Beefmaster cattle are an American creation, resulting from the crossing of shorthorn and Hereford cows with Bos Inidus -- or Brahman -- bulls. They were the brainchild of Texas rancher Tom Lasater in the early 1930s, but the pedigree of his foundation stock is unknown. In 1954, the United States Department of Agriculture recognized them as a specific breed. Modern beefmaster cattle have approximately one-quarter each of shorthorn and Hereford blood and just less than half Brahman ancestry.
The beefmaster breed excels in "fertility, docility and longevity," according to breed association, Beefmaster Breeders United. They're also feed efficient, requiring less feed to gain comparable weights with other breeds. Cows are bred for high milk production, although for nursing calves, not dairy purposes. However, there is no reason a beefmaster cow can't make a good family dairy animal. Beefmaster breeders look for the "six essentials:"
- Milking ability.
The latter quality is important in the breed. Animals displaying a "mean, or nervous" disposition should be culled. The breed standard calls for a mild and tractable bovine.
The breed's feed efficiency arose from its beginnings on harsh, sparse range.
Color is not part of the beefmaster breed standard, so animals may appear in various shades. The coat is slick and straight. Red coloring is common, as is black, dun -- light brown with black points. Black and white or red and white beefmasters are relatively rare, but acceptable. What is necessary is a well-muscled, proportionate body, with cows displaying a feminine appearance and bulls a masculine one. The chest is full and wide in both sexes, the ribs well-sprung from the back, and the legs are straight and well-boned.
No matter your area, beefmaster cattle should thrive. They are suitable for hot, humid environments as well as cold regions. The countries with the largest number of registered beefmaster cattle are found on two different continents -- South Africa and Mexico.
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.