Brahman – The ideal Motherline for Beef producers in Southern Africa

The demand for purebred female stock has increased significantly over the last three to four years. One of the reasons for this may be that female animals are under extreme pressure to keep producing. This is a significant feat, considering the drought experienced in several provinces in South Africa during the last five years.

Other, more relevant, reasons may be the genetic and physiological package the Brahman offers. Commercial beef producers place a high value on specific traits such as longevity, fertility, calving ease and maternal traits, including good milk production and the ability of a cow to raise her calf successfully to weaning, under extensive conditions.

Creating a diverse gene pool

The Brahman Cattle Breeders’ Society uses an appendix upgrading system to breed ‘studbook proper’ (SP) females from pure commercial stock. It is a very straightforward program. The female progeny of inspected females without a pedigree (appendix A) bred to purebred, registered Brahman bulls, become appendix B. A purebred female herd can be produced within two generations (six years).

Brahmans are well known for their excellent progeny that comes from crossbreeding with Bos taurus beef breeds. The offspring of a Brahman cow crossbred to bulls of other breeds are in high demand due to the economic advantage they present in marketing to feedlots. When a terminal breed is used on F1 Brahman cows, the added value for producers can be as high as 25% for weaning weights.

Selection indices

The profit margin of a Brahman cow herd can move in a positive direction by using selection indices. Three economic selection indices have been developed for various South African markets:

  • Rangeland grazing index: Normally used for producers of slaughter oxen in a specific environment, where animals are grown out on the veld and then finished in a feedlot or directly sent to the abattoir.
  • Weaning index: Used specifically for the commercial production of weaners.
  • Feedlot index: Developed for commercial beef producers who breed purebred or crossbred Brahman weaners for finishing in feedlot systems.

Each of the indices has the potential to improve income for a specific trait.

Genetic gain

The Brahman Cattle Breeders’ Society is engaged in long-term projects that will provide the required information and facilitate the changes needed to keep up with market demands and remain competitive in the global arena.

The initiation of these projects has awakened the sector to the changing industry. After the first cycle of the Beef Genomics Program (BGP), some changes were already visible.

Figure 1 suggests that the rate of genetic progress for each of the three recorded breeds has accelerated since the beginning of the BGP in 2015. The possibility exists that the BGP may have influenced this increased rate of change. This is according to a study done by Thys Meyer, the Livestock Registering Federation representative at the Technology Innovation Agency, which is a member of the Brahman Cattle Breeders’ Society.

Figure 1: Genetic progress showing accelerated growth.

These programs, developed to accumulate information on a national and international scale, are expensive. The BGP has been specifically developed for this purpose. Considerable genetic progress can be made using more scientific programs and tools.

Genotyping could be the key to uncovering several unsolved genetic problems; it holds the promise of providing answers and solutions at the same time. Single-step Breedplan is the tool that has been used by the Australian Brahman Breeders’ Association since May 2017. This method of analysis includes the genotype information and uses it to estimate the relationship between animals (with genotypes on record) with increased precision, something that cannot be achieved using traditional pedigree alone.

Better and more accurate selection of breeding animals, with specific reference to the cow herd, will be possible at a much earlier age, which will reduce financial input considerably.

For more information, contact the Brahman Cattle Breeders’ Society on 051 446 4619/3452 or send an email to

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