Cross Breeding Cattle- A Rancher’s Spice Rack

Brangus, American Wagyu (or should I say Wagshuyu), even Longhorn- most cattle we eat today have a number of varieties within that hide of theirs. Why cross breed?

Think of it as a chef would his spice rack- what characteristics does the dish need to take on? Once this is in mind herbs and spices can be chosen accordingly so the finished product will have an Asian, or Arabian, or Spanish, or French feel and taste. There are three types of cattle- Work; Beef; Dairy. All these types are good for certain things so let’s break them down in the cattle pantry.

Work (Draught) Cattle:

These cattle have been raised to work; some are double-muscled like the Charolais, Piedmontese, and Belgian Blue. You can tell a double muscled breed- they have an Austrian accent and have come to “pump you up”! Seriously, double muscle means well…muscular.

Other non double muscle draft breeds are cattle such as the Limousine, and the famed Wagyu breeds of Japan (from which Kobe style beef comes from). These animals mature late but when they do have well developed muscle and depending on breed have great marbling potential and an excellent flavor profile. Think about intramuscular marbling for a moment- this is the power plant that drives the muscle. Each muscle fiber needs energy and the fat that is attached to it is its fuel reserve. A draft animal that is genetically poised to do a lot of work and is not working will put on these intramuscular reserves and Voila- marbling! The draw back is by the time a draft animal matures to this marbling stage it can be Voila!- tough, unless aged correctly. Solution? (Read on my friend….)

Beef Cattle:

These are breeds like the Hereford and the Angus (red or black, they are the same genetically) they lack an enzyme that metabolizes fat and so they marble quickly and mature younger – young well marbled meat? I’d say that is a pretty good combo for eating and it is, that is why these breeds have been the preferred eating breeds for a very long time. Wouldn’t it be nice to have some of this characteristic in draught animals to get heavier marbling and more weight? Do you see where we’re going with this?


So you take Angus that matures young and cross it with Tajima a Wagyu draft breed and Voila! – American style Wagyu (and at heavier marbling levels- American style Kobe). Highly unsaturated heavy marbling profile, hybrid vigor, matures younger- this cross is win win- the best of both worlds The Work & The Beef. This is where we get American Wagyu & Kobe style beef.

Another example: Brahmas are a cattle breed that sweat- not a very good eating animal, but they are hearty and they sweat- in Texas if you don’t want to die of heat exhaustion you better be sweatin’. BRANGUS! Brahma/Angus- sweating beef steer that can survive the heat and produce decent meat for the table.

Really the combinations are endless depending on the characteristics hoped for whether size, premium eating quality, heartiness, etc… Oh, yes- one more:

Dairy Cattle:

Good for, well….milk and veal. Many of the males are turned into steers and end up in beef programs as of course they don’t give well….milk. Many of the large packers have dairy cattle crossed in with the beef cattle or straight up Holstein beef programs. You can’t milk a dairy breed male, so meat is the logical end. Work and dairy breeds need longer feeding and aging to get the same break down as beef cattle. Does it bring anything to the table that the other two types don’t? Not really, sheer numbers maybe; but hey if you eat dairy cattle with eggs you’ll have a ‘meaty-yolker’ experience twice in one sitting! But this is a way to offer moderately priced protein for the table.

We can write much more here but it might steer you into boredom and we wouldn’t want you to have a beef with us! I think we get the picture, right? Now next time you see a rancher you might want to call him ‘Chef’!

Here are excellent resources on cattle breeds:


4 responses to this post.

  1. […] Products Search placed an interesting blog post on Cross Breeding Cattle- A Rancher’s Spice RackHere’s a brief overviewThere are three types of cattle- Work; Beef; Dairy. All these types are … Each muscle fiber needs energy and the fat that is attached to it is […]

  2. Posted by Farmer Mike on July 27, 2009 at 6:23 AM

    A comment on Dairy breeds. You said,”Does it bring anything to the table that the other two types don’t? Not really, sheer numbers maybe…”

    One thing dairy breeds bring to the table that beef breeds don’t is the quantity and quality of milk they provide for a calf. Why is this important? If you eat food that is raised with industrial farming methods, it isn’t important at all. They take calves away from their moms as soon as they can to be able to sell as much milk as possible. For the calves, they feed them cheap easy to transport feed – grain – to fatten them. Sure, we can talk about how corn fed beef insures marbling that American consumers have come to expect, but the reality is, it is cheaper to haul food to animals in a feedlot if you are going the industrial farming method than to manage your animals with enough pasture to raise them the way nature intended.

    What does this have to do with dairy breeds bringing something to the table that other breeds don’t? If you have ever eaten good grass fed beef, you know the flavor and health profile of the meat and fat is superior to grain fed beef. But what is the cream of the crop of grass fed beef? It is something that many farmers have always been able to provide to their families, but most people who have no connection to a farm have no idea about.

    It is baby beef. Not veal kept in a crate and slaughtered young. Grass Fed Only Baby beef is when the calf is raised on nothing but grass fed mamma’s milk and pasture and if you have a dairy breed, especially a high butterfat dairy breed, the available nutrition and sheer amount of milk they provide their calf puts on the pounds of tender, flavorful, healthy (think omega profiles), meat that cannot be rivaled in any man made feeding system.

    If you have lush pasture for both the mamma cow and the calf, and the day your calf is ‘weaned’ is the day it is butchered, especially if you leave it with it’s mamma for 6 to 8 months, you will get a great amount of the most tender flavorful beef you have ever tasted.

    It is really not offered by hardly anyone commercially, although you can find those rare people specializing in it as a niche production model. However, if you raise your own beef, keep the calf with the mom as long as possible to achieve the size you want for the freezer, and do not wean it early, let it have that pasture based mamma’s milk AND all the pasture it can eat and you will never eat grocery store beef again.

    Beef breeds of calves butchered this way provide the most amount of meat. We have taken 800 lb calves still nursing to the butcher and gotten over 400 lbs of the most tender beef you have ever tasted. When we moved to another state recently, we took a special trip to bring our freezer full of baby beef to make sure we had this food for our family for the year. When we got to the new house, we still did not have silverware unpacked. We made some two inch thick fillets for dinner, and the only thing we had in the new house was some plastic forks. These two inch fillets were so tender, we were able to cut them with nothing but a plastic fork, and that is no lie.

    Dairy breeds raise calves quickly because of all that high butterfat milk that we have bred them for centuries to provide us in excess of what is actually needed. If the calf actually gets it all, the results are amazing.

    I have always thought that if you could switch calves, and raise a beef breed calf on a dairy momma on pasture, you would get the incredible milkfed high butterfat marbling, the goodness of grassfed, combined with fast muscle producing beef genetics and the results would take the concept to an even higher level.

    I’m not interested in farming systems that take too much interference, so if the mamma doesn’t raise it naturally, I’m not milking a cow and bottle feeding a calf to try it out, though.

    Anyway, hopefully that gave you something to consider and I do wish you the good fortune of trying truly pasture raised baby beef someday.

    Mike M.
    Sun, July 26, 2009

  3. […] Cross Breeding Cattle- A Rancher’s Spice Rack March 2009 2 comments 4 […]

  4. Posted by Rick Kirkham (K-6 Farms) on September 14, 2012 at 9:30 AM

    We have a ranch in central Texas and are just beginning to crossbreed Wagyu and Santa Gertrudis hopefully it will the best of both worlds for our area.
    Anyone out there tried it?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: