Belgian Blue cattle were originally bred as a dual purpose animal for both dairy and meat. Later in the latter part of the 19th century Shorthorn Bulls were imported from the UK to help improve the beef side of the breed. In the 1960’s they saw the development of the extreme muscling characteristic in the cattle. As a result with careful breeding they developed the Belgian Blue we have today.

Belgian Blue Cattle were first imported into the United States in 1978.  In 1989 all importation of Belgian Blues were stopped to prevent the spread of diseases such as hoof and mouth disease
and T. B.  

Belgian Blue cattle are characterized by their extreme muscling especially in the shoulder, back, loin and rump area. They have a very rounded appearance both from the side and from behind. This extreme muscling is usually passed on to their offspring which makes them exceptional as a terminal sire.  Even though they have extra muscle the muscle fiber is thin and short making them very tender with a meat flavor comparable to Hereford or Angus but with less than half the fat covering (waste Fat) less marbling, and more rib-eye area. They have thin but strong bones and thin skin. All these features contribute to the fact that they dress out up to 10% heavier than conventional animals. Belgian Blue cross animals typically dress out from 62% to 71% depending on the cross used. They have had a reputation of bad legs and calving problems but through years of selective breeding they now have very easy calving, low birth weight fast gaining calves. They are also able to travel the large ranches that we have in the United States and are able to adapt to temperatures from Texas to Canada. Mature bulls can weigh 2300—2500 pounds, and mature cows may weigh 1400-1500 pounds. The muscle is a natural development of the breed. They are not born with that extreme muscle but  start to develope it at about 4 to 6 weeks. Extensive research has shown that Belgian Blue possesses a gene that restrict the production of myostatin (a protein that inhibits muscle growth). Belgian Blue cattle carry two copies of this gene and usually pass on one of them for increased weight in their offspring of a cross-breeding program.  Today’s cattleman wants High feed efficiency, calving ease, good milk production and mothering instincts, and low birth weights with high wean weights. Belgian Blue cattle have all of these plus they have an excellent temperament and short gestation period.

In a three year test, done by the USDA at the Meat Animal Research Center, Clay Center, Nebraska, using the Warner-Brazner shear test for tenderness, found that Belgian Blue crossbred cattle had a lower shear value than Herford-Angus. Belgian Blue cattle exhibited less than half the fat cover, . 21 inch cover verses .45 inch cover in other breeds. Belgian Blue also showed 16% less marbling and 14.2 more ribeye area than the average breed.

 
Belgian Blue Cow and Calf
Belgian Blue Bull
 

Photos courtesy of American Belgian Blue Breeders, Inc.

References
www.ansi.okstate.edu
www.belgianblue.co.uk

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