Origin of Breed

The Gelbvieh (pronounced Gelp-fee) breed is one of the oldest German cattle breeds, first found mainly in three Franconian districts of Bavaria. Starting in 1850, systematic breeding work began in stud herds. Through purebreeding, the “red-yellow Franconian cattle” were developed from several local strains, including Celtic-German Landrace and Heil-Brown Landrace cattle. These local strains have been further improved with intensive breeding work since 1870. This solid-colored breed of red-yellow cattle enjoyed great popularity as draft and slaughter cattle.

Since World War II, Germany used a stringent selection program to repopulate its cattle herds. Only three percent of the registered cows were used to produce potential bulls. These cows were selected on structural soundness and conformation.

Bulls from these select cows were performance-tested, and the top half was progeny-tested. The progeny evaluation included gestation length, birth weight, calving ease, growth rate, slaughter weight, carcass quality conformation, udder soundness and fertility and milk production in daughters. Semen was released only from bulls that proved their superiority in progeny testing. In the 1960’s, Red Danish cattle were included in the herd book to improve milk production.

Physical Description

Gelbvieh cattle can be golden to dark red in color or black; today approximately 80% of the population is black. While typically a horned breed, the majority of the cattle are homozygous polled. Gelbvieh cattle adapt well to all climates, withstanding cold temperatures in the northern hemisphere as well as having short, slick hair during hot temperatures.

Gelbvieh cattle are moderate in size, well-balanced, long-bodied and heavily muscled.

Defining Characteristics

The Gelbvieh breed has outstanding maternal traits of fertility, excellent mothering instincts, quiet temperament, good udders and high milk production.

Gelbvieh-sired females topped the charts in the first Meat Animal Research Center data on fertility, age at puberty and pounds weaned per cow exposed. Today’s MARC data shows the Gelbvieh breed has reduced mature cow size, has the lowest birth weights of the four major Continental breeds and still maintains the earliest age at puberty. Through aggressive selection pressure by Gelbvieh breeders, the breed has improved female stayability, increased calving ease, lowered birth weights and added carcass weight.

Gelbvieh or Balancer® bulls can be easily used in a crossbreeding program to get to the most profitable place in the beef industry. Crossbred cows have added longevity and a Gelbvieh-influenced female gives you more cow power. Continental-British cross feeder cattle will optimize gain and efficiency and hit the target for Quality and Yield Grade premiums.

Development in America

Leness Hall, the director of International Marketing for Carnation Genetics, first saw Gelbvieh cattle in 1969. He worked towards importing Gelbvieh semen to the U.S., and finally was able to bring 43,000 units to America in 1971. In that same year, the American Gelbvieh Association was formed.

Today, there are approximately 45,000 active, registered Gelbvieh cows in the United States and 1,400 active members of the American Gelbvieh Association (AGA). AGA is the largest Gelbvieh association in the world and ranks fifth in number of registered animals among beef breed associations in the United States. Most registered U.S. Gelbvieh are classified as purebreds (at least 88 percentage Gelbvieh) and were bred up by mating fullbloods and purebred Gelbvieh bulls to foundation cows.

Breed Registry and Improvement Programs

Purebred Gelbvieh cattle as well as hybrid cattle can be registered with the AGA. Breeders can document Gelbvieh-influenced bulls and females with registrations and EPDs through AGA’s three hybrid registry programs: Balancer®, Southern Balancer® and Hybrid.

Balancer cattle are registered hybrid seedstock and have documented pedigrees and EPDs. Balancer animals are 25 to 75% Gelbvieh with the balance Angus or Red Angus. Southern Balancer is a Gelbvieh-heat tolerant composite specifically targeted to producers who want the maternal heterosis, disposition, fertility and carcass consistency of a Bos Indicus x Gelbvieh cross. Hybrid animals, of any breed or cross, may be recorded using the Hybrid Cattle Recording Service. The AGA documents the pedigree, breed composition and calculates performance data and provides EPDs.

For Gelbvieh members and commercial users of Gelbvieh and Balancer genetics, the AGA offers several services to assist in maximizing return on investment in Gelbvieh and Balancer bulls and replacement females.

Cow-calf producers who use Gelbvieh genetics are eligible to add value to females by marketing them through the Maternal Edge commercial female sales. Visit www.maternaledge.com for more information about a sale in various areas.

For cattlemen looking to market bulls, replacement females or feeder cattle, check out the AGA’s free Exchange service, including: Bull Listings, Female Listings, and Feeder Calf Listings. Visit www.gelbvieh.org/exchange .html to view current listings or to post a new listing.

Brand your Gelbvieh-influenced feeder calves with SmartCross® ear tags. This ear tag tells the buyer he is getting quality and predictability. Contact the AGA office at 303-465-2333 for more information on the three tag styles to fit any management program, as well as electronic ID tags.

For more information about Gelbvieh and Balancer genetics, visit www.gelbvieh.org.