Creating the “Maternalizer”

This paper outlines our restocking and composite formation plan, after our cow dispersal in the fall of 2005. Our plan is to repurchase Red Angus heifer calves over the next few years, looking for market opportunities to repurchase these heifers at attractive prices. Our belief is that heifer calves are more attractive than purchasing bred heifers and young cows. Heifers can be purchased and developed on our on our relatively low-cost feedstuffs, cheaper than buying a similar bred heifer or cow. Consequently any heifers that are culls or opens will have been run similar to a yearling feeder heifer program and can be marketed accordingly. Also, heifers are advantageous in that they can be developed to our handling techniques, developed to our target breeding weight and bred to bulls of our choosing that fit our breeding plans.

Because of high calf prices in 2006 and 2007 and a premium for pregnant females we have waited to the 2008-2010 period when prices may be more attractive for heifer calves due to potentially higher corn prices. Our repurchase window to purchase these females closes in April of 2010 before we run into substantial tax consequences. Roughly $1,500,000 worth of heifers will need to be purchased over the 2008-2010 time frame. This will result in more cows in our herd than our operation can run and highlights the need to continue to build programs to sell excess heifers/cows and continue our cow lease program.

Our goal is to recreate a moderate sized British type crossbred female, similar to our previous composite as displayed below:




We are fans of crossbred cattle. In our opinion, there is no single management practice, which can have more impact on your bottom line than crossbreeding. The use of crossbreeding yields two important advantages over straight-bred cattle. First is that the crossing of two breeds results in higher levels of performance for most economic traits. Secondly the use of multiple breeds allows producers to harness the traits of one breed to “compliment” and improve desirable characteristics of another breed. No one breed has optimum levels of performance however, through breed combinations and hybrid vigor, one can develop highly desirable animals for a broad range of traits.

Hybrid vigor, more commonly referred to as heterosis, is the superiority that crossbred animals exhibit over its straight-bred parents.  Generally, heterosis has the greatest affect on those traits, which have a lower level of heritability, moderate heterosis is observed in moderately heritable traits, while highly heritable traits show little or no affects from heterosis.  Traits such as fertility, longevity, and health have relatively low heritability yet show large responses from cross breeding. This is important for two often overlooked reasons. One is that while most genetic change is focused on the highly heritable traits like frame size and growth, the truly important economic traits like overall cow productivity are not the focus of the seed stock community, because of the low heritability. Even if it were a focus in selection, making change in these areas would be quite limited. Secondly, crossbreeding allows one to make much larger strides in genetic improvement by utilizing breed differences. Through recent efforts to characterize the important economic traits and biological type for beef cattle breeds, one can easily identify which breeds excel in any one trait and use that breed to introduce those genes for that trait into your crossbred population. You can make much more progress in one cross than a lifetime of selection for a trait, even one with high heritability.

Producing crossbred calves has advantages in terms of heterosis and blending of breed differences but the major advantages of cross breeding accrues to the crossbred cow. Hybrid females generate a more desirable environment for her calf through improved maternal ability. This results in higher calf survivability and higher weaning weights. On average a crossbred cow has a 4% higher calving rate, raises one more calf, and produces a cumulative 600 more pounds of calf over her lifetime. This higher productivity gives you more pounds to sell every year per cow and reduces your replacement rate due to higher fertility, longer lives and healthier more “maternal” cows. This higher productivity and lower replacement rates are powerful factors affecting overall ranch profitability.

In order to capture the benefits of hybrid vigor, we plan on developing a composite population of Maternalizers”. Our Maternalizer cows are designed to emphasize maternal traits. We feel these cows will be well suited for our environment and production system. They are smaller framed, easier fleshing, early growth cows with desirable udders. We want cows that deliver low birth weight calves without assistance. Our composite is designed to graze year round with minimal feed inputs. With this genetic emphasis, and through the use of cornstalks and late spring calving, only in the case of severe weather will any hay or supplementation be fed. And while some emphasis was given to carcass quality/marbling in our breed selection, our focus is on whether the breed can deliver fitness and convenience traits. Moreover, with our composite herd, genetic change is not necessarily our goal.  Instead we are trying to fix a set of traits at a given level of production. High growth and more milk are not necessarily desirable because of the higher maintenance and feed costs associated with higher production. Selection for fitness and convenience traits trumps high production. Our goal is to have every cow pregnant and raise a calf albeit at a lower weaning and yearling weights than most production systems.

Our ideal cow will have the following convenience and fitness characteristics:

  1. 1150 lbs mature weight.
  2. Frame score 5 or less
  3. Fault free udders
  4. Docility
  5. Fertility
  6. Polled
  7. Longevity
  8. Pigment on eye and udder
  9. Fleshing ability
  10. Calving ease
  11. Modest early growth and milk

Here is a table Modified from the USDA MARC Germ Plasm Evaluation project that characterizes the production traits and biological type of the parent breeds, which we have selected to be contributors to our composite.

Breed Comparasion - Maddux Cattle Company


We have confidence that the Red Angus breed will provide an excellent base for our composites. We plan on purchasing lighter Red Angus heifer calves, especially from a few selected breeding programs, to develop and breed.  We will limit our purchase weights to 500 pounds or less to minimize our first cost and limit our ultimate mature cow size. Red Angus offers carcass quality, maternal traits and calving ease. One draw back is that they have a far smaller breed population compared with Black Angus. Below are some representative Red Angus heifers.

Red Angus - Maddux Cattle Company

In Step 1 of the breeding process Red Angus females will be bred AI and cleaned-up with calving ease Tarentaise sires like the bull below left. Tarentaise females like below right bring excellent udders and maternal traits to our composite but with marginal carcass qualities and greater than optimum milk production.

Tarentaise - Maddux Cattle Company

The females from this mating (AR-TA F1s) will enter the herd as replacement heifers. We have the most faith in the Tarentaise and Red Angus breeds in delivering optimum levels of production and fitness traits. We will have several years of this mating which will generate a sizable number of these TA-AR F1 heifers to enter the herd as replacements. A representative F1 is seen below.


In Step 2, these F1 heifers (and later as cows) will then be mated to equal numbers of purebred bulls of Devon, South Devon and Red Poll. If we can find a suitable Shorthorn of Hereford this would be desirable but their very few if any bulls in the US that have the maternal traits we are seeking. All bulls and heifers from this mating will be considered full composites. As a result of this mating we will have a composite that is on a herd basis, that is: ¼ AR, ¼ TA, 1/8 HE, 1/8 RP 1/8 DE, 1/8 DS. In Step 3 in order to speed up the process of infusing different genetics into our composite we will contract with breeders to raise F1 bulls of Tarentaise with: Red Poll (RP), Devon both South (DS) and Red (DE). These sires will be AI and naturally bred to the AR females to produce composite females. These cows (and bulls) ½ AR, ¼ TA and either ¼ RP or ¼ DS or ¼ DE. These will be considered full composites as well. Subsequently, all composite animals then will be randomly mated with other composites. Breed makeup will not be managed or monitored. Eventual breed make up will be solely a product of our internal selection process for the fitness and convenience traits previously articulated. We will give special attention to ensure that a large number of bulls are used in the formation of this composite to eliminate inbreeding issues in future years. We will continue to look for outside maternal genes to contribute genetic diversity to our composite. In all our composite animals we will have a strong contribution for Red Angus and Tarentaise. These are the two breeds we have the most confidence in to deliver the maternal traits desired. Although we are less certain about the other breeds we feel they can bring genetic diversity and other fitness traits to our population. Below are some pictures and descriptions of these other contributing breeds.

Devon genetics offer moderate size, muscling, and decent maternal qualities but marginal quality grade. Also, the horned gene is in the population. Here are representative pictures of a Devon sire and dam.

Devon - Maddux Cattle Company

Red Poll contributes excellent fertility, age of puberty and marbling to our composite population. They may be faulted for poorer udder quality and lack of fleshing ability. Below are representative Red Poll photos.

Red Poll - Maddux Cattle Company

South Devon contribute excellent marbling and decent maternal qualities but tend
to be larger framed and some questionable udders can be found in the breed. Below is a South Devon bull and cow.

South Devon - Maddux Cattle Company

Hereford offers moderate size, fleshing ability, optimum milk production and in some bloodlines, good maternal traits. Herefords don’t make a significant contribution to carcass quality. A Hereford bull and cow are below.


Once this composite is developed we will continue to select for maternal and convenience traits. Convenience traits such as disposition, udder quality, calving ease, polled, and superior feet and legs will be the focus of selection pressure. Special attention will be focused on body type including mature size, muscle expression and fleshing ability. Maximizing growth will be avoided in order to maintain the maternal qualities of moderate size, which are central to the composite development plan. Carcass traits will be monitored and improved through genetic markers and new genetic infusion to move the population in the desired direction. Throughout this selection process no effort will be made to keep a special percentage make-up in our animals. Instead, in the selection process described, we will select for the animals that best fit our environment and be indifferent to the ultimate breed makeup. We plan on capitalizing on the maternal and convenience genes have been introduced into our herd with each of the pure breeds sampled. Our role will be to find which animals are the fittest for our ranch and production system.

In order to produce F1 bulls for our composite formation we have contracted in 2007-8 with the flowing Breeders to produce F1s, which include Tarentaise, matched up with Devon, Red Poll, South Devon and Hereford. Both bulls and semen will be used to produce these F1s.

  1. Hatfield High Desert Ranch -Tarentaise cows
    1. Barnstaple Hassler (Devon) - 20 units
    2. Rotokawa 93 (Devon) - 10 units
    3. Lakota’s Buckeye P60 (Devon) - 10 units
    4. Leachman Muchas Gracias (S. Devon) -20 units
    5. Cimarron Ultimate 382 (S. Devon) - 20 units
  2. Larry Novotny -Tarentaise cows
    1. Cimarron Superior 442 (S. Devon) - 10 units
    2. Leachman Muchas Gracias (S. Devon) - 10 units
    3. Lakota H48 (Devon) - 10 units
    4. Lakota P60 (Devon) - 10 units
  3. Scott Hicks - Tarentaise cows
    1. 2 (South Devon) bulls
    2. Cimarron Casanova (South Devon) bull
  4. Keith Lapp - Hereford cows
    1. Coteau Tarentaise
    2. Colfax Tarentaise
  5. Darrel Manning - Tarentaise cows
    1. 2 (Red Poll) bulls
  6. Allen Schlenvogt - Tarentaise cows
    1. One (South Devon) bull

Hopefully once fully developed, our Maternalizer cows will be well suited for year round grazing in a low input system. They will deliver problem free production with an early growth calf, which is suited to a yearling system. One potential for this population is that through our ongoing heifer development program and sales we could develop name recognition and reputation that will help establish demand for our Maternalizer composite. A seed stock sale of our composite females and bulls is a potential enterprise for coming years.