Which breed of cow should I be eating?

So which breed of cattle do we want to be eating? There’s a lot of marketing going on from the various breed societies; most notably the Angus association. The truth is that, for the most part, all breeds of cow taste the same. Some are more prone to marbling than others, but in the end, the flavour and texture of beef comes from what the cows are eating and how they have lived. You can actually taste the complexity of beef which has come off diverse pasture, compared to the one dimensional flavour of grain fed beef. In fact, some wine tasters recently conducted taste tests of beef grown on different pastures and they could pick out the different grasses that the meat was grown on.

Our herd has always consisted of Angus cows, bred to Angus bulls. We chose Angus because our land is hilly and has cold winters, similar to northern Scotland, where the breed originated. There is also a genetic component to temperament and calm, stress free cattle grow better and are less prone to injury and illness. While the taste doesn’t vary between different breeds, their ability to thrive in different conditions is certainly breed dependent. Although the Angus breed has been good for us, one problem we have encountered is with the new country we are grazing through autumn and winter, the paddocks are very large and our cows tend graze the same areas all the time, not moving too far from day to day. Part of this is cultural; our cows are used to being rotated through smaller paddocks, and we are training them to travel further from their favourite spots and find the good feed, but part is also in the breed. Last year we introduced a Santa Gertrudis bull to see if that would help. The Santa Gertrudis breed came from crossing Shorthorn (another British breed, not too different from the Angus) with Brahman, the Indian breed famous for their ability to walk to find forage. While we’ve only just had the calves from the new bull, comparing them with the calves from our Angus bull, we have been so impressed we got another one for this year’s mating. Obviously we don’t know yet how well they’ll go in the rougher country, but the calves slipped out easily, making for less calving difficulties, and hit the ground running. They’re growing well and we like the shape of them; they’re short bodied, well muscled calves and are doing better than the straight Angus in the hot dry summer we’re having.

The plan is to keep some of the heifers from this cross in the herd, although we wouldn’t to breed back to the Santa Gertrudis as they are a  hot climate breed, so down the track we’d like to breed Angus back into the herd.

Our Santa Gertrudis bull.

A young Angus cow.


Above are pictures of the Santa Gertrudis bull and a young Angus cow. Below are the two types of calves, pure Angus and Angus X Santa Gertrudis. The hybrid vigour created by the cross is evident in how strong and muscular the cross bred calf appears. The angus calf was born about 2 months earlier than the cross bred, so he is bigger, but the cross is holding condition better and generally looking healthier and stronger.

A pure Angus calf.

A Santa Gertrudis X Angus calf.









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