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  #1  
Old 10/27/12, 08:30 AM
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Thoughts on cross-breeding

While I'm a fan of reinventing the wheel sometimes, I've often wondered why some are for or against it.

When you think about breeding a jersey to an angus or a hereford to a simmental the outcome can be totally different depending on the situation that suits you and what outcome you're looking to achieve.

30 years ago, my grandma milked a fullblood jersey. Then, when breeding time came, she used the neighbor's hereford bull. That cow had a heifer so she was milking a 50/50 cross in a couple years. That 50/50 cross was bred to another neighbor's angus bull. She threw a heifer so grandma was eventually milking a 25/75 cross. Through the years I seen her continually use whatever neighbor's bull was available. She had a huge family with over 40 grandkids to supply milk to so it wasn't uncommon for her to be milking 4-5 cows per day. It was just something she enjoyed and was her place in life.

Over the years, with all the continual crossbreeding to beef bulls, she was eventually milking a cow that was a very small percentage jersey. One of the best milk cows she had was an angus with lots of cream and good teats to handmilk. That being said, my grandma never had option to select semen for AI purposes from sires that had proven birthweights or weining weights. She just used whatever was available. Her cows were fed well from the garden leftovers and whatever hay she could muster up from neighbors and friends. It worked for her. No matter what heifer hit the ground, it got milked!

Now..........that being said, with today's questions being raised of "Would you breed this heifer to this bull?" it depends on your personal situation. I do know that two people can both own a jersey cow and have access to the neighbor's angus bull. We can both breed them and have completely different outcomes. I may get a scrawny heifer that never has a chance at being a decent milker and won't hold good body condition and you might get one that holds body condition well while giving five gallons a day. That's just the way it works. No amount of research or genetic pooling can guarantee the outcome of the finished product. It's all for lack of better words, " a roll of the dice" to me.

I've read some comments here on HT where one poster will say, "there's no way I would breed that heifer to that bull" while others will say, " that would be my cross of choice." It's all a matter of choice and a game of chance.

With all the programs like the Jersey Association has going on to increase breed numbers, there's not that likely a chance to get 100% anything IMHO.

So............now that I've vented my concerns about crossbreeding...............If you own a heifer and have access to the neighbor's bull for breeding.............Do whatever is easiest, most convenient, most economical, and most importantly, has the greatest chance of giving you the outcome you're interested in.

I am, however, NOT giving ANYONE the advice to breed a first time heifer to a beef bull (or Holstein) unless it's a longhorn or something that is positively known to have low birthweight. I'm just saying do whatever you need to do to get a cow fresh. She's not gonna give milk unless she has a calf so get her bred. If your future intentions are to have a whole string of milkers, breed her to a milk bull. If you want to milk her and provide beef for the freezer, breed her to a beefer.

Just my two cents here, but always remember that no matter what advice you're given on the "do's" or "don'ts" of crossbreeding, it's all just advice given based upon MY or HIS experiences. Your outcome could turn into disaster or turn out to be heavenly.

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Old 10/27/12, 09:18 AM
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I fully understand crossbreeding to the neighbors bull in order to get a cow fresh.
Like you say, people have been doing that for a long time.
It is the easiest way to keep milking, and sometimes the only feasible options.

My strong opinion is about hurting little bitty cows by mating them to behemoth bulls out of ignorance.
I have seen the consequences of ACCIDENTAL crossbreeding, let alone on purpose.
It takes a great deal of time and resources to get a heifer up to breeding age.
If makes no sense * TO ME* to jeopardize your investment like that.

I guess that is why when I see people rationalizing their crossbreeding efforts as some 'improvement' over traditional breeds,
it pushes a button for me.
When I hear someone idealize the potential cross, I question their knowledge of how genetics work.

By all means, they are your animals and you absolutely get to make your own decisions.
However, if you ask the forum *at large* "WWYD?" dont be surprised to read others disagree w/ you.
Farmers are opinionated like that.

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Old 10/27/12, 10:48 AM
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Originally Posted by gone-a-milkin View Post
I fully understand crossbreeding to the neighbors bull in order to get a cow fresh.
Like you say, people have been doing that for a long time.
It is the easiest way to keep milking, and sometimes the only feasible options.

My strong opinion is about hurting little bitty cows by mating them to behemoth bulls out of ignorance.
I have seen the consequences of ACCIDENTAL crossbreeding, let alone on purpose.
It takes a great deal of time and resources to get a heifer up to breeding age.
If makes no sense * TO ME* to jeopardize your investment like that.

I guess that is why when I see people rationalizing their crossbreeding efforts as some 'improvement' over traditional breeds,
it pushes a button for me.
When I hear someone idealize the potential cross, I question their knowledge of how genetics work.

By all means, they are your animals and you absolutely get to make your own decisions.
However, if you ask the forum *at large* "WWYD?" dont be surprised to read others disagree w/ you.
Farmers are opinionated like that.
Well said. My thoughts exactly.
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Old 10/27/12, 10:57 AM
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Crossbreeding is fine for its purposes, but we need the purebred breeders too. Without those pure lines with their predictable genetics, the crossbreeding doesn't work.

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Old 10/29/12, 09:16 AM
 
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As you said, it just comes down to what you want to accomplish. Breeding goals range from freshening a cow to improving a purebred animal to any variety of other results. It is important to look at what your specific goals are in your breeding program.

If you want to create a purebred animal, you are limited to that specific breed. Depending on your goals, you can do research within that breed to find the best mating. You may mate animals together based on EPDs and other selection criteria. Or you may use the neighbors purebred bull, if that meets your breeding goals. Generally the results are somewhat predictable - or maybe more predictable than cross breeding.

If your goal is more performance based and keeping a purebred animal is not a goal, then you may want to consider other breeds. There are many benefits to cross bred animals. Obviously the results are less predictable than purebred animals, since there is greater genetic variety. You are still mating two individuals together, and not two complete breeds.

Why would it matter if you are breeding by AI or natural service? You just have different options to accomplish your goals. You have access to a different group of sires. If you are going to do natural service with the neighbors bull, you are limited to what your neighbor picks. If you are going to AI, you can pick about any breed and in general some of the best sires in those breeds. I use AI mostly just because it is economical. I can't keep a bull in a pasture for what I can store semen and the little bit of supplies I need. I can run about 2 more cows for what I can keep a bull for. At today's prices those two calves at weaning are worth a little over $1200. It cost me less than $500 to AI my 4 cows. It works for me.

So, what is your goal in your breeding program? You can't really determine if a breeding plan is sound or not unless you know what the goal or goals of that breeding plan are.

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Old 10/29/12, 10:37 AM
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Francis as you know i have a jersey herd and have bought a Guernsey bull and am buying a milking shorthorn /jersey cross bull also.....I want to be able to sale the bull claves for something more than 50 cents a pound...and since the jersey heifers are not bring that much it just makes sense to crossbred with something also I want a herd of cows that I DO NOT have to worry about milk fever as much as I get older....


thats what my goals are not trying to re invent the wheel just want to get a better price for calves and stop milk fever....I have thought of buying cows when i need one and breeding everything to a angus and sell everything ..that would make more money but I like raising my own

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Old 10/29/12, 04:07 PM
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Well, Myersfarm took the words out of my mouth.

I was going to talk about milk fever in the straight dairy cows. Seems I read somewhere on the internet (which might not be the fact) that 51% of the dairy cows have milk fever? They are SO SPECIALIZED to give lots of milk that it often throws their systems out of whack.

I love those Jerseys, but they are like a hot house flower when it comes to calving. Now, the Holstein people have been crossing the Jerseys into their herds. They gain hybrid vigor, and I'm sure the feet and legs hold up better. Somehow bad feet crept into the Holstein gene pool. Now I see them crossing over with Brown Swiss and Guernsey.

I expect a lot more Guernsey crosses once the public discovers the information about A2A2.

I've heard a lot of good things about Angus/Jersey cows. Lots of milk and cream, not so much concern about the milk fever and ketosis issues, and if you breed her to a beef bull, that calf is pretty beefy.

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Old 10/29/12, 06:15 PM
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I too like dairy beef crosses as well as dairy crosses of two different breeds. I was simply stating that you never know what you're gonna get until you see the outcome.

I have had several good crosses that were "genetically superior" while I've had several crosses that were "genetically inferior". You never know which one you're gonna get until you go for it!

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Old 10/29/12, 08:00 PM
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It's always a crap shoot, sometimes you get a GREAT cow out of a scrub that you can't figure out why you raised her calf and then you can breed your best cow to a great bull and get a scrub. We have cross bred a few jerseys into the herd over the years. Had some that milked like a jersey with components like a holstien and then we had "Dancer" she would knock out 24-25K of 5.4% milk on a grass based diet.

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Old 10/29/12, 08:18 PM
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Originally Posted by myersfarm View Post
Francis as you know i have a jersey herd and have bought a Guernsey bull and am buying a milking shorthorn /jersey cross bull also.....I want to be able to sale the bull claves for something more than 50 cents a pound...and since the jersey heifers are not bring that much it just makes sense to crossbred with something also I want a herd of cows that I DO NOT have to worry about milk fever as much as I get older....


thats what my goals are not trying to re invent the wheel just want to get a better price for calves and stop milk fever....I have thought of buying cows when i need one and breeding everything to a angus and sell everything ..that would make more money but I like raising my own
Myers,
I bought some MS bulls about 5 years ago now and ended up keeping one for a herd bull to breed the jerseys. He also covered some of my beef cows and so far the outcrop has been good. The replacement heifers that I kept out of him are 50/50 angus(or some black beef breed)/MS. They are not as meaty as the beefers but they raised good calves last year that topped the market and on grass alone. With the drought hitting me so hard last year I sold almost completely out of everything except those that do well on grass alone. So far, to date, I've only kept out free choice minerals, grass hay, and a protein block for them. They are doing well. It still remains to be seen how these cows and their offspring will do in the long haul of a no grain diet.
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Old 10/30/12, 03:31 PM
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My ansesters did the same useing the neabours bull being the only option but thete were not any of those huge semital or charliaes around a angus was prefered but the herfords were usally avialable .in my grand parents time they wee of a differint frame of mind and most prefered to have a betterbred milk cow and if someone nearby had a gernsy or jerirsy bull they would lead her to him if they could but having no other choice the neabours beef bull had to do so the chance was taken or no milk next spring for the family if granny had a better option I'm sure she would take it milking and feeding two or three cows is a lot easyer than milking five or six they had more of a do or die attitude .nowadays with AI more available and good small birth weight bulls around taking a chance crossing a good expencive jersey with a huge boned senital is just silly .unless your in a do or die situation. When the big semitals first started coming into this area crossing on angus herfords or home milkcows caused many to have to pull calfs and the loss of some now the beef buyers don't even pay as much for these slow matureing cattle because of the huge bone to meat ratio .sure a jersey can often have a huge calf for her size but its a big chance to take

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Old 10/30/12, 09:27 PM
 
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And then there's the lady who called me about AI breeding her 2 - a Jersey cow and a Dexter X Corriente heifer. She wants them bred on the same day, so they'll calve on the same day, and she can put both calves on the heifer to raise, because Dexters make enough milk to raise two calves...

How many ways can this plan go astray? But she didn't want to hear anything like that. She's got it all figured out.

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Old 10/30/12, 09:53 PM
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I'm not sold on crossbreds.

When I was a tester, I tested a herd that had a lot of Holstein/Jersey crosses in it. My perception was that you end up with a cow that has Jersey production combined with Holstein fat and protein.

The cows tend to be on the smaller side (which may be advantageous if you're using an older facility/parlor, or simply feel comfortable working with smaller stock) and have the Jersey build. Sometimes this cross results in pretty spotted cows, which may be appealing to a homesteader. (I liked 'em.)

I have a heifer here who is the daughter of my Holstein cow and an Angus bull. She is Holstein-sized with Angus coloring and a stockier frame. I've never bred her, but suspect she would make a fine family cow. For the homesteader who wants a dual-purpose (meat and milk) combination, that might be something to consider.

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Old 10/30/12, 10:00 PM
 
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It may be a roll of the dice to breed a Jersey to an angus, but it is most likely that the outcome will be somewhere between the two extremes.

Most likely the crossbred heifer will milk less than a Jersey and more than an angus. And most likely will have less problems with milk fever than a Jersey. And most likely will have better handles than a Jersey. And most likely will have a beefier calf than a Jersey.

Ideally, someone young would start a new breed out of the crossbreds. Have alot of acreage so could have alot of animals from which to select the best. Then line breed them so that people like me could have a consistent quality dual purpose animal to have.

Or just start selecting Jerseys that are less milky and more beefy, or angus/herefords that are more milky and less beefy.

Until then, guess I'm stuck with the crossbreds.

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Old 10/30/12, 11:22 PM
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at one time back in Kansas we were given two old Recip cows from a friend that had a big Angus ranch, these two old cows were what he used to cary the flushed embryos form his pure Angus cows, the were half Holstine half angus, they were HUGE, their bags were pretty big but they had never been milked and i wasnt about to teach the big girls to be milk cows at this time in their life, we ran them in the pasture next to our property with the old beef ranchers stock as payment for useing our electricity, they produced some of the biggest nicest calfs off his angus bull that went in our freezer, wish we still had them down here in Alabama,

i was thinking a bit off kilter maybe about added butter fat from a beef cross, at went to an extream as i am prone to do, say you had a Holstine milk cow and the ONLY bull you had access too was a long horn, the resulting heifer would be a rather enteresting home milker, has anyone seen or done this? surely i am not compleatly crazy for day dreaming like this, (if i am thats ok too lol)

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Old 10/31/12, 12:33 AM
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I bought a string of jersey heifers one time that I was told were bred to jersey bulls. As it turned out, it wasn't a jersey bull at all. They were all bred to a longhorn bull. The calves were the scrawniest, gangliest, slowest growers I ever raised. They hit the bottom of the market price as well. I kept one heifer to see if she'd make any milk. Her milk production was not good but she kept good condition.

That being said, this goes back to my original thoughts on crossbreeding. If I'd kept another one of the heifers she might have been the heaviest producer in the barn. You never know what you might get.

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Old 10/31/12, 11:04 PM
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hmmmm that is something to think about, i am not a purist by any way shape or form, but i know the value of pure stock, it was just something i was day dreaming about, i wonder if you used a better Longhorn bull? i know they are not going to be beefy at all, but its just a harmless day dream, besides just because you cross one breeding doesnt mean you cant breed pure or even a differint cross the next, and worse case senario you have meat for your freezer or dog food,

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Old 10/31/12, 11:14 PM
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I have a lot of harmless daydreams regarding livestock too.
However, I admit that a "better Longhorn bull" never plays into mine.
I do enjoy their colorful hides and pointy headgear, dont get me wrong.
I am just not seeing how a Jersey/LH cross is EVER going to be the highest producer in the barn.
But maybe it would. LOL

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Old 10/31/12, 11:24 PM
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lol no i would never expect it to be the highest anything, more of a novelty curiosity herd member if nothing else lol, but i was just thinking it shouldnt have been as low a producer just guessing from what i have seen of angus dairy crosses, granted the angus crosses i have delt with personally were Holstine Angus and i never was able to milk them, if you put a Longhorn over a Holstine would be my "purely for scientifical porposes only" cross, lol

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Old 10/31/12, 11:31 PM
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KSALguy,

Which way would you do that scientifical cross?
Holstien bull over LH cow, or the other way around?

Just thinking of the logistics is all.

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