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Braunvieh Genetics Influence Results on the Rail

May 28, 2019
By Amanda Overleese, Freelance Writer

This article originally appeared in the Winter 2017 Braunvieh World.  The information included is still
relevant today and speaks to the power of Braunvieh cattle on the rail.

Braunvieh cattle are well known for many of their attributes, including their docile temperament and
adaptability to varying weather conditions, but growing in popularity is the breed’s ability to produce
quality carcasses at harvest. Over the years, producers have seen positive trends develop regarding the
carcass quality of cattle with Braunvieh genetics. Here, three Braunvieh producers share their success at
producing high-yielding, quality beef from their Braunvieh.

Art Brownlee of JHL Ranch runs a 1,400-head cattle operation near Ashby, Neb., with his wife, Merry,
sons Eddie and Ethan, and Ethan’s wife, Rachel. They raise fullblood and percentage Braunvieh cows
along with commercial cattle, which average 50 percent Braunvieh genetics.

Before incorporating Braunvieh into their program, they raised many different breeds, including Angus,
Gelbvieh and Limousin. In 1990, Merry’s sister attended the National Western Stock Show and was
impressed with Braunvieh breeder Golden Link Simmental & Braunvieh (now Golden Link Inc.). After
hearing about them, the Brownlees attended the Golden Link Spring Sale where they purchased their
first Braunvieh cattle.

“[Golden Link Simmental & Braunvieh] was one of the first breeders who had ultrasound and whose
focus was on the end-product,” Merry shares. “They had data and linear measurement on their bulls. It
was a very attractive package.”

Since making the transition to raising Braunvieh cattle, Art and Merry have come to appreciate the total
package that comes with the Braunvieh breed. Art says Braunvieh are well-balanced cattle that bring
muscle and marbling in a moderately sized animal.

“It makes a wonderful cross and a wonderful cow. And it makes an even better steak,” Merry adds.
JHL Ranch works with packers who send their cattle’s harvest data back to them. This data includes date
of harvest, carcass weight, ribeye size, marbling score and yield grade. “The data is extremely
important,” Art says. “The more you utilize it, the more you can progress with genetics.”

They analyze the data and use the information to advance their herd genetics. That effort has paid off.
JHL Ranch has been able to progress their herd from primarily Select quality grade to 40 percent Prime
at harvest. Art and Merry have also seen an increase in the number of carcasses with better yield
grades. Art’s experience has shown that breeding any cow to a Braunvieh bull can decrease the carcass
yield grade by one level, thereby increasing its value.

“The Braunvieh have always performed with 5-10 percent better [harvest] numbers than [our] Angus or
Gelbvieh,” Art says. Art attributes this percentage increase to a bigger ribeye and more marbling in
Braunvieh-influenced cattle.

Dennis Elbert of Emerald Braunvieh has seen similar results with his Braunvieh-influenced carcasses at
harvest. Dennis and his wife, Margie, own a 130-head cow-calf operation in Milaca, Minn. They raise
fullbloods and purebreds along with commercial cattle. Their commercial cattle are 50-75 percent
Braunvieh.

Dennis and Margie milked Brown Swiss dairy cattle until 1996 when they started backgrounding cattle.
The Elberts were familiar with the Braunvieh breed from their years in the dairy industry, so they started
out buying both Braunvieh and commercial cattle. Over the years, they slowly weeded out their
commercial cattle and bred everything to Braunvieh.

For the past few years, Dennis has kept track of how his cattle are performing on the rail and, like the
Brownlees, has also seen excellent results. Dennis has noticed that his Braunvieh cattle have a large
ribeye and outstanding marbling. His experience also confirms that Braunvieh genetics can lead to
improved quality and yield grades overall.

Dennis shares that his data from last year continues to support his opinions. 91 percent of his cattle had
a quality grade of Choice, three percent graded Prime and six percent graded Select. As for yield grade,
61 percent of his cattle had a yield grade of 1 or 2. The average yield grade on all his harvested cattle
was 2.46.

Dennis says these harvest results can help producers succeed in the marketplace because the Braunvieh
carcasses yield this way consistently. “Consistently sending cattle to market that yield grade 1 and 2 will
make you money,” Dennis says.

Mark Nelson of Diamond N Ranch in Hastings, Neb., has over 20 years of experience analyzing carcass
data and grading cattle. Nelson runs 50 head of Braunvieh. He was the coordinator of the Angus
America program, has worked in the grading specs program for Meyer Natural Foods, is currently with
GrowSafe Systems.

Nelson has noticed that pure English-influenced cattle tend to get overfat, but creating a cross between
Braunvieh and an English breed allows the cross to marble well while keeping their yield grades in line.
“With the Braunvieh-English cross, you can hit all your premium grid targets without getting discounts
for overfats,” Nelson says.

Nelson has also seen Braunvieh cattle perform well in “natural” programs. He explained that since
natural programs don’t use growth implants, pure English cattle in these programs will quickly become
overly fat. But using Braunvieh genetics alleviates this problem because, of all the continental breeds,
Braunvieh cattle seem to hold their marbling together the best.

“If you inject a dose of Braunvieh, you replace the effects of leanness and extra muscle that a growth
hormone brings,” he says. “You’re just replacing [the growth hormone] genetically.”

Nelson adds that using Braunvieh genetics isn’t just for English breeds, either. Braunvieh genetics can
improve any cow, regardless of breed. For example, Nelson believes cattle producers in the South could
benefit from utilizing Braunvieh genetics as a crossbreeding tool to increase muscling and marbling
without affecting the adaptability of their herd.

While Braunvieh breeders may know the benefits of selling their cattle, there is room for the Braunvieh
breed to grow in popularity in the packing and feedlot industry.

“Since there are so few Braunvieh that come into the packer, they don’t recognize who they are,” Art
says. “The auction block is the same way.” Because of these circumstances, Art recommends retained
ownership for producers.

While it may take time for the industry to see the value of Braunvieh genetics influencing carcass
quality, producers are willing to share these undeniable results in their own herds.

“If you want a moderate-framed animal, feed efficiency and a combination of marbling and muscling,
then I don’t think you could find a breed that’s better,” Nelson says.

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