by: Clifford Mitchell

Specific jobs demand the right tools. Most would not send young men to football practice without the proper equipment; plan a trip when the roads are bad without having snow tires or buy a house without running water and electricity. However, some cattlemen will turn out cows that are not equipped to do the job in certain environments.

The Southeast environment provides advantages and disadvantages to raising beef. Varied weather patterns and forage type, makes it impossible to create a “one size” fits all scenario. Cow factories must come equipped with the right tools to meet job expectations.

“The right F1s offer a lot of advantages. There is a big demand for F1 females in our area,” says Kevan Tucker, Beef Extension Specialist, Grove Hill, Alabama.

“The F1 cattle just fit our program and really work in our environment. These cattle work in a variety of environments in the Southeast,” says Cal Whatley, manager DCJ Ranch, Opelika, Ala.

“Our F1 females are heat tolerant, bug resistant and handle the challenges of the Gulf Coast,” says Paul Dufrene, Triple Sons Farm, Cut Off, La., and Centerville, Texas.

The prowess of the F1 female has long been known to this region. These cows are often a fixture in successful commercial cow/calf operations. Most who depend on these Brahman influence cattle defend them as if they were one of their own and claim these females have gotten better over time.

“The F1 females of today aren't the same as those females in the past. We have placed a lot of selection emphasis on our genetics to create better females,” Dufrene says. “It can't be just any combination. You have to mate them correctly and go the extra mile. We look at eye-appeal, thickness, body depth and try to find Angus females with good EPDs to produce the best F1s we can. I am not a fancy speaker or a high pressure salesman so it's a good thing the F1s sell themselves”

“The F1 combines longevity, fertility and heat tolerance. Today, we have access to improved Brahman genetics and we can make a better beef animal,” Whatley says. “We have the selection tools in both parent breeds to make an improved F1. We get the best of both worlds and are creating a fine beef animal. You have to pay attention to what you're doing when you put Brahman and British genetics together.”

“There is a lot of quality in the F1 females and they have the ability to produce in our environment,” Tucker says. “Whatever your preference, the tiger stripe or the black F1, these females are very versatile.”

F1 females bring several things to the table. Some traits like longevity and heat tolerance are well known advantages. Other benefits can come in a more subtle manner.

“We always have that spell during the summer where it gets in the mid 90s and above with high humidity. Those F1 females are out grazing while other breed types are waiting till it cools off,” Tucker says. “That is one of the obvious benefits. Those F1s have what I call a “momma instinct.” They really take care of their babies. It just seems mothering ability is more predominant with these cattle than other breeds.”

“Our F1s are good mothers, they take less forage to stay in shape and they are very heat tolerant. They're really efficient. I can maintain a 1,300-pound F1 on the same ground it takes to keep a 1,100-pound high percentage British female,” Whatley says. “Longevity is something we hang our hat on with the F1s. Fertility is often overlooked with the F1 females because of the Brahman influence. Ninety to 95 percent of our females are bred between 14 and 15 months of age. If you manage these females correctly they will reward you.”

“The F1s have good udder structure and stay in the herd. They are always going to wean a calf with a little more weaning weight,” Dufrene says. “We have Angus, Brahman and F1 females. Our Angus cows last until they are 10 or 11 years old. Our F1 females are still going strong when they are 15.”

Producers focused on profit know longevity is an economic trait. As the financial structure changes in the U.S., longevity will mean more to some producers because capital, to purchase or feed replacements, may not always be available.

“If I have a female in my pasture that I know can produce good calves until she is 15 years old, why swap out cows and try to replace her with something that is less productive,” Dufrene says. “It's all about efficiency of operation. There are only so many times I can make a mistake, and then, I lose my profit. A lot of times when you sell a cull cow you lose a calf bringing that replacement into the herd. Lost production means lost dollars.”

“A lot of times these females will last until they are 15 or 16 years old and have 12 to 14 calves. This really helps cash flow and management,” Whatley says. “Producers don't have to save 10 to 12 replacements a year and dedicate a pasture to replacement development. If you run 200 F1s you can wait until they are 10 years old and keep 25 replacements a year. In four years, you have replaced half the herd and not sacrificed productivity.”

“The longevity factor is huge with the F1 females. It is a trait that is bred in these cattle and a lot of times these females will stay in the herd until they are 15 years old,” Tucker says. “It makes a big difference when producers don't have to replace cows every year.”

Crossbreeding systems have not garnered as much attention lately as in years past. Hide color demands at the marketplace may have left the importance of hybrid vigor to fall on deft ears in some regions. Cattlemen utilizing the F1 Brahman influenced females have been benefiting from heterosis with every calf.

“People often overlook the added value of increased heterosis with these females. F1 females provide certain advantages from a hybrid vigor standpoint and allow producers to easily manage heterosis in a crossbreeding system,” Tucker says. “These females bring home calves that are a little heavier every year. That advantage comes from heterosis.”

“Our business is about dealing with pounds,” Whatley says. “The F1 females have hybrid vigor built in and they bring home big, growthy calves.”

“Our F1s always raise a good calf that weighs up right off the cow,” Dufrene says. “Annually, we'll wean six to seven hundred pound calves. Hybrid vigor helps increase weaning weight.”

Many specialists create and market these cow factories. Once integrated into commercial operations, cattlemen realize the Brahman influence is not the black eye that it used to be. Creating a marketable calf crop is the goal of any operation. F1s offer many opportunities.

“My customers breed the F1s to Hereford, Charolais and Angus bulls. The calves are well accepted in the marketplace,” Dufrene says. “I bred some of my own F1s to Charolais bulls and it worked well as a terminal cross. Today, I am mating the F1s to Angus and Hereford bulls because there is a big demand for that ¼ blood female. I really like the versatility of the F1 female because you can mate her different ways and create a marketable product.”

“Cattlemen in our area are having a lot of success mating those F1 to maternal sires and creating another very marketable product. A little Brahman influence helps a lot of operations,” Tucker says. “Those ¼ blood calves can go a lot of places. Most are also making better decisions from a sire standpoint when they mate these F1 females.”

“I think because of heterosis and market trends, people realize they can put a lot of different bulls on the F1 cows and get a marketable calf crop. F1s mated to terminal sires always bring home a big pay check when the calves are marketed,” Whatley says. “That ¼ blood black female is really popular in our area. They have just enough ear to make them work, especially in the fescue environment we have.”

Continually improving the health and quality of the calf crop is at the top of the list for most cattlemen. In today's industry, producers do not have the luxury of relying only on their ability to produce cattle. Most know, at some point, they must market the calf crop to get paid.

“Most with Brahman influence or F1 type cattle in our area just take them to the local auction barn without a plan. These cattle make producers understand the market a little better and how it works,” Whatley says. “We have to work a little harder to create reputation cattle and get them marketed correctly. Co-mingled sales are an excellent way to attract buyers and you can create repeat business with a little extra work.”

“Most producers in our area who are being successful marketing these cattle aren't just taking their calves to the local sale barn. They have upgraded their cattle with better genetics and management,” Tucker says. “Producers are working with neighbors and local auction barn staff to market cattle in load lots so they get paid for their management. With a little creativity, producers aren't taking the traditional hit most Brahman influence calves have in the past.”

The F1 females have been referred to by many names over the years. At one point she was known as “The Queen of Cow Country” along the Gulf Coast. “Profit Maker” may be a better term, once her advantages are added up. Matching genetics to the environment is still the principle most cattlemen fail to achieve.

F1 females help, in a variety of ways, bring home that elusive profit. These females are an easy way to bring traits like longevity and mothering ability back into the herd with the added boost of hybrid vigor.

“The F1 females have shown steady improvement,” Tucker says. “People are choosing the right sire and dam combinations to create these females. All you need to do is take a drive and the calves nursing those F1 females out in the pasture look almost as big as momma.”

“These are really efficient cattle. We market F1 females and keep some to produce ¼ blood females to market. These are really efficient cattle,” Whatley says. “Up until now we produced only tiger striped females. I mated some virgin Brahman heifers to good Angus bulls and couldn't believe the demand for those females. I run a lot of cows on this place and they do it all.”

“We have come a long way since some of the early Brahman genetics came to our area. Even then we could see the benefits from a little Brahman influence,” Dufrene says. “We have been producing F1s for 20 years and until now have marketed most of those females as replacements. We're running 1,200 F1s along the Gulf Coast in Louisiana. The Texas ranch is home to 200 Brahman cows and 700 Angus cows. We're always trying to do a better job of producing the F1 female. We have the tools to do it.”

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