Animal Science Department


Date of this Version

March 2002


Published in Genetics and Molecular Research 1 (1): 51-63 (2002).


Optimum size for beef cattle is debated among researchers, cattle breeders and producers. Cattle vary widely in body size but optimal size depends on the production system. Selection has placed emphasis on growth, favoring leaner and faster growing cattle. This trend has led to an increase immature size of cattle that may not necessarily be advantageous. Many research results have indicated that there is not a direct relationship between size and efficiency in beef production if each biological type of cattle is managed according to its nutrient requirements and management practices within the beef industry in the world, however, a careful choice of the breed or cross is required to maximize efficiency for each situation.

Beef cattle have a low rate of reproduction and a high maternal cost per animal marketed. Therefore, the two most important components that determine efficiency of beef cows are milk production and mature body weight (Dickerson, 1970; McMorris and Wilton, 1986; Montano-Bermudez et al., 1990). Although most genetic evaluation programs of beef cattle report Expected Progeny Differences (EPD) for maternal ability for weaning weight, only one in the United States currently reports EPD for mature size (Wilson, 2000).