Since 1975 one Texas family’s been hooked on this ancient breed
By Jaime Pullman
For Stacey Ferguson, Pinzgauer cattle are a family affair.
“I was six years-old when my dad brought his first Pinzgauer cattle purchase home to Pyramid Ranch in 1975 and I immediately fell in love with their curious nature and those white tails. My dad’s Pinzgauer cow-calf operation has been growing strong for over 40 years now at his ranch in Anna, Texas.”
Ferguson, who lives in Spring, Texas, is Secretary for the American Pinzgauer Association and serves on several committees for the beef breed. Their unique color pattern, dark red color and white topline and tail, make them pleasing to the eye. But their performance is what has made people like Ferguson and her dad fall in love.
“He has invested lots of time and love in his cattle, preferring to raise only Pinzgauers all these years because of their gentle nature and efficiency,” she shares. “It is a great feeling to know my dad’s love for this breed carries on not only in me, but my daughter as well. Shelby is now a Sophomore at Texas A&M University, but in 2013 received her first Pinzgauer heifer from my dad’s ranch. We showed that heifer all over the state of Texas at jackpot shows, county shows, Rodeo Austin and at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. We also traveled with her to the Pinzgauer National Show in Sedalia, Missouri. My daughter’s most recent heifer, out of that dam from my dad’s ranch, won Grand Champion Pinzgauer Female at the National show this past August. That heifer just had a beautiful heifer calf that will travel to the National show in August, hopefully following in her mother’s footsteps.”
Pinzgauer cattle originated in the Alps of Austria around 500 AD, where they were selectively bred from the native Bavarian cattle to be a dual-purpose breed. They are still considered dual purpose in Europe today, but have been bred predominantly for beef in the United States. The first Pinzgauer arrived in North America in the 1970s. From the rocky mountainsides to lowland pastures, the Pinzgauer ancestors developed hardiness and adaptability to hot or cold climates, characteristics that still define the breed today.
Despite the age of the breed, Pinzgauers are one of the lesser-known breeds in this country. Because of the similarities in color patterns, Pinzgauers are even sometimes mistaken to be—or related to—Longhorn cattle.
“Pinzgauer cattle have been around for hundreds of years, yet I continually run into people that have never heard of them,” claims Ferguson.
The cattle are regarded for their docility and disease resistance. They provide above average fertility, have skin and hair attributes that prevent sun or insect related problems, and few eye issues. The Pinzgauer is a Continental breed that provides an opportunity for adding heterosis. Efficiency, early maturity, and maternal ability also set Pinzgauer apart, as does longevity. It is not uncommon for females to produce calves well into their teens.
The breed performs on the plate as well. International research has shown Pinzgauer beef excels in marbling, flavor and tenderness. Research done at the USDA Meat Animal Research Center in Clay Center, Nebraska also showed that Pinzgauer-influenced steers topped other breeds in tenderness, with a shear force value of 4.47 kg. Angus ran a close second at 4.5 kg and other breeds were over 5.0 kg.
Pinzgauer have been bred for tenderness and have the DNA tests to prove it, with a GeneStar rating of two stars or better for more than 84.8% of the Pinzgauers tested. In addition, Ferguson reports that Pinzgauer beef retains its tenderness without the use of artificial chemical processes because of a unique enzyme make-up they possess along with a hereditary tenderness gene.
“Their beef is lean and well-marbled with a minimum amount of external fat,” Ferguson explains. “It is one of the most tender you will find.”
“Pinzgauer steers are also known for their feed efficiency with above average daily gains and hanging carcass weights that often exceed 60 percent,” Ferguson adds. “Pinzgauers also work well in commercial herds. When crossed with American, British and other Continental breeds, you will see higher weaning and yearling weights, feed efficiency, tenderness, calving ease, improved milk production, earlier slaughter weights, improved fertility and higher carcass weights. They produce fast gaining market animals and excellent replacement heifers.”
As a smaller association, the APA is working hard to provide more genetic information to producers to assist with selection decisions as the breed interest grows and now provides more EPD information than ever before.
“If fertility, calving ease, longevity, docility, heterosis, tenderness, carcass quality and performance in the feedlot are what you are looking for in your operation, then I would recommend Pinzgauer cattle,” Ferguson suggests. “One of the most important economic factors in any breeding program is fertility and Pinzgauer females are some of the best producing females around. They continually prove themselves year after year with each calf that hits the ground. If you are looking for bulls to get the job done right the first time or steers to fatten on less feed, or beef that is juicy and tender, Pinzgauer cattle are for you.”
Ferguson is proud of her family’s place with the Pinzgauer. She, her dad and daughter Shelby are passionate about these cattle.
Color: Dark red or black with a wide white stripe running the length of the back, as well as white markings on the tail, chest, udder, and abdomen. They may be horned or polled and have pigmented skin.
Origins: The Pinzgauer ancestors come from the Austrian Alps where Alpine herdsmen began the development of the red and white breed around 500 AD. Over generations the cattle became larger than their native red ancestors, and were brown and spotted. The color pattern of modern Pinzgauer came years later. Their name comes from the Pinzgau region of Salzburg, Austria, and is formally recognized in documents from the 1600s. Selective breeding is noted in Herd books from the 1700s. Records also show the cattle were being exported to surrounding countries as early as the 1820s.
History: The first Pinzgauer cattle arrived in North American in 1972, to Canada. The fullblood Austrian cattle came to the United States two years later. Since then live animals, embryos, and semen have been used to create the fullblood and purebred herds now found around the country. The American Pinzgauer Association allows producers to breed up to Purebred Pinzgauer (7/8 for females and 15/16 for bulls) utilizing Pinzgauer bulls and commercial cows.
Breed Characteristics: Pinzgauer cattle are known for their moderate size, fertility, longevity, feed efficiency, above average weaning weights due to milk and maternal qualities, easy calving, and quiet temperament. They are noted for being adaptable to different climates, for having skin that prevents insect problems and for rarely having eye issues.
National Organization: American Pinzgauer Association, located in Kingsville, Texas.
Quality and Yield: USDA MARC studies show that Pinzgauer-influenced steers average over 61% Choice, more than 69% Retail Product, and have a Ribeye Area of 11.28 sq in.
Birth and Weaning Weight: Adult bulls average between 2,000 and 2,600 pounds. Females average around 1,300 to 1,600 pounds and routinely wean 600 to 800 pound calves due to milk that is high in butterfat. Birth weights average 70 to 80 pounds.
For more information: Visit the American Pinzgauer Association online at www.pinzgauers.org or call them at 361-296-5093.