The great white, Italian cattle are such that at a single glance a rancher knows he has found an animal of potential. They are highly sought after terminal sires, and when the results of composite breeding programs are examined, this truly should come as no surprise.
The breed had its early origins in the Chiana valley of central Italy. Sculptures dating back to the days of the Roman Empire have been found molded after the Chianina. The largest portion of foundation livestock has come from the plains of Arezzo and Siena.
Phenotypically attractive animals, Chianina cattle can range from steel gray to nearly flawless white hair with black skin. The original stock had short, forward curving horns. They are much longer legged that most cattle breeds, and exhibit heavy, well defined muscling. Originally, the Chianina was used for draft purposes. Its initial breeding required large, solid animals with manageable dispositions- while not focusing as much on udder quality or even beef yield. As the move to improved beef quality began, these original traits were supplemented by careful breeding to include increased growth rates and better milk yield.
The introduction of the Continental breed into the United States was through imported semen. The first bull with offspring in the US was Diaceto I. It was his progeny that created the rush upon Chianina breedings. In 1973, after meticulous quarantine the first purebred Chianina bulls were brought in from Canada.
The cross between a Chianina with any of the British breeds emphasizes hybrid vigor, exceptional growth rates and even makes calving easier due to the Chianina having a slender shaped head. The Chianina can boast of having a high lean to fat ratio- exceptional even amongst Continental breeds. The introduction of Chianina genetics leads to a reduction of waste fat in calves. It also, lessens the incidence of genetic problems amongst the crossbreeds. Chianina bulls produce uniformity amongst all their crosses a desirable trait for feedlots and those seeking these terminal sires.
The American Chianina Association was established June 1972, in Kansas City, Missouri. Breeders required a central location to register and transfer seed stock while maintaining an ever growing herd book. Currently the Association has nearly 1000 members and 300,000 head of cattle—an ever increasing number. Their efforts within promotion led to the creation of highly popular composite programs.
The first of these programs began in 1976 by crossing a Chianina to an Angus. The Chi-Angus is a prime example of breed complimentarity. The black, polled offspring capitalize on the outstanding qualities of their parents. Cows have a long reproductive ability and are very fertile. The resulting carcass has high cutability and provides an excellent eating experience. In 1986, three other highly successful crossbreeding options were initiated. The Chiford (Chianina x Hereford), the Red ChiAngus (Chianina x Red Angus) and the ChiMaine (Chianina Maine Anjou) exhibit the superiority of their composite breeding to that of their parents.
The Chianina can stand on its own merits. A large, well developed animal they have few genetic and phenotypic faults. By combining the best of both Chianina and British breeds ranchers have been able to profit in countless ways. The marketability of these animals is exceptional, and the ability to customize a cattle breeding program to a rancher’s environment is superb, bar none.
National Chianina Associations and Registries
American Chianina Association
P.O. Box 890
Platte City, MO 64079
ReferencesAmerican Chianina Association
Breeds of Livestock- Chianina Cattle
Bill Ramsey of Ramsey ChiAngus
Ana Christina Avalos - The Chianina Breed