Belgian Blues ???

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cford

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I am looking to start a small operation here in Southern Indiana. I am new to the business and I have been researching alot about the Blue Belgian breed and want to get general input from some of you guys, good bad or ugly. Also love to hear some opinion on getting started.
 
That might not be a very good breed for someone just getting started. I think most of the births require pulling calves or c-sections, at least that is what I found when I read up on them.
 
How compotent are you at C-sections.
Find a market for what you plan on raising before getting married to any one breed. May I suggest starting out with black or red baldies. Always a decent market and something to learn with before you get too deep dollarwise
 
Good advice above...

1. Check your local market for what sells near you
2. Ensure you have the proper facilities and handling equipment (and practice using it)
3. Establish a connection with a local vet and get a health program selected
4. Calculate income vs. expense
5. Search the threads of this board for many topics to help you

Good luck.
 
I have a couple. The caving issues are greatly improved. There is a breeder in Evansville, have you talked to them? There is also a breeder in Frankfort KY (that's where I got mine from).
 
cford":3kkl6kh7 said:
I am looking to start a small operation here in Southern Indiana. I am new to the business and I have been researching alot about the Blue Belgian breed and want to get general input from some of you guys, good bad or ugly. Also love to hear some opinion on getting started.

In general, double muscled breeds like BBs have more calving difficulty and are less fertile than "normal" muscled breeds. Double muscled breeds produce bigger carcasses, tender, but with little marbling (lean). If the carcass is too large, it will be discounted. The USDA beef grading system is based on marbling with higher marbling being more valuable. You'd probably do well to know where you're going to market the calves before you select a breed. There are some branded beef programs that market the lean, tender beef from double muscled breeds and offer a premium for double muscled calves. If you can sell through a speciality meat program, you might be able to overcome the other problems. If you're going to haul the calves to the sale barn, BBs might not be your best choice.
 
Piedmontiese are like that as well. They are homozygous for the myostatin gene. I don't know about Parthenaise or Blonde D'Aquitaines. We looked at them all, but they weren't consistently functional and easy-calving enough.
 
I picked up a load of hay last Thursday. I drove through Petrey, Alabama. In Petery there is a barn and wire corral. In the corral is a Beljian Blue bull with a Holstein cow. I have never saw a bull that large anywhere in my life. My thoughts were how much would it eat, and how would the average size cow ever calve something that large. I will go back and find out.
Tom
 
For terminal use in a crossbreeding system the Belgian Blue bull has a role to play as the calves are quite small at birth. The problem lies in the fact that the Belgian blue influenced females are having a hard time calving.

I have seen Belgian blueX Jersey calves before and they looked just like calves you'd expect to see in a strictly beef herd. Apart from terminal breeding in a multibreed crossbreeding system or to AI your lesser producing dairy cows with to hopefully add value to an otherwise worthless bullcalf their use is limited.
 
cford":379nc5t3 said:
I am looking to start a small operation here in Southern Indiana. I am new to the business and I have been researching alot about the Blue Belgian breed and want to get general input from some of you guys, good bad or ugly. Also love to hear some opinion on getting started.

Do not go there - as a newb you are just asking for trouble.

Buy some nice mature and proven grade cattle - bred with calves at side.

Then learn the business.

[Bez]
 
I dug up an old post I wrote a few years ago - you need to read - some of it does not apply but most does.

Regards

[Bez]
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by Bez on Tue Mar 01, 2005 3:11 am

I do not know you and you do not know me – but I think I am going to keep this on file as my standard answer to this regular question.

You mention nothing about your esperience, or your infrastructure and so on – so there is some pretty basic stuff here that you need to know – if you do not – it's a learning day. If you do – then accept my apologies for boring you.

These are animals - not pets. They are tough, ornery, eating machines that one day will run you over and the next day look at you with a calmness that you cannot believe. They are one heck of a great hobby - that is how wife and I got started in the business years ago. Love 'em, but if you spoil 'em you will end up with problems.

As for breeds - well, any beef cow that can live in Canada can live in the U.S. of A. - some may do better than others - but darned near every breed you have down south is found in Canada. I happen to like the British breeds and run HH – but that does not mean you have to stay British. If you have the right kind of ground and the right kind of feed they will ALL do well.

Just remember this little tidbit ... and this is important - you probably do not have experience in breeding, calving and doctoring. Not a slur, just a fact - so find something that will not crush you when something goes wrong - and believe me, it sooner or later will.

Nearly all breeds do well - especially if they can be contained, sheltered, fed and watered. That's it in a nutshell. The rest is easy.

So get your grasss in order as well.

We all have our favourites - but who cares if you have a patchwork quilt of animals in the field - if they are solid, quiet animals with calves at side - well, be happy.

Go cheap. Go with pairs. Instant moms that are bred back. Go with quiet. Do not ask what breed – at this stage you had better not care - it is not important, walk in amongst them before you buy - if they are gone like deer - then forget them. If they jump, fight or run you - run for your truck. If they load hard - run for your truck and leave. If they are not vet checked and preg checked - with you present - run for your truck and put your money away for another day.

Split the call out fee – you pay vet bills for the ones you take – vendor pays for the ones you do not.
Go with mature to prevent calving probs and mothers who disown or kill their calves with starvation - not common, but it does happen. Go private - not sale barn - do not buy someone elses trouble – unless it is a TOTAL herd dispersal – and these can be real good sales to go to. Tell the owner you WILL be back if there are problems that may have been hidden. Get all their records - herd health, vaccinations, dates of birth, and so on. If those records are not available - run for your truck.

Look up my thread - Ding! Dong! Brindles Dead - and avoid any brindles like crazy - no matter what the breed. Perhaps I am just superstitious?

Find an old hand in your area - have him go with you and look at least 5 different outfits before you make up your mind - that way you have an idea of what you are up against. Bargain hard - know your price before you leave your own driveway and stick to it. Don't deviate - there are lots of really good animals out there for sale.

Have a good fence, SOLID FENCE IS BEST, some feed and water available when they show up at home - even quiet animals can become tornadoes for a day or two. If your penning area is small and poorly fenced, plan on searching for them for a couple of days before they settle in.

Others who back me – and I quickly found two – both know their stuff:

Craig-Tx wrote:
But if you're wanting a few cows that will pay their own way why not buy cheap pairs. Then you know she can calve. Buy young momma cows that look somewhat poor but sound. Or buy 6-8 year old sound cows with light calves at their sides. You will get a pair for $hundreds less than a fancy cow will cost and you'll be amazed at what she will look like next year if you've put her on good grass and taken care of her thru the winter. She might not be anything to brag about but you'll be in the money on her next calf. The same principle, with a little more risk, can be applied to young bred cows. And same for bulls.

Old Timer wrote:

Craig- I agree with you-- If you just want to run a few cows the best money is in buying a few older bred cows--many places cull them when they lose 1 tooth (sometimes only 4-5 years old) or hit 10 years of age-- Sell for $350- 500 as brokenmouths - Some of these cows have several years left in them if you have good pasture-- I've bought them over the years just to put on one good pasture I have and probably made more off them than some of the ones I raised-- Although this year those same cows that were selling for $400 are now selling for $800-900..... Might just have to run some of the old girls one more year on that pasture.

So, it looks like there are three of us in the same boat. Start slow and build. You have enough ground, but do you have enough experience and time to handle more than 10 – 15? A good number for a beginner with your ground available. Sell the excess hay for the first couple of years. Do not sell it until January – by then you'll know what you need for the remainder of the year.

If you plan to sell them - make sure that you are selling into an accepting crowd. As an example - if the area you are in loves that black hide, you will suffer with a dollar penalty by trying to sell red. In my area black AND red are guaranteed to sell 10 - 20 cents a pound less than a TAN colour. Go figure - if you take the clothes off of them 99% of producers could not tell you what breed they were. Do your homework. If you want to go "exotic" fine – be darned sure they are quiet and you can handle them.

Far as I am concerned - solid animal is good - but cheaper is better.

Calves all sell - you just want good 'uns. Healthy and lively.

Get all your fences and PENS in order FIRST!

Find a veterinarian and put the number on the fridge - you WILL need him / her someday - trust me on this and darned well do it asap!

Probably missed a few things – but you get the idea.

Go for it - have fun and welcome to an interesting life - that of a cattleman!

Regards

Bez
 
We have owned Belgian Blues. Our oldest daughter scrambled and bought a Belgian Blue heifer from a breeder in Ky. The cow was an excellent mother and did well when my husband bred her AI to a Jersey bull for her first calf. For her second calf she was bred AI to a BB bull and didn't have any problems. She was bred AI to an imported bull for her third calf and that was her downfall. She had to have a c-section and the calf was double muscled which affected his heart as he grew and he had to be put down when he was about 3 months old. The cow developed adhesions from the surgery and was also euthanized about 8 months after her surgery.

Having said that, using a BB bull on cows with good frames makes a good terminal cross. My husband has bred our Jersey cows to BB and Brahman cross cows to BB with good results.

I have eaten pure BB and cross bred BB and the meat was excellent. I prefer a leaner meat and I liked it.
The dressing percentage is high with BB beef.
 
According to the dutch farmers that know the Belgian Blue breed very well in my area of Alberta the BB (and all the specialist double muscled breeds) have a problem that hasn't been brought up before that makes establishing a successful purebred operation difficult. It is very difficult to get consistent production across a sire group of bulls. In Europe these cattle are propagated using AI bulls just about exclusively due to problems getting the cows to breed naturally and due to the problem of knowing what a bull will throw with out an extensive progeny test proof. If i can not give my bull customer a reasonable idea of how well a bulls calves will turn out my bull customers will be non existent. According to the dutch farmers I know around 15% of the BB bull calves are considered worth using for one reason or another. This keep rate on prospects is something that must be over come unless you are using AI bulls.
That said a double muscled bull can do amazing things for a calf crop as far as carcass traits are concerned. How these cattle can be used in a non industrial cow calf operation remains to be seen since raising these cattle requires extreme attention to detail not seen outside the dairy industry in North America.
 
VLS_GUY":sl4nh6rx said:
According to the dutch farmers I know around 15% of the BB bull calves are considered worth using for one reason or another. This keep rate on prospects is something that must be over come unless you are using AI bulls.
Sad to say but if the American breeders of ALL breeds used that criteria the cattle in general would be of higher quality
 
Dun,

That 15% keep is on bulls once they get calves out of them. They can't separate the wheat from the chaff until then. Most of them either do not put enough muscle on the calves or are very hard calving. The 15% are in a sweet spot. Since they are selling semen this is not a problem for them since they can wait for the progeny test; but if you are selling 2 year olds or yearlings this is a problem. Who wants to sell a potential cow killer? Double muscled cows in Europe aren't called zipper cows for nothing.
 
Find someone who has actual first hand experience with the breed. Ask if you can come see their operation. Ask a million questions. Talk to as many breeders as you can before you form your opinion.
As a novice/newbie it may be a good idea to start out with a 3 in one deal.
Another note: It is not fair to lump ALL double muscled breeds together. There are HUGE differences in them.
 

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