The Breed’s Excellence and the Environments to Which it is Best Suited
Numerically, Angus is the biggest beef breed in the world. This is due to its undisputed merits and outstanding characteristics.
The following traits are the reasons why the breed is so popular in commercial cattle farming:
The breed is famous for its small calves at birth. The average birth mass of Angus calves is 35.1 kg (2004 birth statistics of the ARC).
Since 1980, the breed has achieved the highest fertility levels of the ten biggest breeds in the National Beef Performance Testing Scheme. The breed is renowned for its high fertility under all circumstances. The breed also reaches maturity at a very early age (8-12 months), which means that they can calve for the first time at an earlier age. Of the 13 major breeds in the Scheme during the period 1980-90, Angus had the lowest average age at first calving, namely 32 months.
This trait is increasing in importance due to the elimination of dehorning and carcass injuries. Where Angus bulls are used in a crossbreeding system, approximately 90% of the progeny is polled.
Fixed Colour Pattern
Private research in Natal has shown that weaner calves with a fixed colour pattern achieved a higher price per kg compared to odd-coloured weaners. Angus offers a fixed colour pattern and a choice between red and black. This is still an underestimated trait. Just think about the colour pattern of some commercial herds, especially in poorly planned crossbreeding systems in South Africa, and one must conclude that colour uniformity is much more preferable.
Excellent Maternal Traits
World wide, Angus is recognised as one of the best mother cow lines due to their good milk production, high fertility, low maintenance requirements and functional udders with small teats. Angus cows are not fastidious grazers and are excellent utilisers of any type of roughage.
Angus is a breed with fully pigmented eyes and udders, meaning that diseases such as eye cancer do not occur. Angus is also the only breed that is free from snow-burnt udders during snow-covered North American winters.
A Worldwide Gene Pool
Because numerically Angus is the biggest breed in the world, the gene pool is unlimited. The American Angus Association alone had more than 12 million registered animal records at the end of 1996. Semen can be imported from the USA, Canada, Argentina, the UK, Australia, New Zealand and Europe. In Argentina more than 70% of the cattle are Angus or crossbred Angus.
Because more than 50% of the South African calf crop is channelled through feedlots, growth is economically important as calves are purchased per kilogram. It is also true that growth is highly correlated with birth mass. Consequently, one would deduce that the highest growth should go hand in hand with the highest birth masses. This does not apply to Angus, considering growth per day in relation to birth mass. The following table gives a comparison of 2004 growth data (ARC Performance Test Results).
2004 Phase C.