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Monday
Apr292013

What Makes a Breed Succeed?

By Stewart H. Fowler

June 1987

            Introduction: This article was written sixteen years ago but in my opinion it still rings true today. These are some very thought provoking questions and statements that we as breeders should be giving a lot of thought to. Our breed association could also benefit from thinking about the answers to these questions. Our market appears to be extremely strong but in my opinion the reality is that it is only good with room for improvement to help insure that it stays good. I have been in the Longhorn industry for over thirty years and I have seen our cattle prices rise to these extreme highs before to only have the bubble burst and prices plunge to below commercial cattle prices. It took many years before we saw the market recover and prices climb to a sustainable level. It is my opinion that all true Longhorn Breeders should be focusing on the long-term success and promotion of the breed rather than blindly chasing the longest tip-to-tip horn measurements. Our breed has more than one marketable-saleable trait and it is time that we start to focus on those traits to insure the success of the Texas Longhorn Breed. 

What Makes a Breed Succeed? 

            Did you ever wonder how or what makes a breed like the Texas Longhorn succeed?  I certainly have; in fact, I have given a lot of thought to that intriguing question.  We have seen a tremendous array of beef cattle breeds in the United States during my lifetime.  Some breeds succeed and earn a permanent niche in our beef industry; others seem to merely hang on; while others falter, fail and practically disappear from the American livestock scene.  This has fascinated me over my forty years of active work in the livestock field.  No doubt, each of us could compile an impressive list of items related to the success of a breed.  I would like to share my list of thirteen considerations with you.
            First, if a breed is to truly succeed on a long-term economic basis, it must possess one or more unique traits that are needed by the commercial beef industry.  It must be more than just a “me too” breed!  It must differ some in economically important traits than the rest of the breeds.  Otherwise, why bother to consider it if there are a dozen other breeds that can do the same thing?  At Berry College in northwest Georgia, we maintain registered herds of seven beef breeds: Angus, Brahman, Brangus, Chianina, Devon, Simmental and Texas Longhorn.  Visitors to the campus sometimes voice the opinion that some of these varied breeds must have been selected because of fad or fancy!  Each of the breeds, however, was selected specifically because our crystal ball tells me that they possess certain traits that will be needed to meet the demands and emerging changes in our beef industry.  For example, the Texas Longhorn was selected for its high fertility, browsing ability and lean meat production.  Doesn’t it make good sense that private breeders should place considerable emphasis on unique economically important traits also?  
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