Crossbreeding, Upbreeding and Line Breeding the Belted Galloway

by Alan Fournier

There are numerous strong points for using Belted Galloway genetics in a commercial crossbreeding program. The more obvious transmittable physical characteristics are the Beltie’s thick, double hair coat for climate and fly control. They are naturally polled, and have a small to medium frame size.

Frame size is of particular importance for several reasons. After spending many years breeding bigger beef animals, the North American beef industry is now backpedalling. Larger carcasses contributed to equipment breakdowns in handling and, more importantly, the American consumer seems to prefer a rib-eye steak from a 1000-lb. steer with a frame score of 4 or 5 to that of a 1400-lb. steer with a frame score of 7 or 8.

Both feedlot owners and grass farmers are aware of the superior feed conversion ratio of a smaller animal. The famed foraging ability and “easy keeper” status of the Belted Galloway deserves serious consideration from both the established and the prospective beef farmer, large or small.

Using the Beltie for crossbreeding in a “breed up” program is one way that many people have entered the Beltie business. This method is oftentimes more affordable than purchasing registered breeding stock.

The Belted Galloway Society records crossbred females in an Appendix to the Herd Book in a progression from one-half through seven-eighths. The properly marked fifteen-sixteenths female may be registered in the Herd Book as “purebred.”

Breeding up also increases the options for those attempting to adapt the breed to their own specific needs and climate.

Click for larger image.When starting a breed-up program it is best to use polled, solid colored cows so as to minimize scurs or mismarking in calves. The white markings of a Holstein or the white face of the Hereford are dominant traits like the belt of the Belted Galloway, and these traits are difficult to eliminate.

Line breeding is common practice with all types of livestock, and is nothing more than planned interbreeding. With line breeding, animals are mated with little or no regard to their degree of kinship. For example, you might choose to breed your females to a related bull if you have determined that the bull has a greater chance of enhancing the characteristics you are looking for. It is a very common practice to use a bull on his granddaughters. Line breeding seems to be more openly accepted in Europe than here. Positive traits can be strengthened with line breeding, but one needs to be aware that there is the risk of perpetuating weaknesses.

With today’s tremendous interest in grass farming and grass-finished beef, the adaptability and superior characteristics of the Belted Galloway should not be overlooked in any beef breeding program.

Alan Fournier’s lifelong interest in agriculture and cattle husbandry focused on breeding Belted Galloways. Since then Alan and his wife Jeannine moved their Four Green Fields Farm lock, stock and Beltie herd from Vermont to Wisconsin. They are now retired from raising Belted Galloway cattle.