Sunday, July 30, 2017

Crossing Limousin with Jersey to create “premium beef”

Limousin is a double-muscled breed from the Limoge region of France.
They are among the leaner breeds of cattle, which in the 1970s-80s was a hot topic in consumer dietary discussions.

In the 1970s, major French breeds were given a trial in the USA and Canada in a desire to identify crosses that would improve the growth rate of typical “baby beef” [English origin] cattle breeds prevalent in the USA from when most beef cows were grazed on grass and calves were weaned on milk, that would grow too much fat on grain in the feedlot systems.

Maine Anjou, Charolais, and the Pie Rouge (which was used to moderate the size of Simmentals) have proven to be a success in the USA beef market and you can find lots of semen available on these French-origin breeds in every AI program, alongside the German, Italian and Indian origin breeds.

But only one AI system (CRI Genex) handles Limousin, as the distributor for Wolf River Limousin in South Dakota—which has found a sales niche in Jerseys (the one dairy breed whose small bull calves don’t bring any money at sales barns, but are prized for freezer beef due to tenderness and flavor).

Why did Limousin fail in the broader market?    (a) the beef is tough, (b) the steers are poor at feedlot finishing, (c) the cows had below average fertility, (d) the breed has a bad reputation for temperament.

Basically, Wolf River is doing lots of promotion targeting large Jersey herds, with this sales pitch:  “breed your better cows with sexed Jersey semen to supply your heifers, breed the bottom half to Limousin and get a premium price for feedlot calves”.     Which is true—but only half true, because any beef breed bred to a Jersey cow will produce a premium price calf, and it is the Jersey that is contributing the eating quality to the beef.

If you wish to make a calf to put in your freezer, consider breeds that will allow you to get this calf from cow to finish quality in only one winter.   If you intend to raise a heifer to start a beef cow herd, consider breeds that are known for quiet dispositions.    If someone is offering you a lot of money for a Limousin-cross calf, breed your cow to Limousin.  

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