Preliminary research shows a $78 advantage for Hereford-sired calves compared to Angus-sired calves in a real-world commercial setting.

The American Hereford Association (AHA) announced the first-year results of a heterosis study being conducted in cooperation with California State University, Chico; Lacey Livestock; Harris Feeding Co.; and Harris Ranch Beef Co. The objective of the research project was to conduct a controlled crossbreeding system, comparing progeny sired by Hereford and Angus bulls, under commercial conditions, emphasizing economic differences at the ranch, feedlot and packing plant.

Ten Hereford bulls selected for specific expected progeny differences (EPDs) were matched with 10 Angus bulls of comparable genetics. Bulls were randomly mated to 400 mature Angus-based cows. All calves were identified with electronic identification (EID) tags and DNA samples were taken to determine parentage. All cattle had equal access to comparable feed resources and management in extensive, relatively harsh environments.

The differences in weaning performance, feedlot performance, carcass value and overall profitability were measured on the Angus- and Hereford-sired calves. According to Jack Ward, AHA chief operating officer and director of breed improvement, “Preliminary data suggests a significant economic advantage of $86 per head in the feedlot phase for the Hereford-sired calves.

“Primary differences were gain, feed efficiency, morbidity and mortality, resulting in a lower cost of gain, $11.94 per hundredweight (cwt.); which equates to a $7.32 per cwt. difference when mortality of the Angus-sired steers was excluded,” Ward said. He added that the Angus-sired group had a significant advantage in quality grade, partially offsetting the value in the feedlot. “However, the net advantage favored the Hereford-sired cattle by nearly $78 per head for the entire production cycle,” Ward said.

Ward explained heterosis is the superiority of the crossbreed progeny compared to the average of the parent breeds. Maternal heterosis is the increase in calf performance due to the maternal effect of the crossbred cow.

All results of this study are based on limited numbers from year one. To have more numbers for the project in year two and three, Lacey Livestock increased the number of cows to 600 for the remainder of the study. The backgrounding, feedlot and carcass trial will be repeated in 2008 and 2009.

The effect of maternal heterosis will be determined by tracking productivity of the replacement heifers that were retained and identified to a sire.  The objective is to attempt to determine lifetime productivity and profitability differences between sire groups.

For a complete report, “Impacts of Crossbreeding on Profitability in Vertically Coordinated Beef Industry Marketing Systems,” follow this link (PDF format), or contact David Mehlhaff, AHA director of communications, at