Freezer Beef. Which Breed? (Cattle - General) : LUSENET : Countryside : One Thread

This is an article I have submitted to the rag. Thought I would share it with you in advance.


Don’t overlook dairy breeds

Ken Scharabok, Waverly, TN

When something thinks of growing out cattle for freezer beef probably the first two breeds which come to mind are Angus and Hereford. However, they may not necessarily be the right choice.

I have a 1974 copy of Animal Agriculture: the Biology of Domestic Animals and Their Use by Man by H. H. Cole. It includes a very interest table, “Comparative ratings on economic traits of 29 breeds of cattle now available to North American producers.” Among the factors rated were cow traits, calf traits, carcass, bull traits and breed’s place in crossbreeding.

Of particular interest were the carcass traits, which included cutability, marbling, and tenderness. Each was assigned a rating from one to five, with one being the best. When all three scores were added up for each breed, they ranged from 5 to 11. (Cutability, as far as I know, means the percentage of usable meat obtained from a carcass.)

At the best (low) end of five were the Guernsey and Jersey (definitely beef breeds). Two sixes were the Red Poll and Limousin (both considered dual-purpose breeds). Sevens included Ayrshire, Brown Swiss, Maine-Anjou and Holstein (all dairy breeds) plus Devon, Hays Converter, Simmental, South Devon, Beefmaster, Brangus, Angus, Charolais, Galloway, Murray Grey, Red Angus, Scottish Highland and Shorthorn. Eights included Braford, Charbray, Hereford and Polled Hereford. Nines included Milking Shorthorns, Santa Gertrudis and Polled Shorthorns. No tens. Only 11 was the Brahman.

It is very interesting the two breeds with the lowest (best) scores on the traits of cutability, marbling and tenderness were the Guernsey and Jersey.

(I have been told there are feedlots in California which feed out nothing but Holstein steers as the majority of them come out with high carcass quality grades.)

Another factor was optimum slaughter weight. It ranged from 850 to 1,250 pounds. For the Jersey it was 850. For the Guernsey, 900. For the Angus, 950. For the Hereford, 1,050. Not only did the Guernsey and Jersey come in best on carcass traits, but also were the two lowest on optimum slaughter weight.

OK, you probably want to know which breed came out #1 when all 16 factors used in the table were considered. Brace yourself, it was the Holstein. Going up the list: #2, Simmental, #3, Brown Swiss and #4, both Aryshire and Hays Converter. Two of the top five were dairy breeds and two more were dual-purpose breeds. And, even here, had not the Jersey been hurt by the factor for rapid growth, it would have been the clear overall leader since it had excellent scores in all other categories.

An aspect to be considered is the amount of meat which can be expected to be obtained from a carcass. Say it is 60%. Slaughtered at the optimum weights given in the table, a Jersey would yield only 510 pounds, while a Holstein, which was among the breeds with the best growth rate, would yield 700 pounds. It may take the Jersey as long to reach 850 pounds as the Holstein to reach 1,200. However, this would basically be a quantity versus quality argument.

A nice aspect here is also dairy breeds normally sell at a significant discount to beef breeds, particularly cull cows from dairies.

The obvious conclusion from this table is dairy breeds (or at least dairy crosses) should not be discounted when choosing a calf to be raised out as freezer beef.

-- Ken S. in WC TN (, October 11, 2001


Thanks Ken ,makes me feel better about those 2 $15.00 dollar jersey bulls I bought that now weigh 150 lbs. I also cross jersey/holestein heifer to my beef bulls.

-- Patty {NY State} (, October 11, 2001.

Great article, four months ago I bought a jersey calf bull at auction(he is now a steer)for 50 bucks while anything with black on it was going for $150-$250 it is the first calf I have raised,I had heard that their meat is excellent but you do not get as much meat as other breads.I have found this breed to be very gentle with the kids and myself.Thanks for the graet article. Dave.S

-- dave smith (, October 11, 2001.

Ken, Very interesting article. I've raised 4 steers for beef in the last 5 years, all different beef breeds. For various reasons I was only truely happy with one of them, a Hereford - Angus cross. Maybe I'll try a dairy breed or dairy cross next spring. Thanks for the info.

-- Murray in ME (, October 11, 2001.

I feel that Jerseys are the best for the table of all dairy breeds. But then, if everyone agreed, why would we have horse races? GL!

-- Brad (, October 11, 2001.

Dave I hope you cut the bull calf.A Jersey bull can be one of the meanest you have ever seen.It will not stay gentle.

-- Patty {NY State} (, October 11, 2001.

I'd definitely agree with Patty about Jersey bulls. Jersey cows are just marvelous, but the breed appears to average about the same in temperament as others, and that means the bulls are mean and unpredictable and have hair-trigger tempers. Also means you should make super-sure that Jersey bulls become steers early, before they have a chance to form habits.

Ken, you said "the Guernsey and Jersey (definitely beef breeds)". Did you mean to say exactly that? It doesn't seem to make sense to me.

-- Don Armstrong (, October 11, 2001.

Yeah Ken, don't let Ginger, my Guernsey, hear you call her a beef breed! Our Holstein calf towers over the Jerseys. Peanut has grown much, much faster than the other boys. And our Guernsey bull calf is very big too, compared to the Jerseys. George is very tall and large, but Peanut the Holstein has allot more bulk even now. We've had all 4 of them 4 months now. I just took some new pics a few days ago, you can see them and their sizes. Good article. Do you want pics of my big babies for your article?

-- Cindy in KY (, October 12, 2001.

Ken, I am sure you are right. My uncle is a professional cattle buyer and buys 1000's of cattle every year. He bought a load of Holstein cows and everyone of the was graded PRIME! Go figure. Especially since you can get their calves so cheap around here.

-- renabeth (, October 12, 2001.

I am glad you are posting your article. I raise Guinea jerseys, I needed to use more of their milk with less of my time and decided on raising standard jersey bull calves, as they were the most a ffordable. I started out trying to market the calves and found many people did not want jersey calves as beef. When I decided to sell them as meat it went over like gang busters. If People did not realize that it was not a jersey they were happy, very happy with the meat. I started to research jersey beef information at the library where I found reports that supported your article , my findings. I think it is very important information and look forward to the public actually have this knowledge to use. Thank you ps I would like to place your article on my site. Let me know if this would be OK> Thanks Robyn

-- Robyn Hutchison (, October 12, 2001.

Don: You are right. I meant to say they were dairy breeds, not beef. Have sent in a correction to Anne-marie. Thanks.

-- Ken S. in WC TN (, October 13, 2001.

Jersey bull calves make great meat we grow out 6 as meat to sell and keep 2 each year and for 60 bucks aus 30 U.S its very good cheap meat.

-- S.D.Wilkinson (, May 11, 2002.

All the old farmers around the Goulburn Valley,Victoria,Australia swear by Jersey meat as being the sweetest,and often still keep a few Jerseys for this purpose although most now milk Holsteins.I've kept a couple of bull calves this year that I'll cut at 6 months and raise for the table,and I'll let you all know the verdict.

-- Paul Huckett (, May 11, 2002.

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