Brahman Influence in Florida Beef Production

November, 2013
Ashley Fluke, Livestock/Forage Extension Agent - Osceola County

Commercial cattle producers face many challenges in the state of Florida. Along with a growing population and urban sprawl, regulation and agency pressure, and current input costs there is the issue of producing quality beef in a sub-tropical climate with inferior forages and greater parasite risk. In order to raise cattle that perform well in such circumstances breed selection, and further more genetic selection, are critical. This is why the American Brahman breed is utilized as a staple in Florida commercial herds. Brahman genetics have shown to increase performance in the cow as well as the market calf.

Producers crossbreed cattle for hybrid vigor or the enhancement of any biological quality. By crossbreeding, a cattleman can complement the desirable traits of different breeds. Research as show that hybrid vigor most affects traits related to efficiency. These traits include fertility, calf survival, and longevity. This is why the crossbred Brahman cow performs so well for the Florida producer. The Brahman influence in the brood cow has proven to enhance her performance in the Florida environment and make her an asset to ranchers throughout the southeast. She will wean heavier calves, provide more milk, produce longer, convert forage to energy more efficiently, and perform better than a purebred English cow. Also, a purebred English cow will become stressed at 85 degrees F where a Brahman cow has a much higher stress zone at 105 degrees F (Dr. Todd Thrift, UF/IFAS). Along with cow performance, the Brahman cross market calves adapt to feedlots more rapidly than those without the breed influence. Research has shown Brahman influenced calves gain similar to English type calves in the feedlot. Brahman sired calves have shown to have lower risk for disease and greater parasite resistance when compared to breeds like Angus and Hereford thus making them a less costly animal in the feedlot. Finally, there are marketing options available for ranchers with Brahman herd sires who want to get a profitable return for those market calves with a heavy Brahman influence. There are feedlots who feed virtually only Brahman type calves because they see the benefits every day in the animal’s performance. The Florida Brahman Association has teamed up with such feedlots and puts truck loads together for these calves. This provides the producer with an outlet to make a substantial gain on those steers born with replacement heifers. At the end of the day, cattlemen need to profit from their quality cattle and there are opportunities out there.

There are challenges within the Brahman breed such as udder problems, age of maturity, dystocia with some crossbreeding, and disposition. But what the breed can do for the Florida herd has shown to outweigh its faults. It’s also important to note that disposition is heavily dependent upon handling. The Brahman industry has enhanced their genetic selection substantially over the years and purebred bulls are influential in many Florida herds. The Brahman cross cow has shown to be an efficient, long lasting, and productive animal. The breed is adapted to Florida’s climate and, with proper management, can genetically enhance your herd to be more efficient.

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