Origin of Breed
In 1987, Tio and Scott Kleberg created the Santa Cruz breed on King Ranch in Texas, due to a demand for a more versatile breed among Santa Gertrudis breeders. Along with breeding specialists, Tio and Scott designed a new composite beef animal over the course of more than a decade of intensive research and development. Many consumers now desired better marbled and tender cuts of beef, and King Ranch wanted to reflect this shift in consumer preferences. Twenty-six professors from 14 universities participated in the formulation of a master-breeding plan. These specialists were experts in the various research fields and included carcass and meat experts, reproduction and physiology scientists, breeds and breeding selection specialists, geneticists, nutritionists, botanists, veterinary scientists, and climatologists. First, the King Ranch breeding specialists crossed Santa Gertrudis cows with Red Angus and Gelbvieh bulls. This initial union produced 1/2 Santa Gertrudis and 1/2 Red Angus males and females, as well as 1/2 Santa Gertrudis and 1/2 Gelbvieh males and females. These half bloods were then crossed back on each other to produce a 1/2 Santa Gertrudis, 1/4 Red Angus and 1/4 Gelbvieh composite animal, now known as the Santa Cruz. Two breeds were selected to add to the Santa Gertrudis to achieve these goals. Gelbvieh were chosen for their fertility, high growth, early maturity, shortened gestation length, and moderate milk production. Red Angus were selected to add early fertility, ease in calving, high carcass quality, efficiency, and polled characteristics.
The Santa Cruz range from a light red or honey in color, to a Santa Gertrudis cherry red. They can either be horned or polled.
Mature bulls weigh from 1,800 to 2,000 lbs. while mature weight in cows ranges from 1,100 to 1,200 lbs.
Santa Cruz are known for their excellent conformation, carcass quality, fertility and mothering abilities. The cattle have proven very heat resistant and adapt extremely well to South Texas' harsh climate and environments. Calves reach high weaning and yearling weights, perform extremely well in the feedyard, and obtain maximum results at the packing plants. Santa Cruz are great for crossbred operations and provide high quality carcass and lean, high quality cuts of beef. Both females and males reach an early sexual maturity at 12-14 months of age and are able breed back at an early age.
Development in America
Since the Santa Cruz origin in 1987, the breed has become very popular in the southeast and southwest regions of the United States, due to their adaptability to the warm climate. The breed as well as the Santa Gertrudis breed, both developed on King Ranch, has proved very successful for them. Short-term objectives were established for the breed such as improved production, improved market acceptability, cull cattle on strict economic considerations. Long-term objectives were also established in their breeding plan. These goals included single breed type mating system using a composite breed; genetic policy that would produce a phenotypic look-alike; and, early sexual maturity with superior carcass quality and grade. Santa Cruz composite proves that this spirit of innovation continues to thrive at King Ranch.
Registry and Improvement Programs
In 1950, the Santa Gertrudis Breeders International Association was formed at Kingsville, Texas. After the creation of the Santa Cruz breed, they are registered and associated with this organization. The Association provides registrations, transfers, performance data, sales and member services as well as a junior program, shows and scholarships.