurus, as well as a greater portion of the females staying in production longer.

The most common breeds to cross with Brahman for producing Fl females are Angus and Hereford. Breeding Brahman cattle to Herefords results in the very popular "tiger stripe" cows. To allow commercial producers to buy F1 females with confidence, the ABBA established the F1 Certification Program (Website: The program includes Golden Certified F1, in which both parents are registered with respective associations, and Certified F1, where the sire must be registered with its respective breed registry and dams are purebred commercial females that have been inspected for their purity by an association representative. Since the program's inception, over 85,000 females have been enrolled in both ABBA Golden Certified and Certified. While the program enables buyers to have an outlet for verified replacement females, producers marketing the Golden Certified and Certified F1 females receive a premium price. At the Houston Commercial Female Sale, Golden Certified and Certified F1 females average as much as $175 more than other females in the sale over a 15 year period. The offspring of these females are eligible for the F1 Plus Program, creating additional marketing avenues for these cattle.

Brahman's Influence

In the southern United States, utilizing Brahman genetics in commercial crossbreeding systems provides heat tolerance, durability, and maximum heterosis throughout the entire production cycle. The added growth of calves pre-weaning give cattlemen additional pounds on the scale at market and these calves can gain and produce quality carcasses through the feedlot and harvest. In the regions of the country where hot, humid summers are an annual fixture, no cow works better in these conditions, than the F1 Brahman crossbred. These females can handle the tough conditions while successfully breeding, calving and weaning a healthily calf. The added longevity of the F1 Brahman female gives cattlemen a cow that stays in the herd longer, raising more calves over her lifetime. Overall, the influence of Brahman on commercial cattle production in the South is extremely important. Brahman- influenced cattle, especially F1s, carry many productive advantages that help them thrive in the warmer climate of the region.

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