COLLEGE STATION — An African cattle breed may have promise for use in U.S. cattle operations, the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station reports.
Preliminary results of a study involving semen from two African breeds indicates that one of them, the Tuli, could improve carcass traits, said Dr. Jim Sanders, a professor of animal science at Texas A&M University and an experiment station researcher.
The experiment looks at offspring of the African breeds and Angus, Hereford or Brahman cows at several locations throughout the country, including three experiment station locations in Texas.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the University of Georgia are also gathering data on progeny resulting from the African semen.
The experiment began in 1991 when semen from Boran and Tuli cattle arrived in the United States from Australia, where the African breeds had been brought through new importation facilities.
Federal government and industry concerns about disease have kept most African breeds out of the United States.
Tuli and Boran are adapted to subtropical and tropical conditions. Researchers hope they can capitalize on that adaptation while improving carcass traits and possibly other production factors, such as age at puberty and calving ease.
Brahmans, an American breed developed from Indian ancestry, are valued for their hardiness in warmer climates. Their crosses with such British breeds as Angus and Hereford are well-known for their cow productivity, but generally they have lower meat quality and are later in reaching puberty than the British breeds, Sanders said.
“The Brahman crosses are the elite cows for much of the world, and certainly for this part of the country,” Sanders said. “Their production is outstanding, and they’re stiff competition for any of the crosses they’ll be compared with.”
In Texas, the Experiment Station in Uvalde bred Angus cows with Tuli, Brahman and Angus semen. At the Overton station, Brahman cows were bred with Tuli, Brahman and Angus semen. Both locations will produce calf crops in all three years of the program.
At the Experiment Station in McGregor, Hereford and Angus cows were bred with Tuli, Brahman and Boran semen in 1991 and 1992, and Brahman cows received Brahman and Boran semen in 1991.
Steers from the 1991 calf crop were slaughtered this summer and evaluated for carcass traits. Sanders said initial results indicate that crosses of Tuli bulls with Hereford or Angus cows produced a slight advantage in marbling and tenderness over the offspring of British cows and Boran or Brahman bulls.
First-generation crossbred heifers are being kept for breeding and further evaluation of productivity.
More data on carcass and production traits will be needed before conclusions can be drawn about the usefulness of Tuli and Boran crosses, Sanders added.
Although none of the carcass-merit results have been reported in written form yet, he said, they seem to correspond to preliminary findings at the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center in Clay Center, Nebraska, where similar work is being done.
Sanders said Tuli crosses are somewhat smaller at all ages than traditional Brahman- British crosses and also have shorter gestation periods. While this could mean some advantages for calving, the Tuli crosses might not be as desirable for use as feeder cattle in many operations, he said.
“It’s a tradeoff. We don’t know yet how good these crossbred females are going to be,” he said. “In order to be competitive with crossbred Brahmans, they’re going to have to be very productive at least until they’re 12 years old.
“We’re optimistic that Tuli crosses may have a place in cattle programs with Brahman- British crosses, but we’ve only got part of the story.”