To the untrained eye, every field of grazing cattle looks the same. But for producers, the differences are vast. Specifically, there are important distinctions between a registered and commercial herd.
In general, a commercial herd is one where the cattle aren’t necessarily any specific breed. They are often cross-breeds, and some farmers even have a wide variety of cattle color in their fields. Additionally, the owners of these commercial herds don’t have any parent association or organization to give an account to. In other words, the farmer isn’t required to submit records of their cattle to an association they belong to. Some producers see this lack of intensive paperwork as a major reason for not having a registered herd.
On the other hand, a commercial producer will often accept a lower price for a commercial calf than he or she would if the animal was registered with a cattle breed association and sold at a purebred sale.
A registered herd is a herd of cattle that is (typically) all of the same breed, that have all come from registered parents or in some breed associations, at least one registered parent. The animals are “registered” by submitting information about them while they’re still young calves to a breed association, and then paying a fee per head for each animal to become legally registered.
If crossing over from a registered to commercial herd, Josh Worthington, General Manager of the Missouri Angus Association offers this advice, “Many purebred breeders start with commercial cattle and, over time, add some registered cattle as they learn more about the particular breed they want to raise. If paperwork is not your thing, I would highly recommend the option of managing a commercial herd.”
When considering a registered herd, or if currently involved in a registered herd operation, it is important to consider the additional requirements the endeavor would entail. According to Gregg Bailey, Chairman of the American Simmental Association, “In order to register a new calf, a producer must submit data such as the birth date, birth weight, sex, weaning weight and yearling weight, as well as the sire and dam the calf came from.”
These are records that some commercial producers may already keep, but they would be essential for a registered herd. Many associations can offer programs or advice on paperwork management.
In some breed associations, like the American Simmental Association, a calf can be registered as a percentage animal, meaning that one of its parents is a registered Simmental, but the other may be a completely different breed. Bailey said, “It is only required that one parent, either the sire or the dam, be registered in order to register the calf. These can be from quarter to three-quarter crosses.” The cost of registering each animal depends on the breed, but, for example, in the Simmental Association, each new calf is $15.
In other breed associations, like the American Angus Association, the only registered animals are descendants of both a registered sire and registered dam. There isn’t any ‘cross’ accounted for.
Many commercial herds are heavily influenced by one breed. For example, though a herd is ‘commercial’ by name, it could be ‘Limousin’ by nature. In other words, most of a producer’s non-registered cattle could, in fact, be primarily of Limousin descent. This is often how producers determine the breed of cattle they prefer to raise. Many commercial herds also have bull preferences, and find traits of a desired breed’s sire (bull), and stick with that breed for bull purchases.
If a producer decides on a breed association to begin to register with, it’s important to contact that particular association and determine the steps to growing a registered herd. In most associations, there are membership fees, but there are also innumerable resources to help a farmer get started and manage the paperwork and processes of maintaining a registered herd. Also, the bottom-dollar profit can potentially be greater in raising a registered herd.
Worthington offers this advice on keeping up with the paperwork of a registered herd: “Keep it current. Too often breeders get behind in their paperwork which creates additional problems. It is essential to register cattle and turn in all performance data in a timely fashion.”
Bailey and Worthington both agree that the best resource of information for various breeds is the breed association’s website. Visit for a list of several breed association and purebred breeder’s contact information.


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