Background of the Gelbvieh Breed
Where does the Gelbvieh come from?
The Gelbvieh originated in Germany in the early 19th century and was exported to North America in the early 1700’s.
Despite being preceded to North America by numerous other European breeds, it did not take long for Canadian and American cattle breeders to realise that the Gelbvieh was a breed with a big future.
After less than 20 years in North America, the Gelbvieh is in the “top five” of breeds in Canada and the USA.
In 1988 the first Gelbvieh genetics arrived in Australia and there has been a steady flow since then. Already, the Gelbvieh breed has started to make its mark through efficient and economical performances.
What does the Gelbvieh look like?
Gelbvieh are a large framed muscular breed not too dissimilar to a Simmental, Charolais or Limousin. They are renowned for having smaller calves which means they have less chance of calving difficulties unlike most other European breeds. Gelbvieh purebreds are traditionally a golden honey red colour, however black purebreds are available and Black Gelbvieh are proving popular with cattle breeders.
The cattle are single coloured in their coat, with fine dense hair and well pigmented skin areas which are important in harsh climate areas. Gelbvieh are a very adaptable breed and are bred in all climates around the world. Gelbvieh are also known for their quiet disposition and docility, especially when compared with other European breeds.
The general conformation is a well balanced, long bodied, moderately muscled animal with well placed legs and hard dark coloured hooves.
Efficiency and economy are given more importance in the breed than height and size. Extremes in these areas are not sought at the expense of efficiency. However, bull weights usually exceed the tonne with mature cow weights between the 650 and 820 Kg range.
What has been the selection process?
The Gelbvieh breed in Barvaria has been involved in a systematic program involving the testing of A.I. sires since 1958. It is a program of planned matings, where cows with top milk production records are evaluated for calving interval, conformation, soundness and disposition.
Selected cows are joined to proven progeny tested bulls to breed young sire prospects. What it really boils down to is that out of 50,000 bulls conceived by A.I., 50 of these are ultimately chosen for planned matings with the top 25% of cows.
The objective selection tradition has been continued as the breed has spread internationally. Performance recording for beef characteristics is mandatory for registered Gelbvieh in the USA and now in Australia.
Can Gelbvieh economically convert feed to beef?
Economy of production relies heavily on feed conversion efficiency. Producing more beef per tonne of fodder is probably the greatest efficiency consideration in any breed in any cattle operation. Feed conversion efficiency can only be rated through regulated accurate testing done at recognised test centres. Gelbvieh feed conversion efficiency has been proven in USA trials at the Clay Centre, Nebraska, where they have found that Gelbvieh had the largest ribeye-muscle area per 100kg of all breeds. Hence they have high cut-out yields.
Are they good mothers?
Birth weights range from 65 – 95 pounds with a breed average of 84 pounds for heifers and 88 pounds for bull calves. Calving difficulty research in the USA reveals that the Gelbvieh is the easiest calving breed of all the European breeds in North America. Because of its dual purpose background, the Gelbvieh female is a good milker with a strongly attached udder and good teat size for suckling.
How about temperament?
Gelbvieh are known for their great maternal traits and abilities, Gelbvieh are known as the 'Maternal' breed, with Gelbvieh females being excellent mothers. Generations of breeding for good temperament has produced this exceptionally docile and gentle animal. The trait not only allows for ease of handling, but a reduced stress factor promotes better dietary digestion and faster gains through less energy loss due to stress, and therefore above all, increased longevity.
How would a Gelbvieh bull go in my herd?
The combination of superior maternal and growth traits qualify Gelbvieh for any commercial cross breeding program. No matter what your goal, be they higher weaning weights, improved feedlot gain, superior carcase quality and cuttability or heavy milking female replacement heifers, Gelbvieh genes go to work to improve your program.
What about carcase quality?
Gelbvieh is known throughout Germany as the breed with the best carcase in the beef business from the standpoint of carcase weight per day of age, dressing percentage, palatability and price received.
Can Gelbvieh cattle make me more money?
For those breeders considering a stud breeding exercise with Gelbvieh, demand for the breed is exceptional and stud cattle bring high prices.
For the commercial producer, there are many factors which increase profitability in a herd. Calving ease, early puberty in heifers, fertility, milk production and growth are most important. Fast growth is not the only crucial issue and those who make a profit from the cattle enterprise in the future will require productivity from their cow herd.
Economic traits, quiet dispositions and structural soundness are the Gelbvieh’ strong points.
Puberty: Gelbvieh have the earliest puberty of any beef breed (only dairy breed Jersey is earlier), so in normal cattle country, Gelbvieh can be joined at 13 months to calve at 22 months - instead of at 24 months with other breeds - or even 30 months with more terminal breeds like Charolais. This gives the first calf Gelbvieh heifer 15 months before it has to calve again as a 3 year old. This extra 3 months provides an extremely valuable management advantage for the sensitive first calf heifer, which has to suckle its calf and return to service for its next pregnancy, while still growing.
Fertility: Gelbvieh had the largest testicles of all breeds in the Clay Centre research and since testicular size is related to the fertility of their daughters, this probably explains why the females are most fertile and even precocious. Gelbvieh bulls taken to AI centres for semen collection have had the most verile semen counts and quality seen of any breed, which is just what the beef business needs. They should not be co-joined with a different breed of bull if you want equal numbers of calves. An Inverell breeder tells the story of running a Gelbvieh and a proven Hereford bull with 60 Hereford cows; 23 calves dropped in the first 10 days of calving - 21 of them were Gelbvieh.
Milking Ability: Originally Gelbvieh where bred for milk production as well as beef, they have exceptional udders and milking ability - like 1000 litres more than Hereford or Angus per lactation.
Weaning Weight: Gelbvieh produced the highest weaning weight per cow exposed to breeding at Clay Centre - which reflects their good performance in fertility, milk and growth. Weaning weights are usually more than 200kg at 7 months.
Yearling Weight: Usually better than 300kg, which explains why females can be joined at 12 months - and why Gelbvieh crossbreds can be marketed as yearlings.
That’s why profit conscious cattlemen are selecting Gelbvieh to supply the genetics for their cross bred herds.