Commercial cow-calf raisers in the first half of the 20th century in the United States pretty much relied on a straightbred cows.     The term hybrid vigor wasn’t in their vocabulary unless they were talking about mules.
   In the 50’s, Charolais came into the picture to join Angus, Hereford and Shorthorns with a great deal of debate about mongrelization. The introduction of Brahman crosses, in the south, was accepted to allow the crossed offspring to survive against heat and insect pests.
   I well recall as a student at the University of Missouri our animal breeding professor, John Lasley promoting breed crossing in commercial herds to capture the benefits of hybrid vigor. The purebred associations were pretty much against it, as you might understand. Some work on crossing had been started in other institutions to explore it’s value.
   MU joined the ranks in that research area around 1960 with a bold venture into the use of Herefords, Angus and Charolais at the Thompson Farm in north Missouri. Certainly, the Shorthorn breeders in the state were upset but Jerry Litton and the Charolais folks were pleased as that added credibility to their place as a terminal cross.
   Fast forward into the late 60’s and we saw numerous breed introductions, almost monthly, from Europe. It was exciting to hear about and see my first half-blood Simmental, Limousin, Maine-Anjou, Gelbvieh, Belgian Blue and those leggy, Chianina calves that became the darlings of the steer shows, especially if they were black.
   Angus and their black hair color and carcass grade became the trend along with the label development of Certified Angus Beef (CAB). All of a sudden it seemed to be make them black regardless of the breed. The dominance of black coat color made this a fairly easy transition. This move increased hybrid vigor into that crossbreeding effort.
   The best documentation I’ve found over the years for comparing breeds comes from the Meat Animal Research Center in Clay Center, Nebraska, a federal research unit that still today provides unbiased research.
   There is a place for both pure and crossbreeding, it all depends on your goals and market. For many of you crossbreeding has a lot of merit. The big advantage to a cross comes from the cow’s side as research shows that maternal hybrid vigor increases calving rate (6 percent), weaning rate (8 percent), weaning weight (6 percent) with only a slight (2 percent) increase in birth weight. Overall, cow lifetime productivity is increased by 25 percent. I’ve heard researchers put it this way, “a crossbred cow will wean off the equivalent to an extra calf in her lifetime compared to a purebred cow.”
   Even though Dr. Lasley was a firm believer in the crossbred female he generally believed you needed to keep, “one side of the house pure.” Today we accept that a crossbred sire might enhance the crossbreeding effort and give a program maximum heterosis. This could result in the offspring having 4 unrelated breeds. This may be a bit complicated unless you purchase replacements which is where we started earlier in this letter as I mentioned why buying Show-Me-Select heifers deserves consideration. ∆
   ELDON COLE: Extension Livestock Specialist, University of Missouri

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