Is Crossbreeding For You?

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There are numerous benefits to a well-designed crossbreeding system.
By: Dustin Heeter, Penn State

The benefits of crossbreeding systems in the beef sector have been extensively researched over the years, and the practical implications of the benefits of crossbreeding are as relevant and important today as they were 25 years ago.

The largest single benefit to crossbreeding is realized in the crossbred cow. In fact, approximately 60% of the total advantage in heterosis (hybrid vigor) in a crossbreeding system can be attributed to the crossbred cow. The large advantage is derived from the reproductive advantages of the crossbred cow. She simply is more apt to re-breed following calving, which results in more longevity (she stays in herd longer since she is not culled for being open). This advantage, coupled with the superior mothering and maternal ability of the crossbred female results in more pounds of calf at weaning per cow exposed.

With reproduction being the most economically important performance trait, the merits of maintaining a crossbred cow fully justify implementation of a crossbreeding program. We all understand the concept that open cows are not profitable. Add to this the advantage of the crossbred in longevity, and the crossbred cow has more years to dilute out the costs of developing her as a heifer. Collectively, these differences in reproduction and longevity favorably impact both costs of production as well as production output.

For most cow-calf producers selling feeder cattle, net income is derived primarily from calf sales. This net income is a function of number of calves sold, calf weight, and calf value per pound. Crossbreeding impacts the first two of these in a major way. First, crossbred calves exhibit hybrid vigor at birth and through weaning- put another way they are more apt to survive to weaning and be sold. More calves born (see above) and more calves alive equate to more pounds to sell. Along with this, heterosis impacts calf growth favorably resulting in heavier weaning weights than the average of the parental breeds used to form the crossbred.

There are several breed choices that makes sense for producers across the Northeast. We do have more feed resources than some parts of the country so our females can be a little larger or heavier milking if we choose. Crossbred females can really make an impact of those traits which are so hard to improve such as fertility, longevity, and mothering ability.

The marketability of your calves can been maintained or even enhanced with a structured crossbreeding program and you should also have more overall pounds to sell because of enhanced survivability and added performance.


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