Meat Industry INSIGHTS Newsletter

980679 Texas Cattleman Fights American Chianina Association

June 16, 1998

Cleburne, TX - One central Texas cattleman is upset about what the American Chianina Association is trying to do to the Chianina breed.

Walter G. Mize of Cleburne, Texas, who has been in the cattle business for most of his life and who has been breeding Fullblood Italian Chianina cattle for 26 years, is suing the American Chianina Association to prevent the Board of Directors from changing the name and the direction of the organization.

"I've been with the Association since its beginning -- it was formed in June of 1972, and I joined in July of 1972," said Mize. "The purpose of forming a breed association is to promote that breed. In this case, the American Chianina Association was formed to promote the Chianina breed.

"Now, because some powerful members of the Association's Board of Directors raise primarily Chiangus (a Chianina/Angus crossbreed), they want to change the name to the "American Chiangus Association" and effectively eliminate the promotion of any of the other Chianina-based cattle," Mize continued.

Fullblood Italian Chianina, an ancient breed of cattle originating in the Chiana Valley of Italy, have been domesticated for over 2,000 years, and were used during the Roman Empire to provide meat and milk and as draft animals.

The breed was discovered by American servicemen during World War II, and Chianina influence was introduced into this country in 1971 through the importation of semen. Because the United States Department of Agriculture rules forbid the importation of cattle from countries having Foot and Mouth disease, Italian Fullblood Chianina were not allowed into this country. Through a lengthy, costly, and time-consuming quarantine process, Chianina were finally allowed into this country ... and the first three Fullblood Italian Chianina females were brought to the United States in 1975 by Walter G. Mize.

Since that time, Mize has raised Fullblood Italian Chianina cattle, and currently Walter G. Mize Ranches of Cleburne, Texas, has the largest herd of Fullblood Chianina in the United States. He was one of the first to use embryo transplant technology, and has spent years searching for proper genetics and pedigrees to make his herd the most outstanding in the world.

Fullblood Italian Chianina are large, meaty animals that grow faster than many other breeds, often averaging a weight gain of 4.5 lb. per day. They also have an outstanding feed conversion rate -- approximately six pounds of feed converting to one pound of weight. And, according to a scientific study conducted at Texas Tech in the early 1980s, the beef produced by Chianina has less fat than beef from typical British crossbreeds (Angus x Hereford).

Because these profitable traits pass down to the calves resulting from breeding Fullblood Italian Chianina with other breeds, cattlemen began developing such crossbreeds as Chiangus (Chianina x Angus), Chiford (Chianina x Hereford), Chimaine (Chianina x Maine Anjou), and others. Commercial cattlemen began using not only Fullblood Italian Chianina bulls with their commercial cows, but bulls from these crosses also, because the resulting calves grow faster and have heavier weaning weights.

The American Chianina Association, originally formed to promote the Chianina breed, brought these crossbreeds -- Chiangus, Chiford, Chimaine -- under its umbrella and registered and promoted them. During the earlier years of the Association's development, Mize served it in many capacities, including President of the Southwest Region (two terms), National Board Member (two terms), and Chairman of the National Board of Directors (two terms). He was also elected by representatives of over 20 countries as the first Chairman of the International Chianina Congress formed in Florence, Italy.

Describing the American Chianina Association, Mize says, "The Association is like a big tree with many branches ... each designated type of Chianina is a branch. If the Board of Directors begins cutting off these branches -- which is what they will do if they change the name and direction of the Association -- they will kill the tree!"

Another change the Board of Directors wants to make also greatly concerns Mize.

"They want to change the rules so that the Association will accept for registration any animal -- regardless of the percentage of Chianina blood that it has -- if one of its parents is already registered with the Association," said Mize. "This could conceivably mean that an animal with, say, 1/256 Chianina blood and 255/256 Angus blood could be registered as a Chiangus. Now you tell me ... does that animal really have any Chianina influence?"

Mize's suit alleges that the action taken by the Board of Directors is meant to benefit the directors themselves because the majority of registered cattle owned by the directors are Chiangus. It also states, " ... the rule and name change contravenes the declared purpose of the American Chianina Association and does not advance the best interests of ALL OF ITS MEMBERS (emphasis added)" and " ... it fails to preserve the pedigree of the Chianina through regulation and improvement of the breed."

Mize adds, "As stated in the lawsuit, the Association rules were originally formulated to preserve the integrity of the Chianina breed, because it is known as an excellent breed of cattle. The proposed actions of the Board of Directors will erode this integrity.

"I raise Fullblood Italian Chianina cattle, but I support all of the Chianina crossbreeds and everyone who raises them. I believe if the name change and rule change go through, it will hurt everyone who raises and uses Chianina -- whether they raise Fullbloods, Chifords, Chimaines, or Chiangus. It will even hurt the commercial cattleman who uses a Chianina bull with his commercial cows, because the Chianina influence will be irreparably diluted.

"Each director of the Board of Directors owes the Association and its members a duty of loyalty and a duty of care. This means all of the Association's members and every branch of the tree," Mize concluded.

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