Considering different breeds

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Profitable crossbreeding

Excerpt from a 2004 presentation by Bill Hoffman from NSW Agriculture, Casino, at Grafton Research Centre. The paper is based on progress information from the regional evaluations of breeds being conducted under the umbrella of the Beef Quality CRC, with MLA funding. The focus is on sale cattle and as such does not cover attributes relevant to the breeding herd, such as reproduction.

1. Background

Selecting a profitable crossbreeding system that will work within the many constraints that most beef cattle producers operate under can be complex.

2. Important aspects to consider

When selecting a possible crossbreeding system, producers need to:

2.1. Consider the overarching constraints

  • market options
  • environment (pastures, seasonal conditions)
  • existing preferences (for breed, selling methods, etc.)
  • overall goals for the business.

2.2. Recognise drivers of profit – a key driver of profit is gross income which is a direct reflection of number sold multiplied by the average value.

Value is influenced by quality and weight.

Quality is difficult to describe, but will normally be associated with:

  • specification compliance (fat, etc.)
  • yield (dressing % and retail beef yield, or RBY)
  • eating quality (intramuscular fat or IMF, etc.)

3. Breeding for a market

The ranking of these quality indicators will change according to the target market. Broadly, the beef market may be broken into three segments:

  • high marbling trade (marble score greater than MS 2)
  • table beef trade (high eating quality)
  • manufacturing beef.

Before setting breeding objectives for the herd and developing a breeding plan, beef producers need to focus on the traits that are important in regard to the target market.

The following traits will most likely be included:

  • weight
  • fat depth
  • yield characteristics (muscling)
  • intramuscular fat (marbling).

The ranking and weightings given to the above traits will vary significantly between the high marbling versus the table beef market segments.

4. Some options for satisfying these markets

Market segment Important traits (profitability ranking) Possible breed type/options
High marbing IMF (marbling)
Weight (carcases)
Yield
British breeds with some ability to marble (eg Angus, Shorthorn, Murray Grey)
British breed selected for marbling (eg high EBVs)
Japanese breeds (eg Wagyu)
Table beef Weight
Fat
Yield
Marbling
British breeds (eg Hereford, Angus)
European breeds (eg Charolais, Limousin)
Bos indicus breeds and crosses (eg Brahman × British)
Japanese breeds (eg Wagyu)