During a 1997 Hebrew University tour of major cattle ranches in Israel, I witness and overheard the follow preventable problems:
- Feed problems due to a lack of grass and high production of shrubs; Soaring costs of imported feed, which herds where dependent on before the Ethanol production with the use of feed grains.
- Poor mothering ability: Israeli cattle do not project their calves from a very small dog like creature called a Jackal. The Jackal simply bites the nose of the calf as it is being born and strangles it. The Mother and the herd stand passively as this goes on. (When I saw my first Israeli Jackal on the Golan Heights, he was hunting mice and I thought he was cute and did not deserve the name Jackal)
- High rate of calve birth complications that lead to death.
- Branding: In appropriate branding, by placing a large number on the whole side of the cow destroying the later value of the hide, creating an entrance for disease and parasites. Normal branding is small and does not penetrate the skin to the lower vulnerable tissues. Electronic chips can be used but they are expensive and can migrate in the cow’s body.
- Inadequate cattle fencing with 3-strand bar wire fencing that allows cattle to walk through without awareness of the fence being there. America and other cattle nations use 4-5 strands bar wire fences to prevent cattle escape and theft. Barbed wire fencing should have 4 points, 4-5 inches apart, 12.5 gauge, and 4-5 lines of barbed wire on fence.
- Little or no fence maintenance allowing cattle to wander beyond their pasture.
- Unhindered cattle rustling (stealing), few if any herd riders to protect and care for the herd, and even fewer, if any, night herd riders.
- Poor disease resistance to local tropical diseases, due to many of the America cattle breeds in Israel originated from northern Europe. Plus disease resistance has been breed out of the modern cattle American breeds.
- Major cattle parasite problem that is inadequately controlled with anti-parasitics and little if any natural anti-parasitic ability. As many cattle breeds originated in low parasite areas of northern Europe.
- Low reproduction rates. Ranchers don’t now which cows produced a calf and which did not. Causing ranchers to hold on to unproductive cows, requiring more pastureland, more feed and more water.
- High losses to predators, disease and other factors at some locations as high as 30% of the annual calving crop, normal cattle herd losses should be approximately 3.5%.
- Mysterious genetic diseases with no known cure. This is the result of poor breeding practices, lack of genetic knowledge and or a lack breeding control. Some ranchers breed a different bull to their heard each year creating a genetic salad or mess in their herds. Making it almost impossible to improve their herds.
- Poor herd management: Beef cattle give ranchers the false impression that they can grow on their own, causing many ranchers to ignore their herds. This leads to poor management of cattle herds and their ranches. All beef cattle require looking after, some more than others.
- Israel ranchers see their cattle through kosher eyes. The forefront or the front 1/3 of the cow gets a higher price if the cow is certified kosher. This has causes cattle producers to look for big cattle, or cattle shaped like buffalo, but G-d didn’t make beef cattle that way. Kosher eyes puts blinders on producer’s eyes, causing them to ignore live calve births rates, feed requirements, mothering ability, age of puberty, conception rate, gestation period, milk production, adaption to beef management, efficiency under minimal management, calf birth weight, and hardiness. Big beef cattle require more quality feed to reach maturity, which Israel lacks. This ignores medium size cows that require less quality feed to mature and have higher conception rates, with higher rates of live calve births. Their meat production out produces big beef meat yields. More live calves produce more total kilograms of meat. This also has caused some ranchers to try to bring Bison (the American Buffalo) to Israel due the massive forefront of the animal. Bison are wild animals that are incredible powerful, who require large amount of grass. Responsible American Bison producers refused to send Bison to Israel due to its lack of suitable environmental conditions.
- Bison require fencing of reinforced steel piping not barbwire fencing.
- Production efficiency: Dr. Eugene Ungar of Israel’s Agriculture Department research in 2006 concluded that Israel cattle herds where in a “long term decline in production efficiency.” This means the cattle industry problems I witnessed in 1997 are still ongoing and unresolved.
- Behavior problems: Israeli cattle ranchers recently started importing Australia calves, which some Golan ranchers complained, “These cattle have behavior problems.” Israelis were unaware, that Australia cattle are Brahman crossbred cattle; Brahman cattle can be difficult to handle, unpredictable and even dangerous. Most Israeli ranchers have no experience with Brahman cattle and are very uncomfortable and even a little afraid of them.
- Cattle that don’t fit Israel’s environment: Israel has created a domestic dairy cow that fits its environment and meets its needs. We are trying to do the same for Israel’s small beef industry. Created a domestic bred of cattle that combines desert and meat characteristics and fits Israel’s environment and meets its needs.
- Texas Longhorn crossbreeding into Israeli cattle can improve and help Israeli herds from the Galilee to the Negev.
It appeared to me that Israeli cattle producers were trying to improve their cattle’s adaptation to the environment but are failing.
They started out with the best America cattle breeds that feed on grass year round, had no predator and little or no disease or parasite resistance and put them into a semi-desert, semi-tropic hostile environment where they did not fit and expected them to function as if they were in America.
We have cattle breeds that fit harsh environments, which can easily be improved as the environment improves. These cattle are the Texas Longhorn; they bridge the gap between primitive and modern cattle breeds. By breeding them to the Israeli cattle we will create a hybrid that is bigger and better then its parents plus fits the environment and Israel needs.
Texas Longhorn originated east of Israel some 5 to 7,000 year ago and migrated west. Columbus brought them to the America-Mexico deserts. American ranchers carefully improved them for today’s market needs while maintaining their desert characteristics. Texas Longhorn is the ideal breed for semi desert countries.