Braford is a rather ambiguous term, as it can refer to either crossbred or purebred composite cattle with both taurine and zebu influence. The crossbred cattle, which shall be called F1 Brafords throughout this post (F1 represents the first generation of a cross), are the result of a Brahman x Hereford mating. The pure breed has a similar origin. In that case, however, most of the crossbreeding occurred in the mid-1900s.
Cattlemen in hot, humid areas have always struggled with finding the perfect genetics for their challenging environment. The Brahman offered the heat and parasite tolerance they needed, but did not have the stellar beef qualities of the British breeds. Accordingly, experiments with Brahman x Hereford matings began as early as the 1920s. The resulting F1 Brafords were promising, but a new dilemma arose: How could breeders keep the quality consistent? In an effort to maintain hybrid vigor, the offspring could be crossed back to one of the parent breeds, but then what? Cross the resulting calves back to the other breed? That was a process that could quickly become complicated, and the results would never be terribly consistent.
The first real progress with the cross came in 1947 when Alto Adams Jr. of southern Florida took up the experiment. He started with a herd of Brahman cows and crossed them with Hereford bulls. He was pleased with the quality of the calves, but quickly realized that he was going to have difficulty maintaining his bulls. The Herefords wilted in the blistering heat and humidity of Florida. The next generation of herd sires was going to have to come from his F1 Brafords.
Adams selected the bull calves with the best weaning and yearling weights to cross to his cows, and a breeding program began. After a few generations of linebreeding, he began to see cattle with the hardiness and beef characteristics he wanted. The best bulls were selected as the foundation of the new breed that was developing, and the purebred Braford appeared on the cattle scene. It has since been adopted by many business-minded cattlemen in the South.
The Braford is purely a beef breed, sometimes used for crossbreeding to other beef breeds for calves with extra hybrid vigor. It is also sometimes used in rodeos.
Overall, the Braford is a docile breed that responds well to kind treatment. However, it is also active, intelligent, and maybe a little bit ornery. Brafords should be handled regularly to keep them calm and tractable.
The Braford is extremely hardy and healthy. It is particularly resistant to eye problems such as pinkeye and cancer eye, and bloat is a rare occurrence in the breed.
- Genetic consistency (mainly in purebreds).
- Hybrid vigor (mainly in F1 Brafords).
- Resistance to ticks.
- Heat tolerance.
- Ability to hold body condition in droughts.
- Foraging instinct.
- Early puberty, making heifers ready to begin calf production quickly.
- Calving ease.
- Good mothering ability.
- High growth rates.
- Efficiency on both grass and grain.
- Minimal waste when slaughtered.
- Good taste.
- Doubtful cold tolerance.
- Difficulty and expense of maintaining breeding programs with F1 Brafords.
- Discounts in sale barns outside of the South due to Brahman influence and associated problems with temperament, cold tolerance, and meat quality.