Knowledge Nuggets | Fact Sheets | Research Papers

Knowledge Nuggets

  • A breeding program is designed to bring about genetic improvement through the use of crossbreeding and selection. A crossbreeding program will increase profitability by taking advantage of the characteristics of the parent breeds where a weakness of one breed is offset by combining it with a breed strong in that trait. The resulting crossbred may not be superior in any single trait but superior in overall performance.
  • Crossbreeding aims to improve reproduction and production traits while selection is used to improve production and carcass traits. A good breeding program for a commercial herd will involve both.
  • The purpose of crossbreeding is to produce hybrid vigor, which is determined by the degree of genetic difference between the parent breeds. The greater the difference between two breeds, the greater the hybrid vigor exhibited by the cross.
  • As one backcrosses to one of the parent breeds, heterosis is decreased compared to the first cross of the breeds. The most effective crossbreeding systems keep the percentage of any breed no higher than 50 percent.
  • Breeds used in a successful crossbreeding program must be suited to the resources, the chosen production system, the market and must complement each other.
  • One of the simplest systematic crossbreeding programs is the two-breed rotation in which cows sired by breed A are mated to bulls of breed B. The heifers resulting from this cross are mated to bulls of breed A. Heifers from this cross are then mated to bulls of breed B. A female is always bred to the breed different from her sire.
  • The three breed rotation incorporates a third breed. In this system, a female is always mated to the breed of bull that she is least related. This allows for more heterosis.
  • In a terminal sire system, cows of a specific two-breed cross are mated to bulls of a third breed with all offspring marketed. This allows the producer to breed cows that are best suited to the environment to bulls best suited for growth, net feed efficiency and carcass characteristics.
  • The rota-terminal breeding system incorporates a rotation system and a terminal system to a cow herd where superior maternal cows are mated for offspring for breeding purposes and the remainder of the cows are used for terminal offspring.
  • Reproductive traits such as percent calf crop and calf livability have low heritability but respond to crossbreeding. Production traits, such as weaning weight and average daily gain can be improved by selecting superior stock and show a moderate response to crossbreeding. Carcass traits can be changed rapidly by selection with little effect from crossbreeding
Fact Sheets

Applying Principles of Crossbreeding - available in PDF format only

Crossbreeding Beef Cattle I - available in PDF format only

Crossbreeding Beef Cattle III - available in PDF format only

Crossbreeding Beef Cattle - available in PDF format only

Crossbreeding Beef Cattle

Crossbreeding Systems for Beef Cattle - available in PDF format

Crossbreeding Systems For Beef Production

Inbreeding in Cattle - available in PDF format only

Inheritance of Colour in Cattle - available in PDF format only

MARC Releases 2013 Across-Breed EPD Calculations

Research Papers

Crossbreeding Strategies for Phenotypic Uniformity of Production of Carcass Characteristics - available in PDF format only

Female Replacement Strategies in Beef Crossbreeding Programs - available in PDF format only

Optimizing a beef production system using specialized sire and dam lines - available in PDF format only

Two-, Three-, and Four- Breed Rotational Crossbreeding of Beef Cattle: Reproductive Traits - available in PDF format only
  For more information about the content of this document, contact Grant Lastiwka.
This document is maintained by Mary Ann Nelson.
This information published to the web on November 22, 2006.
Last Reviewed/Revised on March 15, 2017.

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