Last month, Greg Henderson outlined in his editorial a growing debate involving the opposing positions of the American Hereford Association and the American Angus Association regarding crossbreeding. He referred to the recently released Hereford advertising campaign that acknowledges the science behind crossbreeding versus the American Angus Association’s position of promoting the straight breeding of Angus genetics.
He described the Hereford message of crossbreeding as “traditional,” while the Angus message was described as “bold” and “new.” I’m not sure if there are any genetic-selection decisions made today that are “bold” and “new” — the Hereford and Angus breeds have been in existence in America since the early 1800s. However, there is plenty to talk about when it comes to how the two breeds have been and should continue to be used as tools to complement one another in a profitable beef system.
Indisputable scientific research within the animal science community has documented the advantages of crossbreeding, and the American Hereford Association has replicated scientific results in recent years supporting the historic findings.
Studies conducted at some of the premier commercial ranches in the country have defined the economic advantages of crossbreeding with Hereford and, in particular, the advantage a baldie feeder steer and his replacement heifer mate carry in comparison to their straight-bred Angus counterparts.
The recent studies with Lacey Land and Livestock, Harris Ranch, Circle A Ranch and Simplot Livestock Co. have reaffirmed what has already long been known but would be foolish to dismiss during these extreme times of drought, input cost volatility and short cattle supplies.
My point to this article and to future conversations coming out of the American Hereford Association office is not to disparage the Angus breed. The Angus breed is an essential component to future beef-industry success and consumer satisfaction, with global recognition of its end product. However, the Hereford breed is poised to complement the Angus cow base in America in a way that will maintain beef quality and enhance rancher profits even further.
Not any one breed has an exclusive on the genes that influence traits leading to profitability. Cattle are not raised in confinement or a controlled environment, and Mother Nature has not been too kind to the U.S. beef industry in recent times.
Heterosis is a key component to survivability for all species when times are tough. The fact that the Hereford breed is making such a resurgent comeback is testament to a response by the commercial sector to rethink its genetic-selection strategy to address the issues that a tough environment has placed on single-breed selection. It is also a testament to the advances the Hereford breed has made in the last decade in breed improvement.