Small cattle breeds have generated a lot of interest over the years. These breeds of cattle seem to be gaining in popularity as a meat source for those wanting to raise their own food on just a few acres and for those looking for a breed that does well on a grass-finishing system.
History of the Lowline Angus Breed
The Lowline breed was developed in 1929 from a dwarf free herd of 100% Registered Angus. This herd was established at the Trangie Research Center in Australia; with the initial goal to provide quality breeding stock for the New South Wales Industry. The foundation stock at Trangie was purchased from Canada, and included two bulls, 17 heifers, and one cow-calf pair. Between 1930 and 1950, more cattle were imported from Canada, the U.S.A., and Scotland. The Trangie herd had become quite established, receiving many awards at stock shows around the world from the 1920s to the 1960s.
In 1963, the Australian Meat Research Committee asked the Trangie Research Center to conduct a project, with the emphasis on establishing the role of performance recording within a herd. The project concluded in 1970, and it was demonstrated that performance testing within a herd was highly useful and successful. From 1971 to 1973, further herd research was conducted on performance and growth potential with different sires.
The research trials that produced the Lowline breed began in 1974. The objective for the research was to establish whether large or small animals were better convertors of grass into meat protein. The trial involved detailed evaluations of weight gain, feed intake, reproductive performance, milk production, carcass yield, and quality and structural soundness. This trial continued for 19 years.
Richardson County youth work with a Lowline calf in preparation for fair.
The original Lowline herd consisted of 85 cows bred to yearling bulls selected for their low growth rate from birth to yearling. From 1974 to 1992, the herd remained closed, and all heifer and bull replacements were selected from within the herd. On October 30, 1993, the research project was brought to an end and a dispersal sale was held. Seven persons purchased the herd and they formed the Australian Lowline Cattle Association.
These docile cattle are predominantly black in color; however, genetic work has shown the cattle can also have red color through gene expression. Through years of selection for low growth rates, mature Lowline bulls measure 40-48 inches at the shoulder and weigh 900-1,500 pounds. Mature cows measure approximately 39 inches or less and weigh 700-1,100 pounds.
Good Fit for Many Operations
The Australian Lowline cattle have a rich history, dating back to 1929; they are also known for their good confirmation and docility. Lowline and other small cattle breeds are considered a niche product. They are very efficient on small pastures, and can maintain their condition on sparse pastures. Producers of normal sized cattle have also used Lowline bulls on their first calf heifers. This not only helps with calving ease, but also produces a smaller calf which demands less milk, giving the heifer a better chance to maintain her condition.
Generally, they are easier to handle, making them a good fit for youth, persons less experienced, or even older folks. They have started gaining popularity as 4-H projects, as younger youth can raise a smaller, easier-to- handle beef animal while gaining knowledge and confidence. Richardson County youth, Tyler Uhri, and his parents Mark and Lisa say the reason they have incorporated Lowline cattle into their herd is because their young kids needed a step up from the bucket calves they had raised. In addition, Lisa said Lowline cattle are a great stepping stone to the traditional size animal that her kids will show when they get older and their confidence and skills are higher.
In addition, there is less finished product to find freezer space for (usually around 400 pounds of meat versus 900 pounds of meat); this gives smaller families more flexibility. One added bonus that Lowline and other small cattle raisers boast about is that their cattle have large rib-eyes in relation to the rest of their body and have a dressing percent of about 60%, where normal sized cattle may have a dressing percent of 50 to 55%.
A small study was conducted in which three Lowline steers were purchased, fed to market weights, and harvested. The study examines the costs to get a Lowline steer to harvest, and consumer opinions of the meat. Full details.
Although breeds with full-sized carcasses will likely continue to dominate the general U.S. meat market for some time, the Lowline Angus breed may continue to find its niche with small- acreage owners, producers, and 4-H members alike.
For more information on Lowline cattle, visit their website at www.usa-lowline.org.