Beefalo, also referred to as cattalo, are a fertile hybrid offspring of domestic cattle and the American bison. They were created to combine the characteristics of both animals for beef production. Beefalo are primarily cattle in genetics and appearance, with the breed association defining a full Beefalo as one with three-eighths bison genetics, while animals with higher percentages of bison genetics are called "bison hybrids".
Beefalo are primarily bred in the United States and Australia, though countries like New Zealand, Brazil, and South Africa also have small herds. There is a rising demand from consumers, so more producers are needed to meet this increasing demand.
Breeding bison and cattle is not something new, but it’s been a learning curve for producers. The crossing often resulted in poor fertility, which made producing offspring very difficult. Eventually, producers determined that crossing male bison with a domestic cow would often result in very few offspring. They then learned that crossing a domestic bull with a bison cow seemed to fix this problem.
Beefalo cattle combine the best qualities of its two founding breeds. It takes the hardiness, foraging skills, calving ease, and high-quality bison meat and combines it with the fertility, milking ability, and easy bovine handling.
The beefalo’s coat is very unique as it has very fine hairs and is quite dense, which allows it to adapt to very cold climates. Unlike traditional domestic cattle, beefalo can survive in a wide variety of climates. They can do well in areas of extreme cold or extreme heat thanks to their genetically-bison coat. Despite this thick coat, they’re able to sweat through their skin in the hot summer months to stay cool.
Beefalo have a high degree of fertility. They will mature younger and start breeding earlier than their domestic cattle counterparts. Calves are born easily and don’t require any special care from the producer. They’re born small, weighing in at around 40 to 60 pounds, but grow rapidly, reaching 800 to 1,000 pounds by the time they’re 10 to 12 months old. Beefalo can reproduce until they’re 25 years old, compared to the domestic cattle’s reproductive life of just 8 to 10 years.
Beefalo cows produce more milk than cattle or bison, and the milk is rich and creamy in texture, making it perfect for drinking and making cheese or ice cream.
Beefalo tend to be cheaper to raise and maintain than regular domestic cattle. They’re fantastic for farmers looking to produce grass-fed beef as they survive mostly on grass and need little to no grain feeding.
Beefalo meat is USDA-proven to be lower in fat and cholesterol and is lower in calories for consumers.
Beefalos are found in a variety of colors, from dark black and red to light fawn. Their size and appearance are like domestic cattle, as that’s where most of its genetics come from. Adult beefalos can weigh anywhere between 1,500 and 2,000 pounds and reach heights of around 55-inches. Thay have a cattle-like body without the classic bison hump.