A total of 739 cattle from nine breeds maintained at the Roman L. Hruska U.S. Meat Animal Research Center, Clay Center, Nebraska were tested for 42 class I antigens of the bovine major histocompatibility system (BoLA). Each antigen appears to be the product of a distinct co-dominant allele of the BoLA-A locus. The number of antigens present in each breed ranged from a minimum of 10 in Hereford to a maximum of 21 in Charolais cattle. There were large differences among breeds in the frequencies of antigens. The effect of each antigen on birth weight, preweaning weight gain and postweaning weight gain was estimated in a gene substitution model. Each breed was analyzed separately. There were significant effects of some BoLA antigens on birth weight, preweaning weight gain and postweaning weight gain, which is consistent with previous reports showing associations between the major histocompatibility system and growth parameters in mice, rats and pigs. However, further research is necessary to confirm these findings and to determine the biological mechanisms underlying these associations.