Limousinnorth for Quality Limousin - Quietly superior Limousins
As NZ farms range from the Ten Acre Block to the wide open spaces of our largest stations this is a big ask and what we present here will not answer all the questions for all the circumstances.
The modern NZ Limousin has entered a new stage of development in the continued breed quality program. We now have sufficient Limousin cattle around that are in the very top echelon of bovine excellence that we are confident of making an increasing impact in the NZ beef industry.
And remember always that although this is in part an explanation of how Limousin differ from other breeds there is also a considerable within breed variation.
                    The new generation NZ Limousin Cattle give you
Quality Meat
Moderate Size
Bear in mind that these cattle are not toys. They are top of the range in efficient conversion of grass to quality beef.
Their ratio of muscle(meat) to total size is about 20% above average
                                         They need from you
Care in selection of your animals
Secure facilities
Moderate feed supplies
(Not necessarily top quality feed as Limousin cattle have been bred in France to produce efficiently on poor to moderate rations)
The points made above and others pertinent to the business of running Limousin cattle are expanded in this manual
Those who breed pedigree stock are a committed and dedicated group. This applies to breeders worldwide and across all manner of animals from dogs to cattle to budgerigars. The methodology that links these animals is a registration system that identifies each individual and line of descent.
Although some requirement to measure certain characteristics has always been present (budgerigars were required to be "eight and a half inches from crown of head to tip of tail" for example) much of the early selection was on eye appraisal and heritage. With the recognition of the improvements possible using genetic selection (especially since the 1940s) one would expect a concerted effort by animal breeders concentrating on this aspect. With the pedigree database that every Breed Society has, the linking of performance recording and pedigree to produce animal breeding values is a small step. Breeding Values (EBV) are a well researched, proven technology but any production animal breeder should be aware of the use of each selected animal to create profit. If sceptics view EBVs as having little or no direct effect on a farmer’s profit there is certainly some justification for their views. Some may consider selection based on birth weight, growth rate, eye muscle area, fertility and milk to be too far removed from a New Zealand payment system based solely on number and weight of carcasses.
EBVs contribute to these outcomes but because of the complexity of genetic and environmental interactions, selecting the most appropriate sires and dams can still be a confusing undertaking. With the advent of more sophisticated computer programs and technology more economically related selection methods can be provided. But selection still relies on accurate measurement and reporting of performance figures and most importantly, verifiable genetic links throughout large populations. These provide the genetic links across environments that make the "across herds" genetic evaluation so much superior to within herd calculations. On both counts of accuracy the Breed Society plays a vital role. Without Herd Books the genetic links would be non existent.
Without the Breed Society to oversee the formal reporting of performance figures required for breeding value calculation, and the discipline required to do so may be lost.
The Breed Society plays a vital role in applying this discipline and also in helping formulate the reason and education required for full acceptance of genetic selection within a breed. The priorities for existence of Breed Societies with regard to both breed developments and education have changed over the past twenty years. They are now moving into a new culture of planning and development as they enter the next exciting era of animal selection techniques but always with their sights set firmly on the needs of the beef production sector they are servicing.
Adapted from an article by Barrie Ridler, Napier
For a breeding and finishing herd? for Dairy Beef ?
as a Terminal Sire ?
First what are we using him over? The hill country cow, if hill-bred will have inherited a correct shape and hardiness which will help to produce a live calf from a troublefree calving. She will be fit, she is probably fed less, so will tend to have a smaller calf, but on the down side, she will be calving on her own, she will be putting the calf down on dangerous terrain and she will have less feed after calving
Rarely a specialist terminal sire as he is usually expected to produce useful herd replacement heifers as well as steers and cull heifers for the beef market. So we need a bull that will perpetuate the good qualities of our traditional hill cattle, and minimise the problems of unsupervised calving on dangerous country while producing more beef per acre.
The Limousin breeder supplying that market will look to breed and the hill country farmer will look to buy a bull with the following
Medium size -
Limousin cattle have very high carcass weight to live weight ratios so can produce carcass weights in the preferred middle range without being huge and ponderous. Watch for balance fore and aft. Again the typical Limousin is beautifully balanced but blind acceptance of EBVs can reverse the results of centuries of breeding for rear end weight. The bison type animal with all the weight forward is an unfortunate result.
Masculinity -
Our bull needs to be fertile, preferably tested, certainly guaranteed, with reasonable testicle size which also appears to be correlated to early maturity - important if calving at two. A sires head, i.e. broad and bold, looks great on dad, but it’s a bit tough on mum. So keep that head and shoulder streamlined. While a bull should look like a bull with pride and presence, there is no excuse for and no place for bad disposition, no matter how good he might be in other respects. Most Limousin breeders will guarantee the temperament of their bulls. If possible check the dam and sire too.
Mobility -
Not usually a problem with the Limousin, but some lines bred with the emphasis on size and thickness are not as mobile as others. The bull should have a good free stride with back feet placing in the front prints.
When viewed from side on some, but not excessive, flex in the hind legs is essential. This is definitely a trait where extremes either way are to be avoided. Extreme straightness is an occasional fault in most cattle breeds and can be disastrous in a working bull. If replacement heifers are going to be kept, then feet capable of lasting 10 years become important and are the first check point for many hill country men.
Slightly open and reasonably straight clawed although good hoofs can also be slightly incurved, some height at the back of the hoof, and not too long. Minor variations in leg straightness when viewed from behind and in front and feet turned slightly either way are rarely of economic significance.
Muscle -
Limousin cattle have muscle where it’s wanted and this with their relatively fine bone, gives the very high killing out percentages. We need to take care to retain both the muscling and the bone to muscle ratio. The rib eye muscle should be pronounced in the Limousin bull. That and the full and rounded rump are trade marks. Without these characteristics some of the advantages of going Limousin are lost. The bull used for breeding replacement heifers needs to be not too extreme muscled, again for mum’s comfort in the second generation. Some "finish" is desirable as even the traditional lean beef of the Limousin needs a little fat cover to be commercial. To put these thoughts together the Limousin bull we’re looking for would have long, smooth and rounded muscle rather than short, bunchy and tightly defined.
Milk -
The three wedges of the dairy cow - as seen from above, in front and from the side, are obviously modified in a muscular beef animal like the Limousin, but the front and top wedges can still be kept in mind. The widely sprung rib means Limousin cows can have good mid-piece capacity without much depth and with more or less parallel top and bottom lines. The small active limousin calf needs a good supply of milk for the first few weeks if it is to grow at the phenomenal rate it is capable of in this period. So if replacement heifers are being kept, early milk production becomes a factor in the bull
selection process. Check the milk EBVs and check with the breeder if milking ability is a major consideration.
Here high growth rate EBVs are of importance and should be related to the feeding conditions available. Remember that to grow at the rate the high indexed cattle are genetically capable of requires very good management and conditions. If crossing over non Limousin cows the hybrid vigour factor becomes part of the equation when balancing potential growth rates with feed supply. The extreme muscular type is also more appropriately used in this market. The beef breed being crossed over will probably have the genetic potential for more than enough fat cover, so here the Limousin’s ability to produce a high meat to bone ratio of low fat meat will greatly increase efficiency, quality and profit.
Proven throughout the world as a top dairy beef sire (number one in Britain for many years) the Limousin bull can be relied on to produce a fast growing, meaty calf. The Limousin is traditionally an easy calving breed with the small calves very fast to their feet after birth. An additional precaution (the first is to use a Limousin bull) is to use a Limousin bull with low birth weight EBVs and short gestation EBVs.
Many breeders now advertise some of their bulls as "suitable for heifer matings", these are ideal for dairy herds too.
The Limousin Society is developing a pool of "Recommended Sires" for crossing over dairy cows.
Beware the dairy cross bull if you are concerned about calving ease as these have been known to cause a lot of trouble.
As the modern dairy cow has very little muscle it is important for the credibility of the huge dairy beef market that New Zealand dairy farmers use bulls with the ability to add that muscle. Although there are no certainties in cattle breeding, the odds of producing a good meaty weaner are definitely increased if a well bred sire is used. A second cross bull may look like a Limousin but his progeny can not be expected to perform anything like those of a high percentage recorded animal.
How to be sure that the bull is a true Limousin and not a lookalike crossbred? Buy from a member of the New Zealand Limousin Society. A lot of bookwork goes into recording and peer pressure from the breeder network and regular breeders meetings all help in quality control.
Again look for a reasonable "finish", that is, a generally smooth, rounded appearance rather than having every little muscle individually defined.
cont. next page
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