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Braunvieh Cross Breeding

Braunvieh Cross Breeding

Ideal crosses for the feedlot - Chris Jooste

More than a decade ago this farmer stopped stud breeding and started with a cross breeding program which concentrated on feedlot production and that was when he started breeding the ideal cross – hardy animals with superior meat and milk characteristics.

In a cross breeding program using Brahman, Braunvieh and Charolais bulls in a specific sequence, Mr Bruce Hunt of the farm Vaalboschputs, close to Warrenton, is of the opinion that he now has the best recipe for breeding the ideal crossanimal.

With these bulls and a standardized herd of breeding cows he can deliver calves that the feedlot requires. He has the experience because, apart from being a farmer, he is also the stock buyer for more than one feedlot. When Hunt in 1992 swapped stud breeding for a commercial beef farming enterprise, his aim was to breed hardy animals that could survive droughts, with sound hoofs, good meat characteristics and enough milk to raise their calves. In order to ensure sound meat characteristics, he required a good dual purpose and hardy breed. His breeding program initially consisted of putting Dutch Friesland bulls that are considered to be outstanding dualpurpose animals, to Brahman cows. He then used Brahman bulls on the cross heifers, which gave crosses made up of 75% Brahman and 25% Dutch Friesland. He however felt that these crosses tended too much to the Brahman side. Dutch Friesland breeding at that stage concentrated mainly on milk characteristics, which resulted in the dual-purpose characteristics of the breed disappearing. Because to him the meat characteristics of a breed and especially its milk production are very important he started using other dualpurpose breeds in his herd. Subsequent to trials with other dual purpose breeds not delivering the desired results, Hunt now only uses Braunvieh bulls. This resulted in animals with the hardiness and walking ability of the Brahman, the somewhat larger frame of the Braunvieh with good milk and meat production. He believes that these cross cows are the ideal breeding animals. In order to obtain increased mass, which is required by the feedlot, he uses Charolais bulls on the breeding cows. Hunt’s cross breeding program follows a sequence starting with Braunvieh bulls on Brahman heifers. The next group of heifers goes to a Brahman bull. The final link in the chain is the heifers that are mated to Charolais bulls. Thereafter all animals are sold. The purpose of his farming enterprise is purely to deliver calves for the feedlot. Calves are weaned from 7 to 7.5 months. The average weaning weight in a poor season is 243kg while in a good season weaners reach 268kg. No mating season is applied because it would mean that fewer calves would be begotten in times of drought. Cows calving from October 1 to the end of March are put in separate herds with bulls. During April pregnancy tests are done on all cows that had not yet calved. Those that are not pregnant or in early stages of pregnancy are culled. Animals that do not calve are not retained. Cows and heifers of various ages are kept together in order to facilitate and improve management. Heifers are put with the bull for the first time when they weigh 350kg – in December and January in order to get the animals in the correct cycle. On average 25 cows or heifers are put with each bull. 450 heifers are normally retained per annum as replacement heifers. Because of drought conditions the previous season, only 350 heifers were retained and this year 600 – 700 heifers will therefore be retained for replacement. With a breeding policy of breeding animals made up of 75% Brahman and 25% Braunvieh the types are reduced until only groups of 50( Brahman and Braunvieh and 72 Brahman and Braunvieh are left. Hunt believes that this combination renders the maximum Rand per hectare. In this way the herd is standardized and very uniform – for Hunt a very important aspect of an orderly farming enterprise. There were more groups and types previously. In order to ensure that the very best breeding cows are obtained, Hunt has for the past four years been using 70 Braunvieh bulls. Of the three different breeds 140 bulls are used with 20 to 30 spare bulls. Bulls are replaced regularly and he buys new stud bulls from stud breeders on a regular basis. Hunt says that he has now reached his goal of uniform, hardy animals that can resist droughts, with good walking ability and enough meat (required by the feedlot) and excellent milking characteristic to raise their offspring.



Cross breeding

The Braunvieh has unique characteristics, which makes it the ideal breed in any cross breeding program The Braunvieh renders an immediate and positive impact on any commercial beef breed in cross breeding. Is it any wonder that in 49 countries of the world the Braunvieh is used in cross breeding programs ? The first female crosses have much more milk, sound udders and teats and an improved conformation and constitution and wean calves with higher mass than is the norm. Calves have good meat characteristics, grow fast with a sound feed conversion and are winners in the feedlot The infusion of Braunvieh blood has a calming effect on any beef breed and increases the growth tempo which in turn ensures more money in the farmer’s pocket at weaning Braunvieh and Braunvieh crosses reach weaning weight as early as 5 – 6 months. Cows may be weaned earlier, which again ensures money in the farmer’s pocket at an earlier stage.



BRAUNVIEH: The ideal breed for cross breeding - H.S.Labuschagnè

Braunvieh is one of the most underestimated breeds in South Africa, not only for stud breeding but also for cross breeding purposes. Only a few farmers have yet discovered the breed’s outstanding cross breeding abilities. One example is Mr. Bruce Hunt of Warrenton, who uses Braunvieh bulls in his cross breeding program in order to produce the ideal cross required by the feedlot.




Research done as far back as 1951 at the Omatjenne Research Station in Namibia on animals running on the veld, proved that the Braunvieh has the potential to become one of the leading cattle breeds in South Africa (Borstlap 1996). This research pointed at various outstanding breed characteristics. Adaptability was researched and the breathing tempo of various breeds was measured. After a walk of 3 km the Braunvieh’s breathing tempo was the lowest of all the breeds, which is a very good indication of adaptability. Added to that, the Braunvieh had the advantage of a short hair coat, dark pigmentation, black hooves, sound teats and low external parasite infestation. Also as regards eye diseases the Braunvieh had the lowest percentage of all the breeds that were researched (Borstlap, 1996). Eye cancer, for instance, is extremely rare in the Braunvieh breed. It is therefore understandable that in all areas of the country, even in the arid regions of the Karoo, breeders are achieving much success with the Braunvieh.



During the experiment at Omatjenne the same management system was applied for all breeds and again the Braunvieh came out tops – of the 12 breeds that were measured Braunvieh counted among the three best breeds. The Braunvieh had a calving percentage of 79.2% on veld conditions. Nutrition plays a significant role in the fertility of animals and can be improved by virtue of a sound management system (Borstlap, 1996).



According to Borstlap (1996) weaning weight and slaughter weight are highly correlated. Weaning weight therefore serves as a means to measure milk characteristics on extensive conditions. There was no notable difference between the first two breeds of which the Braunvieh was one. Growth ability is very important due to the genetic relation between growth ability and efficient feed conversion (Borstlap 1996).

The total economic value was calculated by means of the same experiment with calving percentage as starting point, mortality, slaughter weight and average net income. With this research, where all animals were treated in exactly the same way throughout, it may be surmised that the more adapted breeds would give the highest calving percentage with the lowest mortality rate and the highest weight gain. Once more Braunvieh counted amongst the first three breeds, which proves the adaptability of the breed as well as its fertility and production abilities (Borstlap 1996).


Carcass characteristics

The Irene Animal Production Institute (API) did a study (Claassen and de Bruin, 1994) the main purpose being to describe the production and carcass traits (growth, carcass and meat) of the most common genotypes (pure and cross breeds) in South Africa. The evaluation program is useful as indication of the comparative position of a specific breed, as regards production and carcass traits. Such information provides reference points for the selection of the relevant traits, which are not readily available. This research indicated that Braunvieh maintains a meaningfully high ADG over an extended feeding period as well as the FCR, which improved continuously. These results can only be achieved if more muscle than fat is deposited. At 162 days the carcass had only approximately 14% carcass fat. During a positive feeding margin the extended feeding period with the favorable ADG and FCR as well as low fat percentage, can be used to the advantage of any person finishing cattle extensively (Claassen en De Bruin, 1994).

Braunvieh cattle therefore do not accumulate fat too rapidly. This is especially important with regard to the feeding of breeding animals for sales due to the back fat thickness being negatively correlated to fertility (Coulter, `1994). Claassen and de Bruin 1994 found that the slaughter percentage of the Braunvieh was respectively 5.7% and 4.3% better than the other dual purpose and beef types in the experiment. Braunvieh will deliver larger carcasses for market with the same carcass fat (finishing) as the average carcass. Due to the low bone percentage of Braunvieh bulls, measured against other breeds, the breed proved to be superior as regards muscle to bone ratio (4.45). The above distinguishes the breed as a compact one (conformation) with fiber distribution (expensive cuts: cheaper cuts), which will realize larger profits due to the Braunvieh growing to a heavier weight sooner.

In all respects, from growth percentage to the final meat quality traits, Braunvieh was very competitive with the other breeds in the same experiment. This points at consensus having been reached with regard to the type of animal to be used in the combination of growth and meat characteristics with the necessary attention to sound milk production and without harming any of the above factors (Claassen and De Bruin, 1994). Combining all the above factors with heterosis (hybrid vigor), the Braunvieh can be used successfully in any cross breeding program to produce good quality feedlot animals.


Meat quality

The meat quality traits of the Braunvieh were determined both physically and bio chemically as well as by means of taste and smell and all facets compared very well with the commercial group.

The experiment proved that Braunvieh meat was significantly more tender than the average of the other breeds and crosses that were measured at the Meat Science Center at Irene (actual measurements were taken). The general acceptance of Braunvieh meat was, according to an experiment panel, somewhat better than the commercial results (Claassen and de Bruin 1994).



What does a breeder expect of a breed in a cross breeding program?

  • The breed must be well adapted to any environment under all conditions.
  • Must be fertile (cows with brief inter calving periods and bulls with a large scrotum circumference).
  • The breed must have sound production characteristics (sufficient milk, must wean heavy calves, calves must grow fast, must be able to convert fodder into meat and must not have too large a frame).
  • Desirable carcass qualities (heavy carcass weight, high slaughter percentage and carcass meat yield).
  • Quality meat (tender, juicy and tasty meat) It is very clear that Braunvieh is indeed the breed for any cross breeding program. The breed should however be used on a much wider scale and is still not enjoying the recognition that it justly deserves.



BORSTLAP, R., 1996. Lecture. Brown Swiss. Breed Promotion day.
CLAASSEN, H EN DE BRUIN, JF., 1994. ‘n Omvattende navorsingstudie van die groeiprestasie, karkas- en vleiseienskappe van die Bruin Switser.
COULTER, GH, 1998. Beef bull fertility: factors affecting seminal quality. In : Factors affecting calf crop., Eds. Michael j. Fields & Robert s. Sand.Butterworths, Florida.

 - Brahman with 4 and a half month Braunvieh calf

Brahman with 4 and a half month Braunvieh calf

 - Afrikaner cow with a Braunvieh calf

Afrikaner cow with a Braunvieh calf

 - Bonsmara cow with a Braunvieh calf

Bonsmara cow with a Braunvieh calf

 - Braunvieh x Brahman with a Braunvieh calf

Braunvieh x Brahman with a Braunvieh calf

 - Braunvieh x Brahman x Charolais

Braunvieh x Brahman x Charolais

 - Boran x Braunvieh calves with a Braunvieh calf

Boran x Braunvieh calves with a Braunvieh calf

 - Braunvieh x Afrikaner with a Braunvieh calf

Braunvieh x Afrikaner with a Braunvieh calf

 - Braunvieh cross oxes under a year

Braunvieh cross oxes under a year

 - Braunvieh x Nguni

Braunvieh x Nguni

 - Braunvieh x Charolais

Braunvieh x Charolais

 - Jersey x Fries with a Braunvieh calf

Jersey x Fries with a Braunvieh calf

 - Nguni cow with Braunvieh calves

Nguni cow with Braunvieh calves

 - Braunvieh x Boran

Braunvieh x Boran

 - Braunvieh x Boran

Braunvieh x Boran

 - Braunvieh x Boran

Braunvieh x Boran

 - Braunvieh x Boran

Braunvieh x Boran

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