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Damon Pollard
October 12, 2023

This is Damon Pollard, Livestock agent with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service-Burke Center. Today’s topic is Heterosis.

Crossbreeding in beef cattle takes on many different faces. The ultimate goal is to realize performance gains in the calf crop. Through the crossing of two breeds, or types of cattle, producers can reach these performance gains through an occurrence called heterosis, or hybrid vigor. It is much the same principle that occurs in hybrid corn. Hybrid corn typically out yields open pollinated varieties, because it is able to pull on genetic variations to realize the best of two worlds.

Heterosis is measured as the performance of crossbred progeny compared to the average of their purebred parents. Heterosis is usually positive and highest when the parents are more genetically spread. So Hereford or Angus crossed to Brahman, would exhibit the most heterosis. Heterosis generally recedes if the crossbred offspring are bred back to either of the original breeds.

Characteristics differ in heterosis. Heterosis is highest in fitness traits such as fertility, livability, and longevity. Moderate in traits such as milk production, weight gain, feed efficiency and body size. It is lowest in carcass traits. Heterosis or hybrid vigor can be a valuable tool for the commercial cattlemen that allows them to harness performance gains through merely following a simple crossbreeding plan.

This is Damon Pollard, Livestock agent with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service- Burke center. If you would like more information, call us at 439-4460.