Cows/Cattle/cross breeding


QUESTION: I have some unregistered beefmaster cows I plan to breed to a blk angus bull should I breed the heifers out of this cross back to beefmaster and the heifers of this cross back to angus or introduce a charloais in the mix

ANSWER: Hi Wayne,

First of all, let me sort this out for you so that it's clear in my head. I will get to the question about the Charolais in the mix after, so please bear with me. (Note this may get a little lengthy too.)

You want your first cross to be Beefmaster x Angus to get:

F1 offspring: 1/2 BM 1/2 Angus

You want to breed back the F1 heifers to beefmaster (F1 1/2 BM 1/2 Angus x BM), to get this:

F2 offspring: 3/4 BM 1/4 Angus

Finally, you want to breed (if I've got it right so far) the F2 females back to Angus (F2 3/4 BM 1/4 Angus x Angus) to generate this cross:

F3 offspring: 5/8 Angus 3/8 BM

Now, whether this system will work depends on the following:

1. Cowherd size (do you have at least 50 head of cows to utilize this two-way rotation system on?)
2. Are you wanting to keep your own replacements or sell all the calves as market calves and source replacements from somewhere else?
3. Do you have enough resources, feed and space available to successfully do a two-way crossbreeding program without causing any issues?
4. What market are you wanting to target? Are you wanting to sell through auction or direct-sell your beef?

The above cross--the two-way cross I laid out for both of us to see--will need a lot of bull power to the point that it will get a little complicated to figure out. The cow herd will need to be bred to one bull, the F1 heifers to a second bull (that's pretty obvious), the F2s will need to be bred to a different Angus bull, so on and so forth. This means having three separate breeding pens, and a plan as to which generation to sell off, which to keep, and how far along you want the two-way cross to go. Are you wanting to stop at the F3 and play around with some terminal cross-breeding there, or breed to another maternal bull of either BM or Angus blood?

My second question is hybrid vigour or heterosis.  Are you wanting to perform a cross to get the most hybrid vigour or keep heterosis kind of moderate and cows maternal? The reason I ask is because Angus to Beefmaster doesn't see as much heterosis as Beefmaster to Charolais. If you are wanting to sell the calves to the market right after weaning and not keep any replacements, Charolais is the way to go. Angus is also good for terminal (depending on the sire of choice), but it is also good for replacements (again, depending on the sire of choice.)

This leads into the question about introducing a bit of char in the mix. I've no idea where you want to throw some in, but personally I would throw the Char in the mix at the F1 level for increased heterosis and to sell all the calves. However, if you decide to go that route you better have at least 100 head of cattle to play with.  Reason being is that you should split the cow herd in half: one half goes terminal, the other half goes two-way rotational. You also have to manage a LOT for this type of cross (called "rototerminal") if you want to keep replacements. You will need at least three bulls and at least three breeding pastures to account for breeding heifers and to prevent inbreeding or line breeding from going on.

If you have a small herd of less than 50 cows, and want to retain your heifers (or have to because you have no other farm or ranch to source your replacements from), consider some form of sire rotation, where you keep one breed of bull (well, at least two or three for each generation of replacement heifers) for four to six years then switch with another breed for another four to six years. But, if you have a larger herd of at least 50 cows, you can play around with the two-breed rotation system, but not the rototerminal as you are hoping to go for above unless you have at least 100 head to goof around with.

Also consider your cows if you still want to go rototerminal.  No doubt your Beefmaster cows will last you for at least 12 years, if not more (same with the consecutive falial-generation replacement heifers-turned-cows you're wanting to keep back and may continue to do so, depending on their reproductive test to see if they make it into being good keepers), so you have the choice of continuing to breed them to the same breed as when you started, or to breed them to something different.

I'd also work it all out on paper: consider heifers, cows, number of heifers kept as replacements (figure ~20%) and hypothetical number that will be retained as breeding cows after calving season (I'm sure you know to cull heifers based on first size/weight, then bred vs. open, finally maternal qualities), bull power, etc. and do the math as best as you can just to see where you go with it.  I warn you it will get confusing and complicated. I know when I first learned about this my head was spinning by the time I got through it all.

If you are starting out with only a few head, breed Beefmaster to Beefmaster first for the first several generations until you get a good enough herd size, THEN start cross-breeding.

A few good cross-breeding links to look at are these:

For small herds:

I hope all of that answers your question and helps you further in your decision-making process. I hope it also makes some level of sense to you.

Good luck, and take care. :)


---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Yes just starting out I have 8 head full blood beefmasters cows not registered. Black cows in my region Southeast Texas sell well

Hello again Wayne,

Well, with just 8 head starting out, (and no still no idea how big your herd is going to get, but that's probably undecided on your end too), I'd focus just putting a Black Beefmaster bull with them, (yes, they do exist!) to build up your herd of full-blood BM cows before investigating and investing in the two-way rotation game once you have a large enough herd.

You also have the option of going sire-rotational breeding (with an Angus bull over your BM cows for the next 4 to 6 yrs) if you want to start cross-breeding right away.

Also note that artificial insemination is a great tool to use too if you want to limit bull-power or make use of some top sires that you can't get from a bull sale.

No doubt these are merely suggestions, as it's up to you in the end to make that buyer's/breeder's decision, but I was always taught to start small and slow and don't delve into things until you're sure you can handle it.

Good luck, and all the best to you. :)



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Karin L


Forage-Beef Extension Specialist. Knowledge in almost everything to do with beef and dairy cattle. Strong points include forage production, pasture and rangeland management, grazing management, breeding/calving/weaning, cattle genetics, breeds, feeding and nutrition, starting-up, and most physiological questions. I AM NOT A BOVINE VETERINARIAN; so please any questions that concern serious health of your cattle must be taken to your local large animal veterinarian.


Part of a farm family that bought, raised, and sold stocker/backgrounder steers; assisted with health management, handling, feeding, pasture management, and forage production. Also worked at local mixed-practice veterinary clinic. Experience with cattle included breeding soundness exams on bulls, castration, fixing prolapses, preg-checking, C-sections, calf pulling, vaccinations, etc. Worked at a local farm and ranch supply store selling medications and feed for livestock. Research assistant for the University of Alberta with range health assessments, and helping with various rangeland research projects. Always learning and gaining more experience as time goes on.

Alberta Farm Express Agri-News and Call of the Land (Alberta Agriculture)

BSc in Agriculture (Animal Science Major) @ University of Alberta, June 2015 graduate, but started studies in 2005. An Sci degree allowed me to specialize and gain significant knowledge in beef & dairy cattle production,animal behaviour and reproduction, ruminant nutrition, forage production/management, rangeland and pasture management & ecology, and plant identification.

Past/Present Clients
Various eef and forage producers in Alberta, CAN

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