Quiz 24: Beef Cattle Breeds and Breeding

Biology

In the process of animal breeding, the selected animals with desirable traits are mated to produce offspring with desirable traits. There were about 250 different breeds of cattle all over the world. There were many breeds which were not identified by a name. The demand for breeding increased when the market preferred a livestock which was fat. Also, there was a demand that even the dead body of the cattle should be superior in its nutrients. The superior carcass was preferred so that the decomposition of the dead cattle released nutrients back to the soil. Apart from these features there was an emphasis on the appearance like the color of the cattle, pattern of the color, horns, size and shape of the cattle. Hence, breeding has helped in ensuring a sustainable production. The breeding techniques have been approved biologically and ecologically. The breeding has successfully removed the unwanted features. Therefore, the cattle produced by animal breeding possess only desirable characteristics.

Genetic diversity or variation helps in the process of natural selection. If there was no variation in the genetic constitution of a species, then all organisms are similar in all aspects. If there was a natural calamity or a sudden change in the environment, then all the individuals in a species may or may not able to survive the change. But if an individual is genetically different it may respond in a different way to the drastic change in the environment. The genetic variation may help in evoking a desired response by an organism during an alteration in the environment. And eventually the organism which had a genetic variation may evolve as the fittest of all the others. If genetic variation did not exist, evolution of a variant was possible only through mutation. And, mutations do not occur frequently. They occur once over generations.

In the 1900, there were 3 main breeds of beef in the U.S. They were Shorthorn , Hereford , and the Angus. Slowly the number of breeds increased to 15-20 by 1970. But in the present scenario, we can find more than 60 varieties of beef breeds alone in U.S. There were many factors which promoted the importation of other breeds. Some of these factors are as listed below: 1) Initially the cattle were fed on forage (grass, legumes) diet. But in 1940 there was a shift in this practice. Cattle were fed on grains so that they become fat. This ensured a high percentage of lean and less fat. Due to this reason there was an effort to improve the traditional breeds of cattle. As a result, the new breeds were imported. 2) Secondly, there was a demand for cattle which could produce more milk and also grow faster. 3) Thirdly, some people tried to promote a particular breed as the best possessing the best traits in terms of production. And since many people did not have the required awareness about all the breeds, they ended up believing what the promoters advertised.

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