Thomas D. Bidner, Wayne E. Wyatt, Paul E. Humes and Donald E. Franke
Brahman-composite breeds were developed from Brahman-crossbred cattle. The Santa Gertrudis, Brangus and Beefmaster breeds were among the first Brahman-composite breeds, all Britishbased, developed in the United States. When the Continental European breeds of cattle came to this country in the 1960s, they too were crossed with Brahman for commercial calf production in the Southeast. Development of Brahman-composite breeds from these crosses followed along the lines of development of the Brangus. Most of the Brahman-composites were developed to contain 5/8 of the Continental or British breed and 3/8 of the Brahman breed. The 3/8 Brahman composition gives some tolerance to the heat and humidity of the Southeast and some ability to withstand various insects and parasites. In addition, a 5/8-3/8 breed composite retains about half the heterosis (hybrid vigor) expected in the first cross.
One of the advantages of composite breeds is that they can be mated inter-se, or like to like, and reproduce their own kind with the same breed composition generation after generation. Thus, replacements are produced within the system, as in purebred cattle. This is especially important for producers with cow herds not exceeding 100 animals.
Research has consistently shown that Brahman and Brahman-cross cattle have less tender meat than do British and Continental breeds. Only limited data are available on the carcass and palatability traits of the Brahman-composite breeds, however. Because the Certified Angus Beef Program has set the standard for the beef industry, we compared steers sired by the Brahman-composite breeds to Angus in this study. The project was initiated at the Idlewild Research Station near Clinton and compared several of the more popular Brahman-composite breeds to each other and to Angus. The steer calves were finished at the Iberia Research Station feedlot along with a similar group of Angus steers. All were slaughtered at the LSU Agricultural Center Meats Laboratory.
Five calf crops
Groups of British-based composite breeds (Brangus and Beefmaster) and Continental-based composite breeds (Gelbray and Simbrah) females were assembled at the Idlewild Research Station before the 1987 breeding season. Females in these breeds consisted of yearling heifers and young cows, mostly donated by breeders from Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. Brahman x Hereford first-cross females were purchased from a Mississippi producer. Cows in this study produced five calf crops, starting in 1988. Some of the composite heifers born in the early years of the study were developed for replacements and also produced purebred calves in the last two years of the study.
Brangus, Beefmaster, Gelbray and Simbrah sires were mated to cows of their breed and to Brahman x Hereford first-cross cows, but they were not mated to other Brahman composite cow breeds. For example, Brangus bulls were mated to Brangus and to Brahman x Hereford cows, but not to Beefmaster, Gelbray or Simbrah cows. Brahman x Hereford cows were reassigned randomly each year to the composite sire breeds so they would have a chance to produce calves from several sire breeds.
Artificial insemination was used in the first 60 days of the breeding season, followed with natural matings. Sires used for artificial insemination were some of the more prominent sires within each of the composite breeds at the time of the study. During the five-year period, 210 steers were available.
After the stocker growing period on ryegrass pasture, the steers were transported to the Iberia Research Station and placed on a high concentrate ration. Steers were weighed and evaluated for fat cover over the 13th rib every 28 days. After at least 84 days on feed, steers attaining 0.4 inch of backfat were weighed and transported to Baton Rouge for slaughter.
After carcasses spent three days in a cooler, data were collected. Upon completion of the grading procedure, a 1-inch steak from the 12th rib was vacuum-packaged and frozen. After 10 days of aging, two more 1-inch steaks were removed and frozen for future sensory panel and tenderness analysis. The sensory panel included eight to 12 trained panel members who rated the steaks for juiciness and tenderness. An Instron instrument was used to determine shear force of the steaks, which is a measure of tenderness.
Both the Brahman-composite breeds and Angus had significant influence on beef carcass quality traits. When the Angus steers were compared to the Brahman-composite steers, the Angus steers had lighter carcass weights, more youthful, or less mature carcasses and a higher final quality grade. Because all steers were fed to the same fatness endpoint (0.4 inch), these data indicate that the Angus steers matured earlier.
Even though Angus steers had a higher quality grade when compared to all the Brahman-composite carcasses, the average quality grade for all the steer types was USDA Select. The quality grade is a combination of factors that predict palatability (tenderness, juiciness and flavor) of beef.
When the British-based composite breeds were compared to the Continental- based composite breeds, the Britishbased breeds had lighter carcass weights and more youthful carcasses. This was expected because Angus, Herefords and Shorthorns have a smaller mature size than Gelbvieh and Simmental. When Brangus steers were compared to Beefmaster steers, Brangus had a higher quality grade than Beefmaster.
The Angus steers had smaller ribeye areas than all the other steers but larger ribeyes when this trait was divided by the hot carcass weight. Thus, the Angus steers had smaller actual ribeye muscle but larger ribeye muscle expressed on a weight basis. The ribeye area is an indicator of total carcass muscle.
The Continental-based composite breeds had larger ribeye muscles when expressed either as actual ribeye or on a ribeye per unit weight basis compared to the British-based composite breeds. The Continental-based composite breeds also had a superior yield grade compared to the British-based composite breeds. A lower yield grade indicates more meat. This finding was expected because Gelbvieh and Simmental are more heavily muscled breeds of cattle than Angus, Herefords and Shorthorns.
All the steaks were similar in tenderness with three days of aging, but at 10 days of aging, the steaks from Angus steers were more tender as indicated by sensory panel ratings and the Instron shear data compared to the steaks from Brahman-composite sired steers. Steaks from the Angus were the most tender at 10 days of aging. These steaks aged (became more tender) more rapidly than did the steaks from the Brahmancomposite breeds. Steaks sold in supermarkets normally have been aged seven to 14 days. This suggests that steaks from Brahman-composite steers age more slowly than Angus steaks, and it would take longer than 10 days of aging to tenderize these steaks. All the steaks were similar in juiciness.
(This article was published in the winter 2000 issue of Louisiana Agriculture.)