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3 Little-Known Beef Breeds

The cattle industry has a broad genetic base with literally hundreds of breeds. Here are three you don’t see every day.

Black Hereford

There’s now an actual breed of black-bodied, white-faced cattle. It’s not a crossbred black baldie, says the president of the American Black Hereford Association, Tim Tarter. It’s a Hereford that is true to the black color pattern.

Black-Herford-Cows
Tim Tarter

“We are Hereford-based and breed toward Hereford,” explains Tarter, a Kentucky rancher. “Our goal is to build a better Hereford that is black.”

Black Hereford became a recognized breed about 20 years ago, but it’s still in development stage. The Association claims to have recorded 17,000 animals from 400 members in the U.S.

Tarter admits they are still a work in progress. “Our mission is to bring all of our breed to a purebred level,” he says. “When commercial breeders use our purebred animals crossed with another breed, they’ll get maximum hybrid vigor. It takes time to build those purebred herds.” 

Black Hereford cows can be bred to Angus, Red Angus, Black Hereford, or Red Hereford bulls and get black-coated calves, says Tarter. You’ll get the Hereford quality and the price advantage of black coats, he adds. For more information, visit blackhereford.org.

 

American Akaushi

This Japanese-based breed was first imported to the U.S. about 30 years ago. For the preceding 100 years, they were being bred for docility, performance, and the intense marbling for which Japanese beef is famous.

That extreme marbling, claims American Akaushi Association executive director Bubba Bain, is what really adds value to the U.S. cattle industry. 

American-Akaushi-Bull
American Akaushi Association

“An Akaushi bull can do in one generation what might take 10 to 15 years to accomplish with other breeding programs,” he says. “We’ve bred Akaushi to 13 different breeds, and in each case, it immediately improved the beef-quality score. Use our bulls on your cows, and your quality will go up.”

According to Bain, less than 4% of cattle throughout the beef industry achieve a Prime quality grade (based on marbling score). “In our tests, Akaushi breeding takes that up to 50%,” he says. Premiums can be $100 or more per carcass.

Akaushi breeders have also adopted a tag line for their cattle: Nature’s Healthy Beef. They say the beef contains a higher concentration of monounsaturated fat (the good kind) compared with saturated fat. “It has a rich buttery flavor, as well as juiciness and tenderness throughout,” say Akaushi advertisements.  

Akaushi cows are of a moderate size, and finished steers can go to 1,250 pounds or more, “whatever is your normal management program,” Bain adds. For more information, visit akaushi.com.

 

Braunvieh

This isn’t a new breed, as the original seedstock came to North America over 100 years ago from Switzerland. Some of that seedstock was developed into the Brown Swiss dairy breed; another line was maintained as the Braunvieh (in German it’s brown cow) beef breed. 

Braunvieh-Cow
Marilyn Brink

Proponents like the multiple positive characteristics of this under-the-radar breed. Texas rancher Benny Phillips says cows and bulls are docile and very fertile. “Braunvieh give you increased milk production in the cows and marbling in the finished carcass,” he says. “With most other cattle, to get one thing, you have to give up something else. Not with these. Our cattle win most of the carcass contests we enter.” 

Mature cows are of modest size compared with other European breeds. While the natural color is brown-gray, Phillips says he has homozygous black bulls that deliver black-coated calves. “The carcass doesn’t care about the hide color anyway,” he says. For more information, visit braunvieh.org.

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