Historically, the way value was solely determined in judging Brahman cattle was based on two features: Pedigree and Phenotype.
The first half of that equation is nothing new for most. Using sire and dam to help determine the value of an animal has been done since the beginning of mating registered seedstock. The other part may need just a little more explaining. Webster defines phenotype as the set of observable characteristics of an individual resulting from the interaction of its genotype with the environment. In simpler terms, phenotype is the way an individual looks based on his genetics reacting to environmental factor (aka nutrition, health, etc..). This article is meant to serve as a basic overview of proper beef cattle selection to assist in improving cow herd appearance, function, and overall profitability.
Here is how we place our importance on judging Brahman cattle.
Judging Selection Priority List
- Functionality – Look for volume, body capacity, fertility, and structural correctness. If this isn’t met, then the animal should not be shown.
- Production Efficiency – Moderate frame size, fleshing ability
- Optimal performance and frame based on gender and environment
- Skeletal width and muscle
Everything comes back to function.
Function can be simply summed up as an animal’s ability to do their job.
When discussing a bull, his job is obviously to cover all of the open cows which is heavily dependent on his structural soundness (especially his rear leg because it bears 80% of his body weight when mounting a cow.
When considering a bull purchase, it is also imperative that we check for basic reproductive function (i.e. Testicular development, sheaths, etc.)
When discussing a female, there are multiple traits that ultimately affect their overall function including body volume, feet and legs, teats/udders, and fertility.
Obviously for her to function, she must be able to get bred. Then her udder quality (refined teat size, level udder, proper suspension) should allow for her calf to easily nurse to receive the sustenance necessary to thrive and be profitable.
Next, she needs to possess an ample amount of rib shape and body depth to allow her to consume enough forage to maintain proper body condition. After all, it really doesn’t make much of a difference how heavy her calf is that she weans if she won’t breed back and raise one within 365 days of that last.
And the last portion of function, structural soundness, is often the first one that comes to mind. If your cattle cannot get out, travel, and graze, they will suffer from a longevity standpoint and most likely exit the herd early.
A good rule of thumb to employ for evaluating soundness would be a two-step process.
1. Does that individual meet their track or in other words does their rear foot land in the print let behind by their front foot when in motion.
2. Do they stay collected, or level in their topline while hopefully comfortably meeting their first step.
If an animal does both things, then most likely they are sound by industry standards.
Quite possibly the greatest misconception among the beef industry is, we still get paid by the pound so bigger always equals more profit.
Certainly, solid logic, but any businessman would tell you outputs don’t matter until you consider inputs.
Selection on frame size in relation to available forage resources not only impacts that individuals fleshing ability, but more importantly directly correlates to that female’s ability to cycle and stay in a 365-day calving window.
The adage goes, “make the cattle work for you, not the other way around.”
This is important to consider when judging Brahman cattle and when choosing breeding cattle for your respective operation.
Each environment is slightly different, so make sure and find the type of animal that profitably fits your program. As hip heights and mature cow weights increase across herd, so will maintenance requirements in your cattle and in turn input costs within your business. Let’s not forget…it is a business after all.
Optimal Performance and Growth
One thing that is often not completely understood is fitting outputs necessary to meet an animal’s optimal performance (growth, frame, feed conversion, etc.) to the environment you are given in your ranch’s production system.
To simplify, we will use the following example relating to milk production.
The cow that proves successful in eastern New Mexico most likely has less potential for milk production than a cow managed in a lusher environment with more forage resources available.
Reason for this, is if an animal is producing more, Milk in this example, and expending more energy than what they can consume in the forage available to them they will most likely encounter difficulty maintaining flesh which ultimately inhibits their breed back rate and overall reproductive function.
Relating to gender, we typically find that the sire can handle more growth and performance than the average cow can in most situations. The typical bull of a frame score the same as a certain cow will always measure a bigger hip height.
Skeletal Width and Muscle
All cattle need functional width.
In females, skeletal width has an affect not only on her fleshing ability, and natural thickness but also, wider based females also typically have more width from hooks to pins which often sets up for less incidence of calving difficulties barring improper bull selection.
Muscle is also necessary in both genders, but more important in bulls. Typically when trying to make major improvements in the area of increased muscle mass, the bull is a more effective way to implement that in your breeding program.
Balance has two meanings in livestock evaluation, with both being important.
The first use would be describing balance as it relates to that individuals eye appeal. This is very important in judging Brahman cattle in show situations. For the we are mainly considering how the assembly of their structure has allowed for their parts and pieces to match and fit together on the profile (level tops, extension of front end, neck attachment, proper hind leg structure).
The other use of balance, which is my personal favorite, would be making sure that you are selecting on animals that are good and acceptable in most areas instead of individuals that are extreme outliers in a few areas.
The best way I can help describe that would be a bull comparison.
For example, if bull A was a moderate framed, very functional bull that has calving ease, growth, maternal and carcass EPD’s all in the top 25% of the breed. We would consider him a better-balanced breeding bull than sire B who is extremely large framed, has a WW and YW EPD in the top 1%, but falls below breed average for a few EPD traits and may even have a structural flaw.
Acronym meaning Expected Progeny Difference.
These numbers are generated by recording performance measurements for an individual and compiling that information with data from his/her ancestors as well as progeny if available.
An EPD ultimately gives you the ability to compare animals for a particular trait using an unbiased numerical estimate.
To lean more on EPD’s visit https://brcutrer.com/understanding-epds-in-brahman-cattle/.
The Bigger Picture
Here at BRC, we know Brahman from the inside-out. It’s in our genes.
Our mission is to offer the very best in Brahman genetics and in customer service so that you, too, can achieve success, fulfillment and happiness working with the noble Brahman breed.
If we can help you with selecting the best Brahman cattle for your operation, we’re always glad to help. You’re always welcome at BRC.