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Criteria used to compare cattle breeds?

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rightpet

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Hi - I'm brand new to the board, and to cattle. We've had horses for many years but not yet any bovines. :)

I hope I'm not imposing on you all, but I was wondering if I could get some feedback on what criteria are most important for comparing different cattle breeds? I ask because I have an educational, non-commercial website called RightPet http://www.rightpet.com/, which allows users to rate the breeds/species of pet/companion animals they have kept. We're just about to add a section for Livestock / Poultry, and I'm stumped as to what rating criteria to add for cattle. We will have perhaps 30 breeds of cattle listed in the section, and users can rate the breeds they have owned / worked with.

As the site is targeted on pet owners, the people most likely to rate their cattle are probably individuals/homesteaders who have one to a handful, rather than large commercial operators. Still, I would like to emphasize the commercial aspect more than the "pet" aspect, or at least have a combination of both. Do the following sound like reasonable items to ask owners to rate (0 = low, 5 = high, N/A) -

Appearance (how attractive is this cattle breed?)
Temperament (what is this animal's general attitude towards people?)
Easy to keep (how easy is it to keep this animal in top condition, for instance feeding, maintaining a healthy habitat etc.?)
Easy to handle (how easy is it to handle this animal?)
Health / vigor (how disease-resistant, healthy and robust is this breed?)
Showing (how easy is it to show this animal at a fair or other competition?)
Growth rate (does this breed convert feed efficiently and quickly gain weight?)
Meat quality (does this breed produce tender, lean, flavorful meat which is well-marbled?)
Milk production (if a dairy breed, does this cow produce high quality, quantity milk?)
Calving ease (does this breed produce calves which are born healthy and easily?)
Cost to own (how expensive is this animal to acquire and maintain?)

Thanks so much for your intput.
 

Jogeephus

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Sounds reasonable to me. It may be just me but this wording gets me off balance a bit.

rightpet":hsxuvftv said:
does this breed produce tender, lean, flavorful meat which is well-marbled?)
 

IluvABbeef

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I think some other things you can add to that list are:

Forage convertability (how much forage it takes for the animal to stay in condition)
Mothering ability (how cows are more apt to accept/raise a calf)
Gestation period (longer or shorter than average or average)
Conception rate (ability to concieve quickly or not)
Age of Puberty (early or late maturing)
Mature size (large or small size)
Efficiency under Minimal Management (similar to easy keeping except more on a range-based environment)
Calf hardiness (whether calf is ready and able as soon as it drops on the ground)
Breeds place in crossbreeding: Maternal, Rotational, or Terminal. (whether bulls of a particular breed is more apt to sire calves that are good for slaughter, or used in rotational crossbreeding, or calves that are more "feminine" or more able to raise calves than be sold for slaughter.)

Some things you can change are, for Meat Quality is to separate the description of Meat Quality into thus:

Tenderness
Marbling
Cutability (Muscle to Fat ratio)
Flavour

Better that way to avoid any "biasing" that may occur if you just put in Meat Quality. Simply because there are many different aspects to meat quality that make the meat the way it is, in a manner of speaking.

That's about all I can give you, probably some other folks may contribute here.
 
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rightpet

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Thanks so much for this detailed, invaluable help.

Ok, as I know we have keep the rating form reasonably user-friendly, yet at the same time want to gather data on the things which most distinguish cattle breeds - of your list would you be able to identify the 3 most important items? By important I mean those items which a small / heritage breed producer would see as most relevant in using the ratings as an educational tool to determine which cattle breeds to consider raising.

Cheers, Brett
 

farmwriter

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One important factor I didn't see was heat tolerance or cold hardiness which can be very important in different areas of the country.
 

IluvABbeef

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rightpet":3nh6u25t said:
Thanks so much for this detailed, invaluable help.

Ok, as I know we have keep the rating form reasonably user-friendly, yet at the same time want to gather data on the things which most distinguish cattle breeds - of your list would you be able to identify the 3 most important items? By important I mean those items which a small / heritage breed producer would see as most relevant in using the ratings as an educational tool to determine which cattle breeds to consider raising.

Cheers, Brett

For the heritage breeds, it would have to be mature size, efficiency under minimal management, milking ability, and appearance. I know you asked for three but these four top the list on what you are asking for.

Speaking of appearance, I think you shouldn't limit it to "breed attractiveness", I think it should be more what the breed looks like in its traditional state and colouration; for instance, the traditional markings of the Hereford with the white mane, face, stockings, belly, end of its tail and dewlap, as well as a bit on its ears, and red body (a little lighter than the deep deep red we sometimes see breeders showing), instead of the "red neck" Herefords or those Herefords with more red on their legs and neck than the traditional ones. Same thing for Limousin, Fleckvieh-Simmental, Charolais, Maine-Anjou, Gelbvieh, and other breeds who have "modernized" over the decades.
 
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rightpet

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IluvABbeef":176j534h said:
For the heritage breeds, it would have to be mature size, efficiency under minimal management, milking ability, and appearance. I know you asked for three but these four top the list on what you are asking for.

Speaking of appearance, I think you shouldn't limit it to "breed attractiveness", I think it should be more what the breed looks like in its traditional state and colouration; for instance, the traditional markings of the Hereford with the white mane, face, stockings, belly, end of its tail and dewlap, as well as a bit on its ears, and red body (a little lighter than the deep deep red we sometimes see breeders showing), instead of the "red neck" Herefords or those Herefords with more red on their legs and neck than the traditional ones. Same thing for Limousin, Fleckvieh-Simmental, Charolais, Maine-Anjou, Gelbvieh, and other breeds who have "modernized" over the decades.

Wow, I really appreciate your, and farmwriter's, help. I do have a couple of questions....

Regarding "mature size", are you saying that it might be good to have a rating item like this -

Mature size (does this breed have a low or high mature weight?)

The implication of this seems to be that a high mature weight is always preferable? I did just come across this paper "Beef Cattle Frame Scores" http://www.ag.ndsu.edu/pubs/ansci/beef/as1091w.htm which stated, "Greater mature cow weight is associated with increased frame scores, which results in additional feed required for maintenance because of a larger body mass." Are they saying that at a certain point high weights are not productive, because it takes so much more feed to get there?

Regarding "efficiency", would this be a good way of phrasing it?

Efficiency under minimal management (how well does this breed thrive in a natural, range-based environment?)

And finally, for tolerance to different weather, would this require two different items, one for heat and one for cold?

Tolerance for heat (how well does this breed tolerate extremely hot weather?)
Tolerance for cold (how well does this breed tolerate extremely cold weather?)

Many thanks.
 

IluvABbeef

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rightpet":3b3t5knx said:
IluvABbeef":3b3t5knx said:
For the heritage breeds, it would have to be mature size, efficiency under minimal management, milking ability, and appearance. I know you asked for three but these four top the list on what you are asking for.

Speaking of appearance, I think you shouldn't limit it to "breed attractiveness", I think it should be more what the breed looks like in its traditional state and colouration; for instance, the traditional markings of the Hereford with the white mane, face, stockings, belly, end of its tail and dewlap, as well as a bit on its ears, and red body (a little lighter than the deep deep red we sometimes see breeders showing), instead of the "red neck" Herefords or those Herefords with more red on their legs and neck than the traditional ones. Same thing for Limousin, Fleckvieh-Simmental, Charolais, Maine-Anjou, Gelbvieh, and other breeds who have "modernized" over the decades.

Wow, I really appreciate your, and farmwriter's, help. I do have a couple of questions....

Regarding "mature size", are you saying that it might be good to have a rating item like this -

Mature size (does this breed have a low or high mature weight?)

The implication of this seems to be that a high mature weight is always preferable? I did just come across this paper "Beef Cattle Frame Scores" http://www.ag.ndsu.edu/pubs/ansci/beef/as1091w.htm which stated, "Greater mature cow weight is associated with increased frame scores, which results in additional feed required for maintenance because of a larger body mass." Are they saying that at a certain point high weights are not productive, because it takes so much more feed to get there?

For your first question, the implication of mature size is whether the breed is high or heavy (1700 + lbs) medium or average (1200-1600 lbs) or small (1200 lbs or less). For instance, Charolais have a large mature size, Herefords and Angus are average, and Scottish Highlands are small. For your second question, yes. This is especially true when feed and forage is limited, and feeding large cows is less feasible than feeding medium or small cows. Also, they are also saying that it takes more feed to keep a big cow in condition (adequate fat covering) than it does with small/medium cows.

Regarding "efficiency", would this be a good way of phrasing it? Certainly. You could also add "pasture" with range, in other words saying "...thrive in a natural range/pasture-based environment with little to no supplementation."

Efficiency under minimal management (how well does this breed thrive in a natural, range-based environment?)

And finally, for tolerance to different weather, would this require two different items, one for heat and one for cold? You could, I know I certainly would because, for instance, there are differences to cold tolerance between Galloways and Gelbvieh, and differences in heat tolerance between Brahman and Shorthorn, or Brangus and Limousin. See where I'm going? So yes, I would definately have temperature tolerance in two different items.

Tolerance for heat (how well does this breed tolerate extremely hot weather?)
Tolerance for cold (how well does this breed tolerate extremely cold weather?)

Many thanks.

Your very welcome. :)
 
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rightpet

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talldog":2ypiduqw said:
Fantastic advice from all !!! Great Board !! :banana:

I agree - wonderfully helpful advice. This is obviously the place to come for all things bovine!

One (last?) question. As we are now asking for a breed's "Efficiency under minimal management", I'm thinking that the earlier, item "Easy to keep (how easy is it to keep this animal in top condition, for instance feeding, maintaining a healthy habitat etc.?) is too vague.

Would the opposite to "Efficiency under minimal management" be something like "Efficiency under intensive management"? Maybe it would read -

"Efficiency under intensive management" (how easy is it to keep this animal in a feed lot, under intensive grazing etc.?)
 

IluvABbeef

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rightpet":m18g2rjh said:
talldog":m18g2rjh said:
Fantastic advice from all !!! Great Board !! :banana:

I agree - wonderfully helpful advice. This is obviously the place to come for all things bovine!

One (last?) question. As we are now asking for a breed's "Efficiency under minimal management", I'm thinking that the earlier, item "Easy to keep (how easy is it to keep this animal in top condition, for instance feeding, maintaining a healthy habitat etc.?) is too vague.

Would the opposite to "Efficiency under minimal management" be something like "Efficiency under intensive management"? Maybe it would read -

"Efficiency under intensive management" (how easy is it to keep this animal in a feed lot, under intensive grazing etc.?)

Easy keeping is, essentially, how easy it is for an animal to convert forage/feed to body fat without needing more feed than necessary to keep in condition. It is not too vague, just your definition makes it sound like it is too vague. :) Easy keeping has nothing to do with maintaining a healthy habitat, so I would just leave it as "How easy it is for an animal to convert forage/feed to body fat without needing more feed/roughage than what is ideally necessary."

So, with efficiency under minimal management, it is, by my own definition, how easy it is for a cow or bull to keep in condition on rough forage without added supplementation (esp. grain or protein tubs or alfalfa cubes); for instance, how easy it is for Herefords to keep in condition when they have to find food in the veld in the rougher terrain of South Africa (like KNERSIE's cattle do), or in rangeland in the chaparral in the Southwest of the US. So "efficiency under minimal management" is much different than "efficiency under intensive management." Which makes it, yes, the opposite to "efficiency under maximum [or] intensive management", since the feedlot environment, or the MIG grazing scheme is requiring lots more management than cattle out on the open range.

Don't be afraid to ask questions; they are always welcome on here. :)
 
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rightpet

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I wanted to thank everyone again for their help, and I wanted to let you know that I've gotten this cattle section up and running if anyone cares to wax eloquent (or just rant and rave) about the cattle breeds you've raised/worked with.
http://www.rightpet.com/Livestock-poultry/Cattle

I would welcome suggestions on other breeds to list - we've got about 30 listed now. Brett
 

Jovid

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rightpet":3uk1j9fn said:
I wanted to thank everyone again for their help, and I wanted to let you know that I've gotten this cattle section up and running if anyone cares to wax eloquent (or just rant and rave) about the cattle breeds you've raised/worked with.
http://www.rightpet.com/Livestock-poultry/Cattle

I would welcome suggestions on other breeds to list - we've got about 30 listed now. Brett

You forgot one of the oldest breeds in the US. RED POLL
 
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