Devon Crossbreeds

As new breeds of cattle have been introduced to Australia, Devons have been successfully tried in crossbreeding with the majority of them.

They have also played a major role in the development of several composite breeds such as the Afrikaner, Droughtmaster and Shaver Beefblend.

Devons also had a major influence in the Japanese Wagyu cattle, with several shipments having been imported into Japan in the early 1900’s. Devons possess many attributes which complement weaknesses in other breeds and, with the added benefit of hybrid vigour, make excellent cattle for crossbreeding.

The fertile and efficient Devon has high weaning percentages, excellent feed conversion, early puberty and conception, high milk production, renowned foraging ability, a docile temperament, a high resistance to bloat, no eye problems and will adapt and survive in all Australian environments. This combination of breed advantages ensures that Devons have the versatility to enhance any crossbreeding program. Devons have proven to be excellent crossbreeders overseas as well as in Australia.

Over the last thirty years a great deal of research has been carried out around the world on different crosses and their relative performance under varying agricultural systems. As the amount of research increases, Devon cattle are measuring up as one of the best all round breeds.

As the result of extensive research into the Devon’s most suitable role in crossbreeding, the breed was found to be outstanding in three particular applications.

As the sire or dam of FI females joined with other British breeds (The British Fl Connection). As a sire over highly infused Bos indicus herds to produce valuable first cross females and steers. Over Bos indicus and European Bos taurus influenced cows, where early maturing progeny is required.

The British F1 Connection

The ‘British Fl Connection’ highlights the use of Devons in the production of Fl’s when joined to Angus, Herefords or Shorthorns. It has been demonstrated in many parts of the world, over a number of years that crossing any combination of Angus, Devon, Hereford or Shorthorn has resulted in an FI with an outstanding performance as a beef producer. The FI progeny of the Devon, crossed with any of these three British breeds will embrace the established advantages of hybrid vigour and breed effects, as outlined below.

Benefits of British F1 cross

The British Fl Connection results in a smaller breeding female which is more feed efficient than other crosses. There is mounting concern about the optimum sized cow and related maintenance costs, as she will eat 2-21/2% of her live weight daily.

If 10 cows averaging 550 kgs can be sustained on a given amount of forage, perhaps 12 or 13 cows in the 450 kgs range can be run with the same amount of forage. The large cows must wean considerably heavier calves to offset their higher maintenance costs. This indicates that a good mix would be to breed small to medium size cows which should then be joined to bulls with the genetic potential for fast, extended growth.

The Devon-Hereford Crossbreeding Trial at Gunnedah in N.S.W. Australia, proved that hybrid vigour in this cross produces 32% more milk than in the straightbred. This converted to a 7% weight gain at weaning using a Red Angus terminal sire for the first calves.

  • The F I heifers will grow faster, cycle earlier and have a higher conception rate than both parent breeds.
  • The Fl heifer will be larger than the straightbred at calving and this will assist calving ease.
  • The Devon sire will contribute a stronger constitution and better foraging ability which will greatly benefit the F1 at calving and in times of climatic extremes.The steer portion of the progeny will weigh about 7% more than straightbred steers.

Benefits specific to the Devon – Angus cross

  • Improved foraging ability and feed conversion.
  • Efficient cow size is retained and with it the low maintenance benefit.
  • Improved temperament
  • Increased bloat resistance.
  • All progeny will be polled.
  • Reduced bull replacement cost.

Benefits specific to the Devon – Hereford cross

  • Greatly reduced eye cancer problems.
  • Improved ease of calving.
  • Better milking and mothering qualities.
  • Increased bloat resistance.
  • Improved foraging ability and feed conversion.
  • Reduced bull replacement cost.

Benefits specific to the Devon – Shorthorn cross

  • Improved carcase acceptance.
  • Improved foraging ability and feed conversion.
  • Combination of desirable maternal traits in these two breeds is highlighted in the first cross cow.

Benefits specific to Bos Indicus breeds

In northern Australia, many herds are now experiencing excessive Bos indicus infusion which has led to a decline in fertility and prolonged maturity patterns. The Devon has a major role as a sire in restoring the balance. Valuable fertile Fl’s and faster finishing steers are the resulting progeny.

In particular the Devon injects the following improvements:

  • Reintroduction of hybrid vigour to high percentage Bos indicus herds.
  • Maintenance of the Bos indicus’ good foraging, survival and feed efficiency traits.
  • Increased fertility.
  • Greater flexibility with the desired finishing time for steers, which will open more markets.
  • More docile temperament.
  • Maintenance of highly acceptable colour in the Fl progeny.

In the composite breed, Belmont Reds, developed by the CSIRO to produce premium beef in the tropical areas of Australia’s north, Devons were a major influence. To the surprise of many, Belmonts have had many successes in carcase and taste test competitions. Could it be the Devon influence? Other composites using other base breeds have not had the same success.

Benefits for the Devon – European cross

The Devon cow has been used with great success in crossbreeding situations where a European breed is used as a terminal sire, the Devon cow contributing earlier maturity and improved feed conversion. As the European content rises in a commercial herd the Devon bull is an ideal choice to cross back to to breed softer and easier doing cattle.