Michigan State University Extension intern shares her study abroad experience

One Extension intern spent her time with Belgian Blues.

Michigan State University Extension intern shares her study abroad experience

The cattle pictured are known as Belgian Blues, given the name, it is probably no shock that this breed originated in Belgium.

Torei Kulpinski, Senior at Michigan State University and intern for Michigan State University Extension, was fortunate enough to visit two Belgian Blue farms on a Dairy Husbandry and Environmental Stewardship Study Abroad through MSU. She has shared her travels as they relate to the Belgian Blue cattle.

Several articles shared on different social media sites about these bovine with titles such as, “Cattle on steroids” or “Monstrous GMO Bulls Now a Reality”. Those titles are, however, false. The large muscle growth in the breed is 100 percent natural.

Belgian Blues have a gene that stops the production of myostatin. Myostatin is a protein produced by the MSTN gene that is responsible for stopping muscle growth once the muscle reaches a certain point. When it is suppressed, like it is in Belgian Blues, the muscle can keep on growing, thus causing them to appear the way that they do.

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A Belgian Blue calf

Although their size may cause them to be a little intimidating, this breed is known for its docility. Given firsthand experience, I can say that these are some of the friendliest cattle I have ever been around. These dual-purpose cattle are beautifully fascinating; if given the chance, I highly suggest visiting a Belgian Blue farm.

Facts about Belgian Blues:
  • Average weight for a bull is typically around 2,400 lbs.; average weight for a female is typically 1,800 lbs.
  • Dystocia is common among these cattle because their birthing canals are quite narrow; 90 percent of purebred births are done by caesarian section.
  • However, many farmers in Belgium have bred other breeds such as Friesian Holstein to a Belgian Blue sire and complications with natural birth were NOT posed.
  • Cows typically calve for the first time at 32 months.
  • Calves are not born with this large muscle growth, but they start growing muscle at around 4-6 weeks old.
  • From a dairy perspective, a Belgian Blue Cow typically yields an average of 8,000 lbs. of milk at 3.23 percent protein and 3.48 percent fat.
  • This breed produces little fat; the carcass typically has around 16 percent less marbling when compared to a breed such as Angus.

MSU Extension is glad to have an intern that was fortunate enough to spend time with such a unique breed.

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