| Little Known Asian Animals With a Promising Economic Future |
|Part I : Domesticated Bovine Species|
Banteng and cattle have the same number of chromosomes, and they will interbreed. Few scientific details on the hybrid progeny are available, but on the Indonesian island of Madura they are a "stabilized crossbreed" because they seem to be genetically uniform. This hybridization took place some 1,500 years ago, when Indian invaders brought zebus of the Sinhala, or Ceylonese, type to Madura and crossed them with the banteng.
These maduras† reportedly show better growth rate than the pure banteng species itself. They are thrifty, hardy, and able to perform well under extremes of heat and poor nutrition. Though a hybrid in origin, both sexes of the madura are fully fertile. ‡
For more than 15 centuries the winners of the bull races ("kerapan sap)") have been the herd sires of Madurese villages. This long breeding history has led to an animal with the following characteristics:
· Long legs and small feet
· Elongated muscles of the rear legs
· Heavy muscling over the back, loin, and shoulder
· Quick reactions and nervous temperament
· Great heat tolerance
· The ability to perform well as a work animal.
Appearance and Size
Banteng-cattle hybrids vary in appearance, depending on whether European or zebu cattle are used in the cross as well as on the amount of backcrossing.
Maduras (banteng x zebu) are graceful animals. Their bodies are neat, compact, and deep, with well developed forequarters. The cows attain an average weight of about 210 kg and bulls range from 350 to 375 kg at maturity.
Superficially, maduras are like Jersey cattle, except for having a much smaller udder. In most of them the banteng dominates the body structure and coat color. Bulls have a well-developed hump; females have almost none. There is no distinct dewlap. Horns are medium sized and curve upwards and slightly backwards. Ears are medium length and horizontal. Breeders on Madura accept only red-brown animals.
Today, crossbreeds of banteng and zebu are distributed throughout Indonesia. On the other hand, hybrids between banteng and European cattle have been made only in small programs in the United States and Australia. For example, researchers in central Texas are producing a cross that is one-eighth banteng/seven-eighths Charolais. They believe this will result in a beef animal able to grow well in warm, humid conditions. In the Northern Territory of Australia, no problems have been encountered in mating banteng bulls to Brahman-Shorthorn cows. Calves that are one-fourth banteng/three-fourths Brahman-Shorthorn have since been produced.
Virtually all of the 575,000 "cattle" on the Indonesian island of Madura are hybrid animals resulting from crossing indigenous domesticated banteng with zebus. More than 200 head of banteng/Charolais hybrids are found near Easterly, Texas, and a score or so banteng/ Brahman-Shorthorn hybrids are on a research station near Darwin, Australia.
Habitat and Environment
The environment in Madura, where most of these hybrids occur, is monsoonal, with mean average temperatures as high as 31°C in the hot season, and dry spells as long as 5 months. It seems likely that judicious selection of the cattle breed could result in hybrids suitable for many other environments.
As noted, the animals on Madura are bred to be raced. They are probably the fastest running bovines. From a standing start, a yoked pair pulling a sled can reach 50 kph by the end of the 130-meter course. An unencumbered individual can approach the speed of a horse (about 68 kph).
When compared with other bovine genotypes in Indonesia, the performance of these hybrids is more closely related to the banteng than the zebu ancestry."
In the cross between banteng and European cattle all F1 bulls are sterile; their sperm development ceases at the secondary spermatocyte stage.‡ Infertility also exists in most one-fourth banteng (although some sperm are present) and in all three-fourths banteng bulls. The fertility of the F1 cows, on the other hand, is high - 90 percent as compared with 70 percent for Brahman-Shorthorn cows.
The hybrids have a lively temperament. However, when they are reared with other domestic cattle or handled on a regular basis, they are almost as docile as cattle. For instance, they remain calm even in Madura's extremely crowded towns. Nevertheless, personal contact probably must be maintained to keep them accustomed to human management.
The cows are very protective of their calves.
Several reports from the livestock service of the former Dutch colonial government, as well as several books on the East Indies, state that meat from the madura is the tenderest of any known breed. In addition, the hides are pliable and superior to those of cattle and are used in the highest quality leather goods. They command a price about 20 percent higher than zebu hides.
The breed is reportedly one of the best draft animals for its size in the world.
Maduras have several desirable traits, including those outlined below:
· Feed efficiency. With grain rations, yearling bulls can gain 1 kg on less than 7 kg of ration.
· Thriftiness. The breed can maintain its body condition on low quality forages.
· Heat tolerance. The madura has a high rate of cutaneous evaporation and is therefore well adapted to the tropical monsoonal climate. Teams of madura can plow or cultivate land for more than 6 hours, even at high temperatures.
· Carcass quality. The madura fattens readily on a high-quality diet and produces carcasses with high dressing percentages, a large rib-eye area, and high yields of lean meat.
· External fat thickness. A well-finished madura normally has only a slight covering of fat over ribs and lower round. Maximum thickness (over the top round) is less than 1.5 cm.
· Intelligence. These animals are responsive and easily trained. The famous dancing cattle of Madura, for instance, are actually these banteng-cattle hybrids.
· Parasite resistance. Despite often high levels of fluke infections, the animals continue to work, reproduce, and maintain body condition.
Maduras have been bred for one thing - speed. Some of their genetic limitations are:
· Low birth weight. The calves begin small, weighing 12-14 kg at birth, and they continue to be slow weight gainers. [Feeding trials with yearling bulls have shown daily gains of over 600 g for 180 days.
· Poor lactation. Milk production is normally less than 1.5 lifers per day and lactation ends after about 4 months. The cows often fail to produce milk. Much of this is probably caused by poor nutrition.
Research and Conservation Needs
One of the important features of the madura is that its genetic variation has been largely removed during 1,500 years of continuous breeding; with study much valuable information could be obtained that is beneficial to all bovine breeds.
The following topics need further study:
· Fertility levels
· Crossbreeding to test the effect of using a wider range of cattle breeds*
· Assessment of the hybrid's advantages over the pure banteng
· Performance under a wide range of environments.