Breeding bulls that produce a heavy domestic carcase which meet processor specifications is the aim for Chateau Limousins.
Andrew McIntyre runs the Wangaratta stud with parents John and Bev, and says a heavier calf with a quality carcase is what producers are after.
Established 36 years ago, the stud has been primarily Apricot French pure genetics over several decades, with more polled and black genetics being introduced in recent years.
“We’ve tried to e change from traditional lighter weight vealers to heavier domestic trade type cattle, with more weight gain and softens than they traditionally have,” Andrew said.
“We focus on a big frame and big volume type of cow, while still putting an emphasis on docility and the way the cattle handle, which is paramount to us.”
Running about 100 breeding females, Andrew said they remain predominantly French pure apricot cows, with 30 per cent now polled and 20pc black.
He said the black genetics keep the options open for clients who want to keep their calves a straight colour. The polled genetics are becoming increasingly important, Andrew said, for both animal welfare and carcase quality reasons.
“For the past 10 years we’ve seen a lot more poll bulls for that reason, and we are gradually increasing the polled aspect of the stud as the genetics become available that will work with our cows,” he said.
“In five years, we will have three quarters of our cows polled as the industry is heading that way.”
Fat cover and breeding docility to suit the Meat Standards Australia program is crucial moving forward.
“The biggest thing for us is trying to use bulls that are long and deep bodied. Docility is then the biggest thing that we look at - something we have always been very hard on,” he said.
“The docility EBV is really starting to come into play and should be looked at on a wider scale. With the aging farming community it needs to get worked on across the whole beef industry to minimise risk.”
A move by industry away from the F1 female to a more beef based cow in many crossbreeding operations means calves are being grown to medium or heavy trade weights for supermarket buyers, he said.
“Clients are trying to get calves up to 400kg and over off the cow, or take them onto yearling weights of mid to high 400kg, as that is where most of the trade cattle seem to be making money,” he said.
“So we are maintaining long and deep bodied cattle, as you can get more weight into them. We’ve like the big barrelled ones… we focus on the whole beast.
“Gradually through performance recording… we are seeing cattle a lot bigger at an early age across all breeds – we are keeping up with that.”
While UK and North America genetics have been prominent in the growth of the Limousin breed, more seedstock producers now turning to Australian bulls - such as Chateau Kudos, Meriden Heavyduty and Maryvale Amazon.
“Limousin breeders are now starting to look at Australian bulls because there is a bit more diversity through them. International bulls have provided strong lines but producers are now chasing domestic bulls where they can see the cow lines and do their own research, rather than relying on a semen catalogue.
“There is a lot more faith now in what we have here in Australia as being as good as anywhere else in the world. Our beef is the best in the world so why shouldn’t our seedstock cattle be.”
Chateau will host its fifth on property bull sale this year, and Andrew said moving to on-property sale had been a successful endeavor, lifting their average from $4000 in the paddock to close to $5500 in the ring.
“The client base that has supported us for 30 years has been very accepting, and it gives everyone a chance to get the best bull for them. From a management point of view and for fairness, it is lot better than private sales, and it has brought in new clients that haven’t had access before,” he said.
“We video the bulls so it is no stress on the cattle and a lot less stress on us.”
Chateau supports the National Limousin Show and Sale held in Wodonga each year, however the season this year meant they won’t be taking stock in 2019.
“The carcase quality and the yield of the Limousin breed holds its place in the market,” he said.
“As technology changes, through the likes of MSA and others, yield will continue to be important, as well as still intramuscular fat,” he said.
“Limousin cattle will always have their spot because they do bone out so well – is just a matter of maintaining an even fat cover which is something the breed has improved greatly on in the past 15-20 years.”
Visitors can view the herd at Chateau during Stock & Land Beef Week on Saturday, 26 January.
“It is great exposure for the cattle (and genetics),” he said.
“At times if you just look at pedigrees of herds you can have a perception of what they will look like, but when you do get onto the property and spend time with cattle, you can change the perception of their breeding.
“It is also important for the farming community, especially in the past few years, for producers to get off of the property and get to go talk to someone else and have a day out.”