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Historical aspects of Hessian Angus-breeding PDF Print E-mail

Historical aspects of Hessian Angus-breeding

The oldest beef cattle breed of Germany has been natively bred in Hesse relatively early. The first Angus already came to Hesse in the 50-ies. With the founding of the Hessian Association in 1961, the available Land-Angus breeding stocks, from which the German Angus stems, were collected and breeding was systematically continued.  

The multilateral and versatile basis of the indigenous cattle breeds here, and the consistent inclusion of suitable fathering-animals, have permitted the rapid development of efficient and productive Angus herds. Just as the abandonment of dairy farming by the large-scale enterprises has been beneficial for Angus-breeding, the change-over of these farms to operation without livestock has also caused a shift in the herd structures and in breeding. The main share in Hessian Angus-breeding was re-located to family-owned farming enterprises, and was adapted to the procedural flow of work applied there. From then on, high rearing performances, good suitability for direct marketing and handling ease through a good-natured character had particularly high priority.  

The Hessian Angus became part of the family, as one could figuratively say. The productive, true-to-type breeding lines, which today represent the phalanx of the Hessian Angus, were started in the "second breeding phase", which started at the end of the 70-ies. In some herds, the breeding efforts were focused on boosting red color. Award-winning bulls of DLG- and national shows, as for example Hampel of the Henz-herd and Gardist of the Flamme-herd, have characterized the breeding of Red Angus in the beginning of the 80-ies all across Hesse. The Hessian breeders have furthermore always managed to adapt their breeding-intention and to maintain early maturity and efficiency in their herds of medium-sized animals by buying suitable material from other breeding areas, mostly from Lower Saxony and Bavaria. The inclusion of Black- and Red Angus from overseas breeding areas was accordingly effected only in doses and according to good, sound judgement. The introduction of performance assessment and breeding value appraisal confirmed the high performance of the Hessian breeds, and therefore also that the thus far breeding-work had been following the right path.  

Soon there was also a constant demand for Hessian breeding products to be noticed, due to the thoroughly bred herds. The first auction was held in Giessen in 1984, however only with little success. In 1991, the first auction was staged in the new Hessenhalle in the centrally located town of Alsfeld. Footing on the auctions held in Giessen, this event turned out to be a sweeping success. The annual Beef Cattle Convention, taking place in February since this time, an the following auction, have aroused interest all across Germany and in the bordering foreign countries. Angus cows and weanlings, raised in the Hessian Uplands, will render the desired performance everywhere, due to their robust rearing. Young bulls are also in great demand and are being employed successfully by breeders in other breeding areas, due to their good hereditary properties regarding performance and true-to-type characteristics. The adaptable German Angus have gained acceptance in Hesse at an early stage, and even today, they are very popular because of their easy handling in suckler cow husbandry. And their distribution has developed correspondingly.  

Hans Wördemann   

Angus Breeding in Hesse

Within the last few years, breeding progress for the Angus-breed in Hesse has shown a perceivable forward development, which is characterized by increasing herd populations, but primarily also by numerous newly joining member-livestock breeders.  

More and more breeders engaged in suckler cow husbandry have become aware of the advantages of this hornless, early-maturing breed with best rearing qualities and a distinctive adaptability for profitable grassland utilization in fulltime or part-time livestock farming, and are utilizing it by marketing quality meat and breeding cattle.  

The Hessian breeders have reached a uniform standard at an early stage by consistent selection: Uni-colored cattle in red or black, calving for the first time at an age of two years due to early maturity, and therefore reducing the rearing costs considerably. The dry, fine skeleton and the light heads are to be regarded as guarantors for easy calving, and these characteristics constitute an important selection criterion. For use in direct marketing, the intention is to induce distinctive muscle formation in all value-defining areas at an early stage, for example along the back and legs; at the same time, motherliness and milk yield of the cows are factors taken into consideration in breeding selection right from the very beginning.   

The development of the performance of the Hessian Angus population is to be regarded as the visible manifestation of the progress in breeding: If the 1,000 g-limit in daily weight gain was often not reached among young bulls 10 years ago, today the mean value of the bulls selected for breeding purposes amounts to 1,282 g, and the elite-bulls still exceed this value by another 40 g. Angus bulls are now to be found in a performance range which initially was only conceivable for the heavy breeds. Compared with the herd standard, all bull-mothers in the pedigree herds attained a rearing performance of at least 95% on the basis of performance assessment in the field; this requirement, unique Germany, has undoubtedly had a very positive effect on Hessian Angus breeding.  

With the same consistency and on the basis of the breeding results on hand, work is being continued for maternal qualities, weight development and meat yield percentage (RZF [Relative Breeding Value for Meat]). As opposed to other beef cattle breeds, essential criteria of the type of breed, such as calving ease and early maturity, are furthermore also to be ascribed great importance with regard to Angus cattle, aside of selection in accordance with RZF. Even if performance assessment in the field is to be regarded as a cornerstone of breeding selection, many active Angus – breeders have additionally sent material to the ELP [Self-Performance Testing] - Station of the State of Hesse in Neu Ulrichstein within the last years.  There, growth performances, feed conversion ratios and constitutional characteristics are determined under uniform conditions in groups held on slatted floors. Intentions for the future are to expand self-performance testing to include the aspects of well-fleshedness, fat coverage / visible fat and intra-muscular fat / marbling.  

Today, the genetic basis of the Hessian Angus population is undoubtedly distributed to many herds, and lately, the activities of some of the younger breeding stations have also been identifiable at shows and through marketing successes, and at the same time, thoroughly bred cow-lines and well-proven herd-bulls, such as Pilot, Hubertus and Frank, and their offspring constitute a superb basis, which can stand its ground at any time in supra-regional comparison. This is clearly verified by the permanent demand for Hessian Angus animals, both, at the beef cattle conventions and from the livestock breeders. An economic utilization of grassland by employment of mother-cows is no longer conceivable in the future on a supra-regional level under today's marketing conditions without resorting to Angus cattle, and is to be recommended with priority for agricultural enterprises operating according to the guidelines of ecological farming.