What is a Beef Cattle Breed?
To discuss breeds, it is necessary to understand that term. There is no generally accepted definition, scientific or otherwise, of a breed. A 1940 dictionary defines breed as “a race of animals which have some distinctive qualities in common.” A 1999 dictionary says “a stock of animals within a species having similar appearance, usually developed by deliberate selection.”
There is no “official” recognition of cattle breeds. At one time, the U.S. Department of Agriculture periodically printed a bulletin, “Beef Cattle Breeds.” Although inclusion in this publication was often considered official recognition, the 1975 edition of the publication clearly stated, “Inclusion of a breed should not be interpreted as official recognition by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.”
There are organizations of breeds, such as the National Pedigreed Livestock Council, but not all breed associations are members. The National Association of Animal Breeders has 108 breed codes for identifying cattle semen. I. L. Mason’s World Dictionary of Livestock Breeds lists more than 250 “numerically or historically important” breeds of cattle, along with many less important ones.
One definition of a breed might be animals recorded in an association registry. There are currently some 75 cattle breed registries in the United States. In some cases, there are more than one registry for essentially the same breed.
The only actions needed to start a registry are to adopt specific requirements of eligibility and start recording ancestry. Although those requirements may vary considerably and may not be very stringent, an existing registry may be as good a definition of a breed as any other criteria.
The distinguished animal breeder Dr. Jay Lush, in The Genetics of Populations, said, “A breed is a group of domestic animals, termed such by common consent of the breeders.” In short, a “breed” is whatever you say it is.
A favorite breed of many new and old beef cattle breeders is the British White. It is a breed with an extremely interesting story behind it, especially in the USA. Many books and articles have been written about them. An explanation of the USA story is especially interesting.
Miniature cattle breeds are gaining momentum and becoming very popular in the USA. A lot of this popularity can be attributed to the increase in small farms springing up in all areas as more and more people are going for the rural living life style. Minis are better adapted to small holdings, are good converters of grass into beef thus allowing one to grow their own home raised beef without a lot of extra effort. One of the newer breeds in the USA is the Australian Lowline. The Lowline is considered a Fullblood black angus breed of a smaller size developed in Australia from pure angus stock.
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