Brahman cows are extremely good at tolerating insects and heat, with its hump able to store gallons of water. They have a special place in the history of American and Australian breeds of cattle, and have evolved over the last 200 years to cope with harsh climates.
Read on to discover if this breed will make the perfect match for your farm or homestead.
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Where Do Brahman Cows Come From?
Brahman cows descend from Zebu cattle, known as Bos indicus or the famous sacred cattle of India.
Brahman cattle is the name used for Zebu cattle in the US, with the more specific name, American Brahman, used to refer to the pure breed of Bos indicus developed in the country using Indian cattle.
Brahman cows were first imported to the US in the mid-1800s from Brazil, India, and the United Kingdom. From 1885, crossing activities started with four strains or breeds of Zebu cattle called the Nelore, the Gir, the Guzerat, and the Krishna Valley.
Of the four strains, the Krishna Valley was the least used, but it still played a significant role in the development of American Brahmas.
From India, where they were used for draft, riding, milk production, and sacred purposes, the Brahmans found new uses in the US by becoming a celebrated breeding and beef breed.
American Brahman cattle have been crossbred with major taurine breeds (Bos taurus) or European cattle to produce hybrids such as:
- Brangus – Brahman x Angus
- Sabre – Brahman x Sussex
- Bravon – Brahman x Devon
- South Bravon – Brahman x South Devon
- Bra-Swiss – Brahman x Brown Swiss
- CharBray – Brahman x Charolais
- Beefmaster – Brahman x Hereford x Shorthorn
- Braford – Brahman x Hereford
- Santa Gertrudis – Brahman x Shorthorn (developed in Texas)
- SimBrah – Brahman x Simmental
- BrahMousin – Brahman x Limousin
The American Brahman Breeders Association, established in 1924, was responsible for maintaining the Brahman herdbook and supervising the registration of the cattle. The association adopted Brahman as the official name of the breed in the country.
Today, American Brahman cattle have spread to Colombia, Australia, South Africa, Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay.
Brahman Cows Breed Characteristics
The following characteristics are notable in Brahman cows:
|Official Breed Name||Brahman|
|Scientific Name||Bos indicus cattle|
|Size||Large hump resting directly over the shoulder|
|Appearance||Varying colors (Red Brahman—light grey to red and Grey Brahman—light to medium grey).|
Large, pendulous ears
Lots of loose skin
Short glossy hair
Horns in both bulls and cows (some Brahmans are naturally polled)
|Calf Weight||60-65 pounds at birth, sometimes 50-100|
|Mature Cow Weight||1,000 to 1,400 pounds|
|Mature Cow Height||5 to 5.5 feet at the shoulder|
|Mature Bull Weight||1,600 to 2,200 pounds|
|Mature Bull Height||5.5 to 6 feet at the shoulder|
|Ready To Breed||18 to 24 months, making these later maturing cows|
|Gestation Period||9 months|
|First Calvings||27 to 33 months|
|Time to Slaughter||2 years|
|Carcass Weight||741 pounds (on average)|
|Expected Lifespan||12-16 years on average, 15-20 as dairy, and fewer as beef cattle|
|Productive Lifespan||5+ years|
|Known For||Shyness, curiosity, and intelligence|
Good mothering instincts
Docility when handled calmly
|Weaknesses||Poor carcass weight|
|Climate||Adaptability to different climates, though they have poor cold tolerance.|
What Is So Special About Brahman Cows?
The Brahman breed of cattle is famous mainly because of three aspects:
- High tolerance to heat
- Long reproductive life
- Hybrid vigor or heterosis in crossbreeding (the increase in production realized from crossing two genetically unrelated breeds).
The high tolerance to heat developed over thousands of years as the cattle grew in the tropics and had to develop adaptive mechanisms for heat dissipation.
Firstly, the loose skin helps with heat dissipation as it provides more surface area for cooling or heat loss from the body to the environment.
Secondly, the coloring of the skin helps reflect intense sun rays, which would otherwise cause heat buildup.
Thirdly, the glossy coat of short and thick hair helps reflect most of the sun’s rays, which allows the cows to graze under the hot sun comfortably.
During warm weather, Brahman bulls and cows produce lower amounts of body heat than European cattle.
The high sweating ability of Brahmans through the many sweat glands distributed throughout the skin also helps with heat tolerance.
The prolonged productive life of Brahman cattle endears them to many cattlemen. Although the calves are born small, they grow rapidly to attain good weaning weights like other breeds.
However, Brahmans have relatively slow growth in their heifer days and reach first breeding age at 18-24 months, much later than heifers of other breeds.
The upside to the late maturing phenomenon is that Brahma cows usually calf down beyond 15 years of age, way beyond the time for other cow breeds.
Why Should I Raise Brahman Cows On My Farm?
There are several reasons you would want to raise Brahman cattle on your farm:
- Brahman cows are good for milk and beef production.
- Brahmans are highly adaptive to different feeds and climates, although they don’t do so well in places with too low temperatures.
- The hardiness of Brahmans and their crossbreeds favors farmers or ranchers in desert climates in regions like Texas, where cattle with high survivability come in handy.
- The famed hybrid vigor means you can make money if you raise pure-bred Brahman bulls to produce healthy semen for artificial insemination.
- Because of the longer reproductive lifespan, your Brahman cow will have more calves on your farm to keep the stock going. You could also make money from calf sales.
- Brahman cattle are highly tolerant to diseases, meaning that your vet bills will be lower than those of other breeds like Holsteins that are susceptible to diseases and viruses.
- The thick skin of Brahman cows makes them hardy and highly resistant to attacks by insects and parasites. Their sebaceous glands produce a stinky secretion that keeps insects at bay.