Beefmaster cattle are the first American composite breed (combination of three or more breeds). They were developed by Tom Lasater in south Texas, beginning in 1931. The Beefmaster breed was recognized in by the USDA in 1954, and today Beefmaster Breeders United is the fifth-largest breed registry in the United States.
Beefmasters are a composite breed made up of roughly one-half Bos Taurus (Hereford and Shorthorn) and one-half Bos Indicus (Nelore from Brasil, Gir & Guzerat from India). Tom Lasater closed his herd in 1937, and no outside genetics have been introduced into the Foundation Herd since that time. Intense selection for economically important traits over the last 80 years has resulted in a homozygous beef breed that has locked in the explosive growth potential of a hybrid.
To learn more about Tom Lasater, click here.
The thing that probably most differentiates Beefmaster cattle from other breeds is the Six Essentials, which were the founding selection principles on which the breed was formed: Fertility, Weight, Conformation, Milk Production, Hardiness and Disposition. Lasater’s concept was that you select for cattle only based on these six traits of economic relevance, to the exclusion of many traits that other breeds have expended genetic energy on like color pattern, horns, height, etc. This unique approach is why Beefmasters are known by the slogan “The Profit Breed.”
Lasater applied the Six Essentials in a number of ways that were completely revolutionary in his time. He began individually weighing his calves in 1936, at a time when cattle were sold by the head. He required heifers to breed at 14 months and to calve as two-year-olds in a 90-day season at a time when many ranches left the bulls out year-round. Perhaps most importantly, he culled every cow that for any reason did not wean a merchantable calf every year.
Beefmasters are completely unique in that they are the only beef breed with a guiding production philosophy. These principles are called the Six Essentials, and they give us road map by which to maximize production efficiency and improve our cattle. We talk about the Six Essentials a lot, but what do they really mean?
Disposition—Gentle cattle are cheaper to manage, sell better, breed better, feed better and calve easier.
Fertility—This is the first among equals and the cornerstone of the philosophy. Cows that do not have a calf every single year are not economically viable.
Weight—Of obvious importance—ranchers sell pounds. Weight is another highly heritable trait. We select for cattle that produce optimum (not necessarily maximum) weight with minimum input.
Conformation—This refers to the visual appraisal of a live animal with regard to carcass merit. We select for long, trim, well-muscled bulls, and smooth, feminine cows that meet industry demands.
Hardiness—It is critical for cattle to be able to thrive under tough conditions. Beefmasters excel in calf livability, low death loss, low maintenance costs and resistance to disease and parasites.
Milk Production—Next to genetics, milk production is the single most important factor in weight. When asked to describe the perfect cow, Tom Lasater said, “She’ll look like a cow that gives a hell of a lot of milk.”
Our family has been following a very balanced approach to cattle selection for more than 80 years. We call our road map the Six Essentials, and we have tried doggedly for three generations to share it with anyone who will listen. So it’s refreshing to see a renewed interest in practical and productive cattle and a focus on economics rather than aesthetics.
Breeders sometimes ask, “Why Beefmasters?” It’s an important question because these wonderful cattle often don’t get enough credit for all the subtle things they do so magnificently. Following are a few of the things that make Beefmasters truly unique in beef cattle production.
If you are a grass-based rancher who likes thrifty cattle that raise profitable calves in any climate with a minimum of attention, Beefmaster is the breed for you!
For a complete history of the creation of the Beefmaster breed and Lasater’s philosophies, please see The Lasater Philosophy of Cattle Raising.
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