Breeds of beef cattle
Beef cattle were introduced to Australia in 1788, with the first herds based on British breeds, particularly the Shorthorn. This breed was associated with the opening up of each new area of pastoral Australia in the early days, and was especially dominant in north-western Queensland, the Northern Territory and the Kimberley region of Western Australia. The Hereford also became dominant, especially in the south-east and south coast areas of Queensland and throughout Australia's southern states.
During Australia's early development there were occasional introductions of Zebu type (Bosindicus) cattle from India, but it was not until the introduction of the American Brahman after 1933 that they became well established in areas such as the tropical coastal areas of Queensland. The Brahman and its crosses have since had an important role in overcoming tick and heat problems experienced by the British breeds. Crosses between Bos taurus and Bos indicus also show resistance, or at least tolerance, to both heat and ticks.Eventually this crossbreeding paved the way for the development of new tropical breeds such as Braford, Brangus, Droughtmaster, Belmont Red and Charbray.
Other tropical breeds have adapted as effectively to the northern environment of Australia as the British breeds haveto the southern or more temperate areas. Some of the tropical breeds have also adapted to the southern areas of Australia, just as some of the British breeds have adapted to the northern, hotter areas.
In the early 70s the European breeds were introduced to Australia.Initial imports of semen were followed by importation of live part-bred and purebred animals and fertilised ova. The first arrival was the Charolais,followed by the Simmental, the Limousin and Chianina. The Maine Anjou, Brown Swiss, Blond d'Aquitaine, Romagnola and Marchigiana were also imported during this period. The breed composition of the Victorian cattle herd as at 31 March1987 is shown in Table 1 and Figure 1.
Table 1. Number of cattle by breed and type, as at 31 March 1987 (latest information available)
|Breeds of cattle||Total cattle|
Australian Illawarra Shorthorn
Hereford (including Poll)
|Total Straight breeds||2 767 554|
|Total cross breeds||705 410|
|TOTAL VICTORIA||3 472 964|
Figure 1. Number of cattle by breed and type in Victoria, March 1987
Major beef breeds
Bos taurusbreeds originated in Europe and are all humpless. A typical Bos taurus bull is shown in Figure 2. These breeds are better suited to areas in southern Australia.
Characteristics of some of the main Bos taurus breeds are:
- Angus. Origin: Scotland. Introduced to Australia about 1840. Features are a black coat (recessive red gene also), polled. Suited to vealer, steer and bullock production or maternal/rotational place in crossbreeding.
- Hereford. Origin: England. Introduced to Australia in 1826. Features are redcoat with white face and underline, and horned. Suited to vealer, steer and bullock production or maternal/rotation place in crossbreeding.
- Poll Hereford. Origin: USA. Introduced around 1920. Little difference between Hereford and Poll Hereford apart from Poll factor. Well suited to all markets.
- Murray Grey. Origin: Wodonga, Victoria. Developed in 1905 from Angus Shorthorn.Features are dun grey coat (range from silver grey to dark grey), polled. Suited to vealer, steer and bullock production or maternal/rotational place in crossbreeding.
- Shorthorn. Origin: England. Introduced to Australia in 1825. Features are red,roan or white coat; polled and horned breeds. Contributed to the development of Santa Gertrudis, Belmont Red, Droughtmaster and Murray Grey. Suited to vealer,steer and bullock production or maternal/rotational place in crossbreeding.
- Charolais. Origin: France. Introduced to Australia in 1969. Features are white or cream coat; polled and horned strains. Suited to bullock production or as a terminal sire in crossbreeding programs.
- Limousin. Origin: France. Introduced to Australia in 1973. Light brown in colour and horned. Breed is heavily muscled and known for high meat yield with a minimum of fat. Smaller than other European breeds and earlier in maturity, but later maturing than British breeds. Suitable for crossbreeding programs.
- Simmental. Origin: Western Europe (Switzerland, Germany, Austria, France etc) .Introduced to Australia in 1970. Features are red coat with broken white markings and white face; horned and polled strains. Suited to vealer, steer and bullock production maternal/rotational/terminal place in crossbreeding.
These breeds have a Zebu component, which originated in southern Asia. Zebus are distinguished from the European breeds by the presence of a musculo-fatty hump, a pendulous dewlap, a pendulous prepuce in the male, and a short sleek coat. A typical Bos indicus bull is shown in Figure 3. They are better suited to the hot temperate regions of Australia because they are more tolerant of heat and are resistant to tick fever, a common disease in these areas.
Characteristics of the main Bos indicus breeds in Australia are:
- Belmont Red. Origin: Queensland. Developed in Australia in 1968. 50% Africander,25% Hereford, 25% Shorthorn. Features: red colour; horned.
- Brahman. Origin: USA. Introduced to Australia in 1933. Features are silver-grey coat; horned. Calve easily, milk well and are very protective of their young. Maternal/rotation place in crossbreeding.
- Brangus. Developed from Brahman and Angus. Upgrading of breed between 1950and 1960. Brangus are made up of 37.5% Brahman and 62.5% Angus. Black, polled,reasonable heat and tick tolerance. Medium sized, average to late maturity,yields a carcase without excess fat.
- Braford. Developed in Queensland between 1946 and 1952. 50% Hereford and 50%Brahman, now stabilised. Heat resistant and relatively tick tolerant. Slightly later maturing than the British breeds. Produces good yearling and steer carcases.
- Droughtmaster. Queensland. Established in Australia in 1956. 37.5%-50% Brahman and50%-62.5% Shorthorn, with some mixture of Red Poll and Hereford. Features are red colour: horned or polled.
- Santa Gertrudis. Origin: USA. 37.5% Brahman, 62.5% Shorthorn. Introduced to Australia in 1952. Features are red colour; polled or horned. Maternal/rotational/terminal place in crossbreeding.
The use of cull dairy cows as dairy-beef dams is well suited to vealer production. The dam's milk supply is usually greater than that of purebred beef breeds and allows the young calf to express its potential for pre-weaning growth rate. More suited to favourable feed conditions.
- Friesian. Origin: Holland. Introduced to Australia in 1850. Features are black and white coat; horned. Suited to vealer production.
- Jersey. Origin: Channel Islands. Introduced to Australia in the early 1800s.Features are fawn, red or silver-grey colour (sometimes with white); horned.Suited to vealer production.
This can be obtained from breed societies through the Royal Agricultural Society ofVictoria
Table 2. Comparative ratings of economic traits of 26 breeds of cattle
|A - Age at puberty|
B - Gestation length
C - Calf size
D - Milking ability
E - Mothering ability
F - Mature size
H - Efficiency under min. management
I - Feed efficiency
J - Disposition
K - Cold tolerance
|L -Pre-weaning growth|
M - Post-weaning growth
N - Opt. slaughter weight(kg)
O -Age of fattening
P - Muscling
Q - Fertility
|R - Calving ease|
S -Freedom from general defects
T - Horned (H) / Polled(P)
V - Terminal
W - Rotational
Indicates: suitable for this use
|*E — Early||L — Late|
|±S — Short||A — Average||L — Long Gestation Length|
|§S — Small||M — Medium||L — Large Calf Size|
In all columns carrying numerical grades: 1 is high or desirable and 5 is low or undesirable.
Comparisons of breeds on the basis of productive performance are given in:
- RC Kellaway, Breeds and breeding of beef cattle.
- Part 1. Production and fitness characters of straight bred cattle. Australian Meat Research Committee (AMRC). Review No. 1,August, 1971.
- Part 2. Production and fitness characters of crossbred cattle. AMRC. Review No. 7, August 1972.
- IL Mason, Comparative Breed Performance of the Large Cattle Breeds of Western Europe. Animal Breeding Abstracts Vol. 39,March, 1971.