Gelbvieh Show Moderate Mature Cow Size in New U.S. Meat Animal Research Center Data

Lincoln, Nebraska – Recently, new research from scientists at University of Nebraska-Lincoln and U.S. Meat Animal Research Center (USMARC) was published on breed and heterotic effects for mature weight in beef cattle. This research was conducted using over 5,000 crossbred cows from the USMARC’s Germplasm Evaluation Program and 108,957 weight records collected from weaning up to six years of age. The Germplasm Evaluation Program provides a comprehensive comparison for various traits of the most economically important breeds within the United States.

In the study, “Breed and heterotic effects for mature weight in beef cattle” released in the August 2021 Journal of Animal Science, Volume 99, Issue 8, the estimate of heritability for mature weight from the data was 0.56, meaning a response will be seen when selection pressure is applied to the trait. Looking at the breed differences, there were 16 different beef breeds evaluated in the study and the results were expressed as deviations from Angus. When comparing the seven major beef breeds in the United States, Gelbvieh showed the most moderate mature cow weight at -145.4 lbs when compared to Angus.

Looking at the breed differences of other highly used breeds, Angus were the heaviest cows in the population. Following Angus, Charolais weighed in at -19.6 lbs; followed by Hereford at -38.5 lbs; Simmental at -73.5; Limousin at -95.3 lbs; Red Angus at -98.6 lbs; and Shorthorn at -132.4 lbs, respectively.

When compared to all 16 breeds in the study, Gelbvieh showed the third most moderate size, only behind Braunvieh (-300.7 lbs) and Beefmaster (-151.4).

Mature weight has an impact on the costs and efficiencies of an operation. Of course, there is no “one size fits all” when it comes to mature cow weight; the ideal size of cow can be variable depending on the type of environment and production system. That being said, according to this study, the average weight of cows at slaughter increased from 1,047 pounds in 1975 to 1,369 pounds in 2005, meaning average cow weights increased by roughly 322 pounds in those 30 years. Increasing cow weights can be attributed to increased selection pressure on growth traits. Producing heavier, faster gaining feeder cattle can come with trade-offs when we look at mature cow weights. Heavier cows require more feed resources to maintain, and with feed costs typically being the largest line item on any operation’s budget, extra pounds of calf often doesn’t offset the extra feeding costs of a heavier cow.

This study is not the first time Gelbvieh has been noted for a moderate mature cow size. According to the USMARC Progress Report #22, released in 2004, Gelbvieh were shown to have the most moderate mature cow size of the seven major beef breeds listed earlier in this article.

Although these studies only focused on cow size, Gelbvieh cattle are also known for growth and heavy weaning calves. Having more moderate cows that consume less while still weaning heavier calves creates efficiency on an operation and optimizes resources. As we are at a time where input costs continue to rise and resources are decreasing, moderate females will be in even greater demand. Gelbvieh and Balancer® females meet that mark.

The American Gelbvieh Association is a progressive beef cattle breed association representing 1,100 members and approximately 40,000 cows assessed annually in a performance-oriented total herd reporting system.


Note to Editors: High-resolution press quality photos are available by contacting Katie Harbert, American Gelbvieh Association Gelbvieh Media Productions Coordinator at or 303-465-2333.