Comparing Calf Production from Brangus and Bonsmara Cows

Linda Benedict  |  9/9/2014 4:16:17 AM

Bonsmara heifers. Photo by Wayne Wyatt

Wayne E. Wyatt and David C. Blouin

Because Brahman cattle have been associated with poor temperament and meat quality, researchers have been looking at crosses involving the tropically adapted Brahman breed and comparing them to crosses involving another tropically adapted breed, Africaner. Brangus is an American breed that is 3/8 Brahman and 5/8 Angus, and Bonsmara is a South African breed that is 5/8 Afrikaner and 3/8 Hereford and Shorthorn. This study examined cow-calf productivity of both Brangus and Bonsmara cows.

A total of 30 Brangus and 30 Bonsmara cows born in 2005, 2006 and 2007 were used in the study to examine cow herd performance. Each breed was divided into two herds to accommodate a statistical analysis of herd data for the 2010 and 2011 calf crops.

At weaning when calves were removed from the cows, 5-year-old Brangus and Bonsmara cows weighed almost the same. The cows weighed a little more than 1,200 pounds each and had similar acceptable body condition scores (a subjective measure of body “fatness”). They were also similar in terms of pregnancy rate (95 percent for Brangus and 92 percent for Bonsmara), live-calf delivery rate (91 percent for Brangus and 89 percent for Bonsmara) and live calf weaning rate (83 percent for Brangus and 78 percent for Bonsmara). Average calving date was February 25 for Brangus and March 2 for Bonsmara. Bonsmara calves weighed 7 pounds more at birth than their Brangus counterparts. Average daily weight gain from birth to weaning was greater for Bonsmara than for Brangus calves. These trait differences remained during the preweaning phase, and Bonsmara calves were 3 percent heavier at weaning than their Brangus counterparts.

Despite the greater preweaning and weaning performance of Bonsmara compared to Brangus calves, the ratios of calf weights to their dam’s weight at weaning were the same, indicating a similar efficiency between the two breeds. These ratios were multiplied by weaning rates to obtain estimates of herd efficiency, which were again similar.

Wayne E. Wyatt is a professor at the Iberia Research Station, Jeanerette, La., and David C. Blouin is a professor in the Department of Experimental Statistics.

This article was published in the summer 2014 issue of Louisiana Agriculture Magazine.

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