The Brahman, a crossbreed common denominator

The broad band circling the earth between the tropics has enormous potential for red meat production. But, the animals must be adapted to tropical and subtropical conditions.

The area between the tropics circles the earth in a broad band. Largely undeveloped, these vast regions are highly resourced with natural grazing and home to about 700 million head of cattle.

This figure represents only 33% of the world’s total production of red meat, and 20% of its milk production. In the arid and semi-arid zones, cattle need effective tolerance to challenging weather and grazing conditions for profitable production.

We may attribute the wide distribution of the Brahman throughout the southern African sub-region, as well as to other southern regions of the globe, to the breed’s adaptability. This breed hallmark means that Brahman do not necessarily have to be crossed with other breeds to attain high breeding value.

In one generation, cattlemen can produce quality breeding animals by crossing various, indigenous cow lines to Brahman. Trait improvement can jump the generational selection process and find expression through a simple act; crossbreeding with Brahman. The desirable traits are characterised by non-additive genetic effects such as:

  • Longevity
  • Adaptability (tropical and subtropical)
  • Fertility (inter-calving periods)
  • Maternal ability


The effect of non-additive genetics makes the expression of these traits more difficult to measure. Progress through selection in lowly heritable traits can be slow.

The F1 crossbred cow displays 100% heterosis for all traits including milk production. If she is re-bred to a Brahman bull positive for meat production, her calf will continue to express heterosis but to a lesser extent (50%).

Research conducted by Texas A&M (US) confirmed a 95% pregnancy status in F1 females, 87% weaning and an average weaning weight of 259 kg at seven months. The female F1 animals were crossed with a third breed and their production lifespan improved to an average of 12.3 years.

The most insightful finding of research conducted by commercial feedlots showed that ¼, ⅗ and ½ of Brahman crossbreds performed as well as, or better than, other breed purebreds in terms of:

  • Veterinary expenses (reflected by reduced numbers of sick animals needing less treatment).
  • Average weight gain (1.36 kg compared to 1.37 kg per day).
  • Musculature (87.7 cm₂ compared to 94.4 cm₂ eye muscle area)
  • Intramuscular fat
  • Meat tenderness (2.93 kg versus 2.69 kg meat resistance measured using the Warner-Bratzler Shear Force test)
  • Profitability per head ($76.06 [R1 025] to $76.82 [R1 035]).


The American Brahman Breeders Association ran a 14-year carcass evaluation programme finishing Brahman steers in which they accumulated comprehensive feed- and carcass data (including tenderness).

Informative results confirmed that average meat tenderness was 3.99 kg. A measurement of less than 4 kg meat resistance is considered to be between tender and slightly tough.

These findings were confirmed by similar results from the states of Florida and Louisiana.

Prof Joe Paschal, a specialist consultant in livestock at Texas A&M University, says the Brahman breed has much to offer the world’s tropical and subtropical cattle production systems in straight bred or crossbred programmes.

Sietze Smit
Brahman Supplement

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