Again, the classic black baldy cows were bred to imported Charolais cattle. Calf growth mushroomed after that. These “terminal” calves excelled in red meat production and feedlot performance. These classic crossbreeding programs were well-documented and the advantages were real. The premise of a good crossbreeding program was to keep the production unit (cow) smaller and refine the costs to make the cow practical. The terminal sire advantage is that all the pluses achieved through heterosis would be maintained, plus the cow would have the unique traits associated with the selected breed. This was good.

The beef cattle breeding systems were expanded to handle even more breeds. Programs either maximized production through terminal sires or more sophisticated rotational breeding programs that allowed for the inclusion of new breeds on the maternal side as well. This meant that the world of beef production was not limited to black baldy cows.

The issue is not the validation of the benefits of crossbreeding in today’s cattle, but rather the dismissal of crossbreeding systems. The reason is improvement in individual breeds. Seedstock producers have improved their genetics through selection to leave the impression that increased production attained through selection outweighs any advantages attained through heterosis or the crossing of unrelated breeds.

So what is the point? In the genetic world, remember that measurable and nonmeasurable advantages are evident as diverse genetics are crossed. That is simply a fact. More importantly, the concept of crossbreeding systems was placed on the back shelf. As a result, the tool chest shrunk. As producers explore new ways to address beef systems in the current world, a large tool chest is needed.

As producers look to downsize cows, those early black baldy concepts are real. A small cow is not efficient if she only has the capacity to wean a small calf. Real efficiency comes when the small cow produces a calf that exceeds her own capacity to grow. This means terminal sires. In addition, it means crossbreeding systems are needed.

It is nothing new, just a reminder.

May you find all your ear tags.

Your comments are always welcome at For more information, contact Ringwall at 1041 State Ave., Dickinson, N.D., 58601, or go to on the Internet.