One of our most common questions is “When do you breed your Brahman heifers?”
This is a topic that always sparks a debate. In the beef industry, most commercial producers of non-Brahman females will start breeding their heifers around 12 months of age.
However, Brahman cattle are traditionally later maturing compared to Bos taurus cattle, and thus, may have different reproductive expectations.
Some argue that Brahman breeders should be working to push earlier maturing females because the sooner you get a calf on the ground, the sooner you can start making a return from that female. We agree, however our current management practice at BRC focuses on the combination we have experienced to select for overall lifetime reproductive success and longevity while also respecting the overall development of the females.
In general, we try to begin breeding Brahman heifers when they are 18 months old to 24 months old. We prefer females to be grass developed and in a body condition score of 6.
It is not uncommon to see Brahman females starting to cycle at 11 to 12 months old. However, in our experience, they tend to make better cows in the long run if you wait to begin breeding them until they are 18 months old. Breeding them at 11-12 months won’t cause calving trouble, but what it may do is put extra stress on them and delay the time that they re-breed back for their second calf. We have experienced that sometimes these young first calf heifers may take 12 to 18 months to re-breed back, where the ultimately goal is a calf every year.
We have found giving them the extra 6 months to develop will help in the long run, because Brahmans are known to have greater longevity in productive live also compared to Bos taurus breeds. So, even though you are delaying 6 months on the front end, you are adding at least that much and possibly many years more in the long run.
If you breed at 18 to 24 months, then the Brahman female will have her first calf when she is anywhere from 2 1/2 years old to 3 years old. By this time, she will be fully developed, able to calf usually with no trouble, and be able to maintain her body condition while raising a calf and then re-breeding back to maintain the goal of one calf a year.
These are just our experiences, and we do acknowledge that there is a goal of making improvements to the early maturing vs. later maturing traits of Brahman, while still maintaining a preferred calving interval.