Heterosis: How It Works

Heterosis has been called many things (all good):

“It’s the only free lunch in the cattle business.”
“It’s new math, where 2+2=5”
A common slang term for heterosis is “hybrid vigor”, which is a self-explanatory term.

The best advice ever offered about heterosis:  “Don’t Ranch Without It.”

Heterosis is what happens when decades of inbreeding depression is erased by mating animals of two different breeds.  The result is improved performance in a whole battery of what are sometimes called “fitness” traits – stress tolerance, health, fertility and longevity – to name a few.

The dollars of heterosis:

100 cows, 80% Weaning Rate, 575 average weaning weight, 10 year horizon.
Calf Survival to Weaning (6%) = 48 head
Weaning weight (4%) = +18,400 lb.
Weaning weight per cow exposed (23%) = +105,800 lb. …or the equivalent of 18 more 575 lb. calves/year
Heterosis is worth ~$250/cow/year
($2.50/lb for 5-6 cwt calves)
Decreases breakeven by $0.43/lb…straightbred would have to generate an additional $330 per head to be equivalent.

Powerline sells ONLY hybrid bulls, which means that every calf sired by a Powerline bull will get the benefit of some heterosis.  Moreover, the daughters of Powerline bulls retained by customers will also be hybrid, which means that they will also display maternal heterosis.  Finally, since every Powerline bull is a hybrid, we expect our customers to benefit from paternal heterosis as well.

Powerline selected Simmental and Angus because they complement one another very well, and each breed dominates their peers in the real world and in the Germplasm Evaluation research at the Meat Animal Research Center (see the webpage on this site entitled “What Makes A Powerline Bull” for a summary of the MARC findings).  We’ll give up a little heterosis to get the high breeding values that we get with Angus and Simmental.

One of the Tools to Increase Profitability

Presented at the BIF Convention By:
Bob Weaber, Ph.D., Kansas State University, and
Matt Spangler, Ph.D., University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Flip through the proceedings to below.
Download proceedings (PDF version).