Cattle breeds of African, European and Indian origins are being evaluated at Rockhampton for their suitability for beef production in northern Australia. In the current study, Belmont Adaptaur (HS), Belmont Red (AX) and Belmont BX (BX) dams were mated to produce straightbreds and crossbred progeny by Brahman (B), Boran (Bo) and Tuli (Tu) sires. B dams were mated to produce straightbreds and crossbred progeny by AX, BX, Bo, Charolais (Ch), HS and Tu sires. This paper reports values for heterosis for some crosses and live weights on pasture for some straightbred and crossbred genotypes at birth, at weaning and at 18 months.
Heterosis for birth weights was greatest for taurine dam breed × indicine sire breed, generally negative for the reciprocal cross and markedly less for Tu-sired than for B- or Bo-sired progeny. Heterosis was not estimated for Bo and Tu crosses at weaning or at 18 months. At these ages, heterosis for growth includes a component related to resistance to environmental stresses. Thus, heterosis was then greater for B crossbreds derived from the less resistant HS than from the more resistant AX.
There were significant differences between genotypes in live weights at each age. Progeny by B sires from taurine dams had higher live weights than progeny by Bo or Tu sires. Evidence is presented that strongly indicates that the difference in growth rates between the B- and Bo-sired progeny arose entirely from differences in mature live weights of the B and Bo, not from differences in efficiency of growth of their crossbred progeny. Similarly, live weights of progeny by taurine sires from B dams ranked according to the mature live weights of the sire breeds. Thus, the Ch- and Tu-sired progeny had the highest and lowest live weights at all ages respectively. Comparative growth potentials of the indicine sire breeds were estimated by comparing 18-month live weights of progeny from HS dams. Relative to Bo = 100, growth potential of B = 205. Similarly, growth potentials of the taurine sire breeds were estimated from progeny from B dams. Relative to Tu = 100, the estimates were HS = 104, AX = 111 and Ch = 117. Crossbred progeny by B and Bo sires were generally significantly heavier at all ages than the corresponding straightbreds. However, Tu-sired progeny had similar birth weights too, but generally higher weaning and 18-month live weights than, the corresponding straightbreds. Relatively low birth weight and low heterosis for birth weight identify the Tu as a potentially useful sire breed when an increase in birth weight of crossbreds is undesirable.
Within each dam breed, no straightbred could match the growth rate of the best crossbred. At 18 months this advantage was proportionately 0·21, 0·09, 0·05 and 0·16 over that of the straightbred HS, AX, BX and B respectively. Live weight of every crossbred based on B dams exceeded that of the straightbred B, the most populous breed in northern Australia. Thus, increases in growth rates could be achieved by crossbreeding irrespective of the base breed. Live weights at 18 month for progeny of Bo, Tu and AX sires from B dams, all of which exceeded those of the straightbred B, suggest that the African breeds can be used to complement the B in crossbreeding programmes in northern Australia.