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Poor Man's Exotic Beef Cattle Breed
"We've enjoyed articles in past issues of FARM SHOW about exotic breeds of cattle from around the world and thought you might be interested in our `Poor Man's Exotic' beef herd which we created with a breed from right here in our own backyard," says Heather Thomas, Salmon, Idaho, who started breeding Holstein blood into her Angus-Hereford cross herd 20 years ago.
"We tried Holsteins to add more milking ability and a higher rate of gain. In the past Holsteins have been passed by in beef herds primarily because half-Holstein cows give too much milk and need more feed than the average beef cow. They may also have problems rebreeding on schedule if they're not fed well enough. But there's another way to go about it.
"You don't need any half-Holstein females - all you need is a good crossbred bull. This will give you quarter-Holstein calves and that's a much better percentage for a beef herd. Today crossbred bulls are more acceptable - when we began using a half-Holstein bull in the early 1970's, our neighbors thought we were crazy.
"We originally started with Angus 25 years ago and crossed them with Hereford bulls. Hereford-Angus cows produced better than straightbreds but by adding some Holstein to the mix we improved weaning weights even more. Now our mature cows wean off 650 to 750-lb. calves on dry summer range and first calf heifers often wean 500-lb. calves. And we've found that the 3-way cross cows are more fertile than the average beef cow.
"We first bred in Holstein as an experiment with our old family milk cow, called Baby Doll, which had an exceptionally good udder, disposition, conformation, and iongevity - we milked her till she was more than 21 years old. She was solid black except for feet, udder, tail tip and forehead. Her off-spring by our Hereford bull were black with white faces, which made them easier to sell than if they had been spotted.
"Even at 21 years she had a good udder that did not break down or get big teats and she passed on the good udder to her grand-daughters through her sons. We were tired of the big teats on our Angus and Herefords.
"We used one of her first bull calves (by a Hereford bull) on some of our Angus-Hereford cows. Those 3-way calves - 1/2 Hereford, 1/4 Angus, 1/4 Holstein - were outstanding. Big but streamlined at birth, and easily born. Vigorous babies, up and sucking right away, even in cold weather. Some were red white-faced and the rest black white-faced.
"Soon we were breeding all our Hereford-Angus cows to Hereford-Holstein bulls. The heifers were very uniform and feminine, and more fertile than our Angus-Herefords. Quarter Holsteins raise a good calf and rebreed on schedule even when grazing dry rangeland and roughed through the winter on grass hay. She can be treated just like a beef cow, but she's better than any beef cow we ever had because with her hybrid vigor she performs very well for us under conditions where the average beef cow will not. For our situation - a pasture ranch with lots of rough acres where cattle have to do well without any pampering - crossbred cattle are the answer. We didn't have to go anywhere to find our `exotic'. We found it in our backyard."
Contact: FARM SHdW Followup, Heather Thomas, Box 215, Salmon, Idaho 83467 (ph 208 756-2841).

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1990 - Volume #14, Issue #6