“The road toward more and better production”
Ever since the 1960’s livestock production in our country has witnessed vastly changing periods, mostly due to cattle raising policies. Despite frequent hassles, Limousin breed has experienced sustained growth as from that decade. Few had much confidence in the future of Limousin within our system of production in view of the consolidation of British breeds after over 100 years in the country. Let alone even considering that it might play a firm role in domestic livestock farming as the one it effectively plays at present.
To date, it is the sole Continental breed increasingly present in our country due to its modern biotype. Through ‘actual’ examples it showed beyond doubt that it is an ideal tool for our cattle raising, particularly in hard times as those we are living in. This type of product has been possible thanks to the joint selection process carried out by all breeders and the Association that brings them together. Today, we see a moderately sized animal that is useful for consumption: calves/steers 1 year of age and 300/380 kilos; as well as for export: 450/500 kilo-steers with milk teeth. Limousin malleability to comply with the various commercial categories during ever shorter finishing periods –dictated by necessity- is based on its genetics that guarantees two crucial virtues, which set Limousin breed apart for all other beef-producing cattle. Namely:
Fat: Because of its genetics it always has the exact amount of fat and that is why it can be easily finished according to the requirements of each category.
Carcass yield: On account of its genetic traits, carcass yield is 2-3% higher than any other breed. This feature was scientifically confirmed by researchers at Adelaide University, Australia. They identified a superlative and beneficial gene in Limousin cattle, called myostatin F94L that accounts for the high beef yield of the breed.
As is the case around the world, where it can be found in different climates, Limousin promptly adapted to weather conditions in the pampas and excelled in beef quality and carcass yield, its ‘trademark’. The latter occurs both as pure breed and when used in crossings. Actually, it made a relevant contribution to the assessment of type and finishing of Argentine carcasses. In the 1970’s most carcasses in Argentina witnessed excess in fat (grades 3 and 4), and very rarely grade 2. Ever since that decade, when it received top prizes in competitions in the now disappeared La Negra Beef Company (CAP, Avellaneda, BA), the virtues of carcasses of the breed of “Champion Steers” showed the course to be taken. As is well known, fat is either discarded or sold at a very low price; therefore, its excess is always rejected because it is unproductive. As stated above, on account of its genetics Limousin steers even under conditions of high weight for exports, continues to produce beef and witnesses adequate fat (grades 1 or 2). At present, that is the ideal qualification required by beef companies. The same can be said about its conformation: where popular breeds could –and can– scarcely surpass category “U”, category “J” is normal for Limousin as is top “double J” (in steers, A or AA), both in purebred and crossings. This is a feature much valued by judges in block tests because it is fully linked (as is grading) with good lean retail yield. As to hind quarter yields
–which includes the most expensive cuts (exports)—Limousin occupies the front row too. The usual percentage is 40-45%, while normally the most common breeds in the country seldom surpass 30%. This spells higher profits per animal!!!
Muscle, a crucial feature in the beef industry, also shows that this Continental breed has brought about a substantial change since its introduction into our system. At present, thanks to crossings with Limousin, we see rounded carcasses with significant muscular development. Leadership in this field is spectacular, with carcass yield regularly above 59% and peaks beyond 64% as those regularly attained in carcass competitions where Limousin has led the way –recurrently and indisputably– over the past 30 years. It is worth underscoring and repeating that these yields are achieved mostly with young steers, which is clear proof of the ease of conversion at finishing point (biological efficiency) witnessed by the Breed in all categories.
We have been observing these matters since 2004 in the Hilton Quota attributed to our Association: because of this asset, producers receive significant bonuses in their profits. We can ascertain that “Nº 1 Breed in the butcher’s hook” provides beef producers with a cash bonus unequalled by their beef-producing competitors.
The following traits and features characterize the breed and contribute to place it in the top rungs around the world:
HARDINESS: Its ease to adapt to extreme weather conditions have allowed it to establish itself successfully in over 90 countries since the 60’s, both as purebreed and for crossings and in different locations such as the EU, USA, Mexico, South America, Oceania, and China, among others.
CALVING EASE: Limousin stands out among continental breeds for its calving ease. This is partly due to the lower weight of its calves and partly to the pelvis canal that is larger than in other breeds, calculated at constant weight. INTA- Balcarce Experimental Unit has listed it, together with Angus, as one of the very few breeds in Argentina that witness calving ease. It is also worth noting that offspring show a surprising after-birth development, particularly after weaning, due to its genetic capacity and the high nutrient content of dams’ milk. Milk production proves sufficient to cover the calf’s needs without inconvenient excess, thus avoiding non-efficient results.
FERTILITY AND LONGEVITY: Relevant pregnancy indexes in commercial Limousin herds and crossings have been confirmed. They are achieved through adequate management and health-care as established by good production practices: they ‘easily’ surpass 90% (in herds of more than 1,000 heifers in the Salado River basin). The outstanding fertility performance is matched by Limousin longevity: disposal of cows is done at an average 9.5 years of age after producing 6.4 calves, yet another feature that distinguishes Limousin from other breeds. A relevant point is that over the past several years it has come first in insemination in Great Britain, doubling the amount of doses in the breed that comes after it. This is mainly due to its proven fertility and its top beef performance, which is superbly transmitted in crossings.
FEED EFFICIENCY: Limousin cattle are regarded as an intermediate-sized breed: this enhances the ability of its body to maintain its aptitude even under extremely harsh conditions. At this point in time in Argentina, this advantage is readily seen in regions weighed down by drought. Additionally, besides its great feed efficiency (roughage/beef) its nutritional requirements compared to identical biotypes are significantly lower than those of other Continental breeds and equals British breeds. In fact, it amply outdoes the latter when we consider finishing; it is startling, particularly so when carried out in feedlots. (Currently in Argentina, nearly 60% of cattle are finished that way.) To illustrate this fact, producers of finished cattle and/or exporters in Mexico, pay a premium for cattle with Limousin blood because its outstanding feed efficiency (capacity of quick forage conversion) leads to a smaller requirement of food to obtain beef as opposed to other breeds in the country. This is yet another advantage that must be added to its well known higher carcass yield.
BEEF QUALITY: Limousin breed produces beef of excellent quality and taste on account of its adequate marbling (fat interspersed among muscular fiber): this grants tenderness, juiciness and flavor to the various cuts. Added to this, its genetics guarantees the exact amount of peripheral fat. Over recent years, world markets are demanding changes to producers in order to satisfy health-concerned consumers who demand leaner coating fat in beef. Limousin beef is renowned among well-known international chefs for its tenderness and flavor.
It is wise to acknowledge that, as with most breeds, many things may change and improve through selection and research, but when it comes to beef and its yield, there is no match for Limousin in the long term.
Our closing message to producers who have not yet tried Limousin is that “without any doubt this is the way”, especially with the impending changes in cattle raising in our country brought about by feedlot finishing practices.