By Jaime Pullman
When you’re in a challenging environment, in business or just working outside, versatility is the name of the game.
“Brangus cattle are the most versatile breed of cattle in the world as they excel in maternal traits in all environments without sacrificing the end product,” says Tommy Perkins, Ph.D, Executive Vice President of the International Brangus Breeders Association (IBBA), Chief Executive Officer of Genetic Performance Solutions and President of Brangus Productions, Inc. “Being black, and polled, with the ability to consistently produce choice and better carcasses in the packing plant set them apart from other tropical and sub-tropically adapted cattle of the world.”
That versatility in different environments, fertility, and productivity has made Brangus cattle increasingly popular all over the world.
The Brangus breed was developed during the early 1930s, though some crosses were made as early as 1912, when the USDA and several independent individuals across the US began an experimental breeding program attempting to combine the valuable traits of Brahman and Angus cattle. The Bos Indicus Brahman, originally from India, evolved in an environment of extreme temperatures, limited feed sources, and frequent exposure to disease and parasites. Those challenging conditions produced a hardy breed that is particularly resistant to high temperatures. The breed is also resistant to several heat-related health problems and parasites. Experimental breeding combined Brahman genetics with the Bos Taurus genetics of the Angus from Scotland, known for their maternal characteristics, calving ease, fertility, feed efficiency, and high-quality carcass traits. The breeders determined that the best mix of genetics for the cross was 3/8 Brahman and 5/8 Angus. American Brangus Breeders Association, later renamed the International Brangus Breeders Association, was formed in 1949.
This American-born breed has made a big impact on the beef industry. Several research studies have shown that the Brahman influence improves weight gain in warmer climates, compared to Angus genetics alone. But the Brangus is able to do well in more temperate and cooler climates as well, since they grow a winter coat. This versatility, along with quality genetics and leadership, is helping Brangus producers to lead the way in modern beef production.
“The International Brangus Breeders Association (IBBA) was the first breed in the United States to release a full suite of genomic enhanced EPDs (GE-EPDs) that were calculated using the now popular, single step procedures. IBBA currently produces GE-EPDs for more than 25,000 Brangus®, Red BrangusTM, Ultrared, and Ultrablack® animals that have either high- or low-density genomic profiles in the database,” says Dr. Perkins, who also serves on the Beef Improvement Federations (BIF) Board of Directors, has a doctorate in animal breeding, and served as a professor for almost twenty years for Missouri State University and Texas State University.
The IBBA has also recently released a new set of EPDs that help commercial producers measure the impact of fertility and long-term cow productivity (stayability). These new EPDs include Heifer Pregnancy, Stayability, and Mature Cow Weight.
“Although Brangus cattle have always excelled in fertility traits, the newly released EPDs offer commercial cow/calf producers additional tools to improve upon past successes in reproductive performance,” says Dr. Perkins.
According to Dr. Perkins, Stayability EPDs are a measure of reproductive longevity which focuses on improvements in weaned calf weights and reduced heifer replacement percentages in the herd. Stayability is an indicator that a cow will stay in production until she is six years old, although it is also impacted by culling rates based on disposition, feet and leg soundness, udder quality or others. Heifer Pregnancy EPDs are a measure of a young female’s ability to calve successfully as a two year old. Mature Cow Weight EPDs allow producers to select for fast early growth (weaning weights) while putting a cap on the final mature weight of the cow herself.
“All three new EPDs, along with other indicator traits like weaning weight and body condition score, were included in the newly released Fertility Index provided by IBBA. Cattle producers will now be able to balance a multitude of economically important traits all wrapped up in one selection index,” explains Dr. Perkins. In addition, the IBBA, “just released a Terminal Index to aid producers in improving traits at the end of the life cycle. This index uses weaning weight, yearling weights and ultrasound measures of body composition to indicate an animal’s calves’ value as a feedlot calf that will be harvested.”
This unique collection of tools allow Brangus breeders to take advantage of Brahman genetics while maintaining maternal attributes and carcass end points. Cattle that are matched to their environment have a better chance of performing well whether they’re in the pasture or the feedyard.
Finally, the IBBA is leading the way as one of the three US beef breeds that requires Total Herd Reporting (THR).
“The THR system is designed to improve the collection of performance information on all active animals in the breed and to equally spread the costs of promoting the breed across all active animals in the breed. Rather than the traditional calf-based registration fee structure that discourages the reporting of complete contemporary group information, THR uses an inventory-based fee structure or annual assessment charged on all reproductively mature animals,” says Dr. Perkins.
These programs work for Brangus producers and exemplify the breed’s versatility. The ability to adapt and excel in many different situations and functions—that’s the Brangus way.
Color: Black or Red, polled. Skin is pigmented. Brahman influence is displayed with medium to large ears, slightly loose skin with folds about the neck, and a moderate hump at the neck in bulls.
History and Ancestry: The Brangus breed was created to take advantage of high quality traits of Angus, Bos taurus, and Brahman, Bos indicus, cattle. During the early 1930s experimental breeding crosses of the Angus and Brahman was conducted at the USDA Experiment Station in Jeanerette, Louisiana. Around the same time, individual breeders in other parts of the US and Canada also took part in these experimental breeding programs. The goal was to create a beef animal that would retain the Brahman’s natural disease resistance and ability to thrive under adverse conditions as well as the carcass quality maternal characteristics of the Angus.
The American Brangus Breeders Association was formed in 1949, later renamed the International Brangus Breeders Association, or IBBA. Originally located in Kansas City, Missouri, the headquarters were moved to San Antonio, Texas, in 1973. The IBBA has members in nearly all US states, and countries including Canada, Mexico, Australia, Central America, South America and South Africa. The International Red Brangus Breeders Association (IRBBA) was formed in 1991. The IRBBA, located in Katy, Texas, became a regional affiliate association of the IBBA in 2005 and the two organizations work together to advance the quality and interests of Brangus, black or red.
Breed characteristics: Brangus cattle are known for maternal ability, forage and feed efficiency, heat tolerance, hardiness, and resistance to ticks and bloat. Though they are noted for resilience in heat and humidity, but also for performing in cool and cold conditions and managing well in times of stress, particularly when forage is limited.
Registry organizations: Brangus registered with the IBBA must be 3/8 Brahman and 5/8 registered Angus, solid black or red and polled. Both sire and dam must be recorded with the organization and foundation Angus and Brahman cattle must be registered in their respective breed association prior to being enrolled with the IBBA. Intermediate crosses necessary to reach the 3/8 – 5/8 percentage are certified by the IBBA.
Quality and yield: Roughly seventy percent Yield Grade 1 and 2s and approximately 50 percent grade USDA Choice or better.
Weights: Average birth weight for Brangus is between 75 and 80lbs, and weaning weight may average between 460 and 520 lbs. Mature Brangus bulls weigh between 1,800 and 2000 lbs, typically, while mature females weigh between 1,100 and 1,200 lbs.
For more information: Contact the IBBA by calling 210-696-8231 or visiting gobrangus.com, or the IRBBA at redbrangus.org.