Cattle Breeds of America

The Barzona

The Barzona is one of several cattle breeds developed in America to suit a particular set of conditions. In 1942, Francis Bard and his wife lived in Arizona in the United States. They wanted an adaptable breed that would do well under the tough conditions of their area. Temperatures in the area were extreme with minimal rainfall and sparse feed. The land itself was rugged and rocky. Cattle needed to be able to cope with the arid conditions. They needed sturdy legs and hooves to enable them to travel considerable distances between food and watering points.

When E S 'Jack' Humphrey joined the Bards and took over the development of a mixed breed, he tried several breeds before finding a 'mix' that fitted all the requirements of the enterprise.

Africander bulls were the first choice. The Africander has survived since the 15th centry and is well known for its hardiness. The legs and feet and sound and tough and they are good converters of browse to beef. They have good milk production, good body depth and good marbling without excessive fat. Their other advantage was that newborn calves are quite small but still vigorous with a strong will to live. The coat texture and dark colour give good resistance to disease and parasites. The Africander has good heat tolerance. Dark pigmentation round the eyes gives good protection from the sun and pinkeye and eye cancers are rarely seen. The eyes are also rather deep-set.

Hereford CowCredit: Wikimedia

Africander bulls were put over Hereford cows (pictured above). The Hereford was early maturing and had good hindquarters. It also had good ranging ability.

The other two breeds used were Angus and Santa Gertrudis. Today's Barzonas are roughly a quarter of each breed. The Angus contributed a saleable carcass and marbling qualities, small calves, meaty hindquarters and good milk supply. The Santa Gertrudis also had small calves and made efficient use of browse. Through judicious selection based on fecundity, weight gain rates and good maternal qualities, only the best were retained and by 1955, there was no need for further infusions of outside blood.

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By 1968, the Barzona was being utilised in commercial enterprises, often with the bulls being purchase for use in cross-breeding. The high ratio of lean to fat meat, the muscular carcass and well marbled cuts were all points in the breed's favour.

This year (1968) also saw the formation of the Barzona Breeders Association of America. In 1970, Francis Bard died and in 1973, the ranch was sold. Foundation stock was sold off to a few dedicated breeders.

The size of the modern Barzona varies a little depending on the environment. The colour is red but can vary from light to dark. There is sometimes white on the undersides and in the switch of the tail. The head is rather long. Barzonas may be polled or horned. The coat is thicker in colder areas. The body is long but well proportioned.

It has a good herding instinct. Heifers may mate as yearlings so it is a good thing that calves are born small and streamlined. Even under less than average conditions, cows will calve each year. The cattle are quiet and easy to handle. Bulls mature early and have good libido.

The Barzona converts feed very efficiently and does well under feedlot situations. It takes less feed to reach an acceptable market weight and they dress out well.

Because they adapt so well to sub-marginal pastures and to extremes of temperature, the Barzona is now found over most of the United States.