The Santa Gertrudis breed of cattle, named for the Spanish land grant where Captain Richard King first established the King Ranch, were developed to thrive, prosper and gain weight on the native grasses of the South Texas brush country. The first and perhaps the most enduring efforts to produce the rugged breed began in 1910 when the King Ranch decided to systematically crossbreed its Shorthorn and Hereford cattle with Brahman. After a few crosses, the Brahman X Shorthorn cross showed the most promise, and the ranch headed toward a cross of 3/8 Brahman and 5/8 Shorthorn as the optimum blend of the two breeds.
In 1920 an outstanding bull calf called Monkey was produced. With a distinctive red color, and an exceptionally deep and well-muscled body, Monkey was the most impressive calf of any breed ever born on King Ranch. In 1923, Monkey was used in a breeding herd of first-cross Brahman X Shorthorn red heifers. His offspring were superior cattle that were well adapted to the harsh environment in which they were developed. Most importantly, the calves made money for the ranch. Monkey became the foundation herd sire for the Santa Gertrudis breed.
In 1940, the cross received official recognition when the United States Department of Agriculture recognized 3/8 Brahman and 5/8 Shorthorn as a distinctive beef breed. Even today Santa Gertrudis are referred to as America's original beef breed.
Santa Gertrudis were developed for survival and have been, throughout the years enhanced for profitability. Santa Gertrudis, horned or polled, possess the traits cattlemen want and demand, whether purebred or commercial. Santa Gertrudis females are known for their exceptional maternal traits. These females are fertile and give birth to calves that are small at birth, eliminating most calving difficulties. Under normal management and with adequate nutrition these females will breed at 12-14 months of age and produce their first calf as a two-year old. The Santa Gertrudis is an above average producer of milk, and will wean a heavier calf. In addition, a female can remain in production well past her 12th birthday and may stay in the breeding herd as long as 18 years
Adaptability is a must to survive in the cattle industry. Santa Gertrudis are adaptable to most climates, environments and terrains. Their make-up of 3/8 Brahman, 5/8 Shorthorn has proved to be ideal in most of the varied environments around the world. They thrive in the hot, humid weather conditions found along the coastal regions of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. They also perform well in the more arid regions as those found in South Texas, Arizona and New Mexico. Purebred Santa Gertrudis herds are located as far south as Argentina and as far north as Canada. Their thick hide serves as insulation to the cold and as a barrier to insects and parasites. The presence of sweat glands in their loose hide also helps Santa Gertrudis dissipate heat in warm environments. Santa Gertrudis are very disease resistant and will stay healthy in feedlots and confined environments. Santa Gertrudis cattle are hardy animals that will travel long distances in search of forage or water.
Santa Gertrudis have proved to be an efficient producer of quality beef. Purebred Santa Gertrudis steers are exceptional feeder calves that gain rapidly and efficiently while still producing a high quality, lean carcass. At the same time these steers are producing a profit for the feeder. At a recent Texas A&M University Ranch to Rail feeding trial, a pen of purebred Santa Gertrudis steers had a net profit of $100.87 per head. This compares to a minus $50.29 for 1334 steers from 137 ranches. Santa Gertrudis steers, purebred or cross, prove that they can gain above and beyond the national average when in the feedlot. In a recent test of purebred Santa Gertrudis steers fed at the Circle E Feedlot in Potwin, Kansas the average daily gain for this set of 116 steers was 3.84 pounds. These steers were fed for 133 days. In another test, purebred Santa Gertrudis steers from Alabama were shipped to Heritage Beef Cattle Company in Wheeler, Texas. This group of 58 steers was fed for 163 days. They had a daily gain of 3.93 pounds per day and a feed conversion rate of 5.95. The total cost of gain was $41.27. In a South Texas bull gain test, 64 Santa Gertrudis bulls performed quite well in comparison with the other breeds represented. Bulls were fed for 112 days. The average final weight for these bulls was 1060 pounds, the average daily gain was 3.61 and backfat was .20. Santa Gertrudis breeders have responded to the changes in the beef industry by selecting genetics that perform in the pasture, feedlot and the retail meat markets of the world. Whether purebred or commercial Santa Gertrudis cattle measure up and produce results for the producer.