The introduction of cattle from continental Europe in the 1970s also introduced new animal behaviour patterns to New Zealand.
Limousin was one of the breeds which required some work to fit it for our farming methods.
While there are some behaviour instincts in cattle that are similar between breeds there are also differences. There are also differences between individuals within breeds.
The writer has owned Angus and Hereford bulls that had beautiful manners (the majority) and Angus and Hereford bulls which he would not be in the same paddock with, has been hit by a charging Friesian /Jersey cross heifer and milked another into a bucket mid paddock.
There tend to be patterns in each breed in the way unacceptable animals behave. In one the problem cattle will be over-bold, in another a head trembling syndrome warns of trouble, in another most off sorts will be nervous and timid and so on.
In Limousin the flight, circle and approach pattern should never be tolerated. These are not deer, if they act like deer out they go. Note the leaders and get them on a works truck pronto.
Likewise young cattle should walk through a gateway while you hold it open. If any persistently shy away get that truck back again or have some top class home kill beef!
Cows and calves should be safe to walk through. The only exception would be if there is something like a magnesium deficiency in spring causing nervous excitement in a usually steady cow.
Obviously no animal with young should be tested with young children.
Fortunately docility has a high heredity ranking which means it is controlled by relatively few genes and so can be (and has been ) successfully bred for.
The Industry leading Limousin Bull Trial (see Bull Trial story) has been a focal point in educating Limousin members and there has been reinforcement of this message at group and national herd walks.
Most Limousin Studs now give high priority to their docility programs and are jealous of Limousins new reputation in this field.
Limousin cattle are sociable and above average intelligence.
The general rules of stockmanship apply.
Be firm but not frightening, they should learn to respect you without being frightened.
Dogs? Yes, normal rules apply with young cattle taught to respond to steady dogs being much easier for farmers to manage than cattle raised without exposure to dogs. However as stated earlier Limousin are very responsive to good stockmanship and very sociable and should come readily to a call. Remember of course that these are above average I Q and know very well that yesterdays paddock has no fresh grass in it and will resist this sort of management stubbornly!
Back to the dog issue. A useful dog must have a natural sense of balance. This balance distance will vary but a dog must know the balance point where an animal either moves quietly away or turns on the dog and/or bails up. A dog which consistently bothers and upsets an animal has no place on a cattle farm. Give it to a pig hunter!
And yes the small block holder can manage Limousin very well without a dog. If you can’t, ring up your nearest Limousin breeder who will give expert advice. If you’ve a little to learn you will be pointed in the right direction. If the animal is at fault your mentor will know immediately and source better stock for you. There are plenty of beautifully mannered Limousin cattle around which you will enjoy handling.
Bulls of any breed must be treated with respect. A mature bull is a little bigger than an All Black scrum and doesn’t understand the yellow card for retaliation rule (neither do I). Try to persuade your truck driver to forget his electric prodder on bulls. Would you use one on an All Black and expect to be on good terms afterwards?
However do always carry a stick when in a paddock with any bull of any breed. There is a dominance hierarchy in all cattle groups and it is essential that you are respected, in control and stay focussed.
While it is true there are many advantages in natural mating there is also a place for AI
New bloodlines can be relatively cheaply brought into a herd bearing in mind always that you still need a selection to choose from so use enough to be worthwhile. Even with a good proven AI bull don’t expect more than a small percentage to be stud sire quality. Less if the semen is not proven in New Zealand.
For small herds AI solves many problems of management and flexibility in your breeding program. The main downside is that you have to be around and actively managing your cow herd through the mating season and that they don’t get in calf quite as readily as with natural mating. This can result in a cow calving progressively later each year which can cause management problems.
This is a useful way to repeat successful matings and a way to import potentially very valuable new bloodlines.
It is not a magic formula for success as a breeder but rather a tool for a successful breeder to use. Again remember that not all the progeny produced will be of top quality as siblings vary. Regard it as a considered gamble with possible big gains but remembering the wise gamblers rule of doing it only if you can afford to lose. In cattle breeding terms losing may mean culling the resultant calves.
Enjoy profitable farming - with Limousin.