‘Black attack’ is a beef game-changer

Joel “Jay” Reach loves to promote his black cattle — at Reach Simmental. “They bring a $50- to $100-per-head premium any day at auction, and all the way to the meat counter.”

It’s money in the bank for this Unadilla, N.Y., cow-calf producer. As a small-scale breeder, Reach stretches for higher-return niches — breeding stock and club calf sales, even a small embryo transfer market.

“A lot of cattle judges prefer black cattle,” he notes, “for a very good reason.” There’s a ready market for feeder calves that can catch the Certified Angus Beef premiums.

But hold on! Angus have black hides, and Simmentals don’t ... or do they?

Key Points

Black-hided beef cattle bring $50 to $100 premiums.

Angus influence helps Reach capture Simmental profits.

CAB program is a boon, even for small-scale beef breeders.


In Reach’s herd of 100 cows, Simmentals may be solid black, black with partly white faces, solid red or red with partly white faces. It depends on the genes.

In the 1970s, cattle breeders began inseminating Angus cows with semen from imported full-blood Fleckvieh and Limousin bulls to capture hybrid vigor. Black Charolais is a more recent phenomenon, also due to Angus influence. That’s why black beef cattle numbers have exploded across the country.

Black Simmentals aren’t just “dyed-in-the-hide” Angus crossbreds. The purebred bulls are homozygous black. “Fleckvieh Simmentals are [genetically] non-diluters,” Reach explains. “That’s why I get black calves.

“Breeding Angus cows or full-blood Fleckvieh cows to a black Simmental bull will produce all-black calves,” continues this past president of the New York and American Simmental associations. The black and polled traits remain through succeeding generations. Isn’t that false advertising?

“No,” he grins. “CAB doesn’t require Angus cattle, just black hides. They just have to grade U.S. Choice and have a big enough rib-eye, plus marbling.”

Boasting a bit, Reach adds, “Simmentals have some marbling, put more milk into their calves and make bigger calves. Steers, at 5 to 6 months of age, weight 650 to 700 pounds. Heifers will ultrasound 8- to 9-inch rib-eyes at that age.”

Teaming up Angus expected progeny differences, or EPD, with Simmental “mama cow” traits makes for bigger calves and high-grading carcasses. No market phenomenon is played on more than CAB, notes the Otsego County cattleman.

In the beef industry, gene swapping is acceptable and profitable. What’s more, it keeps small-scale beef producers in the breeding business — without awaking patent attorneys.

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BULLISH: Joel Reach’s black Simmental bull opens a premium market for his bull and heifer calves.

This article published in the May, 2011 edition of AMERICAN AGRICULTURIST.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2011.