Transitioning with the Lowline | TSLN.com

Transitioning with the Lowline

Loretta Sorensen

Beef breeders planning to transition to moderate framed cows and a grass-fed operation may find important traits they need to quickly achieve their goals in Lowline Angus genetics.

Lowline breeder Rick Lloyd of Chamberlain, SD says some breeders have steered clear of Lowlines because they believe the breed doesn’t yield a large enough carcass and they don’t realize how the breed’s genetic traits complement a grass-fed program.

“Lowlines have kind of gotten a bad rap, being represented as kind of a backyard, small acreage breed,” Lloyd says. “Most of the three-quarter Lowlines we’ve harvested yielded a 550 pound or larger carcass. Lowlines have a very strong place in the commercial industry, especially in a situation where a producer wants to reduce cow frame size in one generation. They’re also easy-fleshing, marble well and have outstanding tenderness and flavor. They’re a perfect fit for grass-fed producers.”

Lloyd brought his first Lowlines home about 12 years ago to improve calving ease in his Charolais herd. Once he saw how the breed performed he decided to begin incorporating them into his breeding program.

“In 2009 we conducted some feed tests on 100 Lowlines, from half-blood to purebred, that were 100 percent forage finished,” he says. “The tests revealed that the animals averaged five percent IMF (intramuscular fat) which easily qualifies their carcass for low choice grade. We used ultrasound to monitor development of marbling percentage in our animals and didn’t send anything to harvest that was under four percent IMF.”

Since he started producing Lowlines, Lloyd has learned that the breed has a finer textured muscle composition than other Angus bloodlines. They don’t possess as much connective tissue, which causes toughness in meat.

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“Most grass finished cattle processed today are in the select range at best,” Lloyd says. “Some fall into the standard grade. That’s what makes the Lowlines such a good option for developing grass fed genetics. The meat is very tender and has a wonderful flavor. Once you’ve tasted Lowline beef, you’ll understand why we say it’s second to none. In a grassfed program it’s also high in Omega 3 and other healthy nutrients, so it’s a great product.”

In his own transition to grass-fed beef, Lloyd found Lowlines to provide a rapid avenue for producing moderate framed cows in one generation. He’s taken frame 6 cows and used a full-blood Lowline bull to produce 3 and 4 frame cows. Frame 5 and 6 cows with a three-quarter Lowline bull will produce frame 3 and 4 animals. Frame 4 and 5 cows with a half-blood Lowline bull also produce frame 3 and 4 cows.

“If you’re running a 1,500 or 1,600 pound cow that produces a 650 pound calf, you’re getting 650 pounds of beef from that unit the cow occupies,” Lloyd says. “If you have two Lowlines on that same unit and they each produce a 500 pound calf, you’re taking 1,000 pounds of beef off that same unit. That’s a concept that’s not always easy to grasp, but the smaller cows are more productive overall.”

Other traits breeders have come to admire in Lowlines include the calving ease they provide as well as genetic predictability. Lowlines originated at Australia’s Trangie Research Center. The Angus cattle were part of a breeding program that began in 1929 in an effort to provide quality breeding stock for the New South Wales (NSW) cattle industry. Bulls used in the program were from Canada’s Blackcap Revolution family, bloodlines that consistently won awards at Chicago’s International Show during the 1920’s.

In 1963 research became the focus at the Centre. By 1973 two herds were created to provide for research evaluating selection for growth rate on herd profitability. The objective was to establish whether large or small animals were more efficient converters of grass into meat. The trial continued for 19 years.

Both herds in the Centre’s research program, Highlines and Lowlines, were dispersed in 1993. Because the Lowline herd remained closed to outside gene pools for 19 years, genetic outcomes from today’s purebred Lowlines are very predictable.

“If a producer is uncertain about the breed, I recommend they try a Lowline bull on their heifers,” Lloyd says. “They’ll be surprised how easy calving is. A lot of commercial producers are turning to Lowlines and have trouble spotting the Lowline calves in their herd because as they mature they’re so similar to a regular Angus calf. The differences breeders do notice are their thick tops and deep, well muscled bodies. Sometimes they’re actually heavier than other Angus calves.”

The docile nature of Lowlines, which makes them easy to move and handle, makes intensive grazing practices easy to implement. Lowlines also thrive on a forage diet.

“Lowlines generally finish on grass at 24 months or less,” Lloyd says. “Larger breeds can take up to 30 months to finish. Lowlines marble well on grass too. That’s not to say that Lowlines won’t fit a grain-fed operation. They’re going to be very efficient there too. They finish so quickly in feedlots that they’re not necessarily the favorite breed in that environment.”

Grass-fed beef buyers, such as Thousand Hills Cattle Co., recommend that producers stock easy-fleshing cattle that finish at a minimum live weight of 1,000 pounds. They note that cattle that are tall, narrow through the shoulders and ribcage and small gutted will not do well on a forage-only diet.

Lloyd, an ultrasound technician, has used ultrasound technology to select genetic traits that include one-to-one ribeye area per hundred weight, marbling and tenderness. He’s combined those traits with phenotypical characteristics that indicate strong femininity in females and masculinity and good scrotal measurements in his bulls.

“In the grass-fed industry, leaders say producers need moderate frame size cows to be profitable,” Lloyd says. “If you’re using a big bull and a 1,400 to 1,500 pound cow that’ frame size 6 or larger it could take a lot of years to reduce the size of the cows in your herd. If you want to make that change quickly, Lowlines can help do that in a short amount of time. They also add numerous beneficial genetic traits to your gene pool.”

Beef breeders planning to transition to moderate framed cows and a grass-fed operation may find important traits they need to quickly achieve their goals in Lowline Angus genetics.

Lowline breeder Rick Lloyd of Chamberlain, SD says some breeders have steered clear of Lowlines because they believe the breed doesn’t yield a large enough carcass and they don’t realize how the breed’s genetic traits complement a grass-fed program.

“Lowlines have kind of gotten a bad rap, being represented as kind of a backyard, small acreage breed,” Lloyd says. “Most of the three-quarter Lowlines we’ve harvested yielded a 550 pound or larger carcass. Lowlines have a very strong place in the commercial industry, especially in a situation where a producer wants to reduce cow frame size in one generation. They’re also easy-fleshing, marble well and have outstanding tenderness and flavor. They’re a perfect fit for grass-fed producers.”

Lloyd brought his first Lowlines home about 12 years ago to improve calving ease in his Charolais herd. Once he saw how the breed performed he decided to begin incorporating them into his breeding program.

“In 2009 we conducted some feed tests on 100 Lowlines, from half-blood to purebred, that were 100 percent forage finished,” he says. “The tests revealed that the animals averaged five percent IMF (intramuscular fat) which easily qualifies their carcass for low choice grade. We used ultrasound to monitor development of marbling percentage in our animals and didn’t send anything to harvest that was under four percent IMF.”

Since he started producing Lowlines, Lloyd has learned that the breed has a finer textured muscle composition than other Angus bloodlines. They don’t possess as much connective tissue, which causes toughness in meat.

“Most grass finished cattle processed today are in the select range at best,” Lloyd says. “Some fall into the standard grade. That’s what makes the Lowlines such a good option for developing grass fed genetics. The meat is very tender and has a wonderful flavor. Once you’ve tasted Lowline beef, you’ll understand why we say it’s second to none. In a grassfed program it’s also high in Omega 3 and other healthy nutrients, so it’s a great product.”

In his own transition to grass-fed beef, Lloyd found Lowlines to provide a rapid avenue for producing moderate framed cows in one generation. He’s taken frame 6 cows and used a full-blood Lowline bull to produce 3 and 4 frame cows. Frame 5 and 6 cows with a three-quarter Lowline bull will produce frame 3 and 4 animals. Frame 4 and 5 cows with a half-blood Lowline bull also produce frame 3 and 4 cows.

“If you’re running a 1,500 or 1,600 pound cow that produces a 650 pound calf, you’re getting 650 pounds of beef from that unit the cow occupies,” Lloyd says. “If you have two Lowlines on that same unit and they each produce a 500 pound calf, you’re taking 1,000 pounds of beef off that same unit. That’s a concept that’s not always easy to grasp, but the smaller cows are more productive overall.”

Other traits breeders have come to admire in Lowlines include the calving ease they provide as well as genetic predictability. Lowlines originated at Australia’s Trangie Research Center. The Angus cattle were part of a breeding program that began in 1929 in an effort to provide quality breeding stock for the New South Wales (NSW) cattle industry. Bulls used in the program were from Canada’s Blackcap Revolution family, bloodlines that consistently won awards at Chicago’s International Show during the 1920’s.

In 1963 research became the focus at the Centre. By 1973 two herds were created to provide for research evaluating selection for growth rate on herd profitability. The objective was to establish whether large or small animals were more efficient converters of grass into meat. The trial continued for 19 years.

Both herds in the Centre’s research program, Highlines and Lowlines, were dispersed in 1993. Because the Lowline herd remained closed to outside gene pools for 19 years, genetic outcomes from today’s purebred Lowlines are very predictable.

“If a producer is uncertain about the breed, I recommend they try a Lowline bull on their heifers,” Lloyd says. “They’ll be surprised how easy calving is. A lot of commercial producers are turning to Lowlines and have trouble spotting the Lowline calves in their herd because as they mature they’re so similar to a regular Angus calf. The differences breeders do notice are their thick tops and deep, well muscled bodies. Sometimes they’re actually heavier than other Angus calves.”

The docile nature of Lowlines, which makes them easy to move and handle, makes intensive grazing practices easy to implement. Lowlines also thrive on a forage diet.

“Lowlines generally finish on grass at 24 months or less,” Lloyd says. “Larger breeds can take up to 30 months to finish. Lowlines marble well on grass too. That’s not to say that Lowlines won’t fit a grain-fed operation. They’re going to be very efficient there too. They finish so quickly in feedlots that they’re not necessarily the favorite breed in that environment.”

Grass-fed beef buyers, such as Thousand Hills Cattle Co., recommend that producers stock easy-fleshing cattle that finish at a minimum live weight of 1,000 pounds. They note that cattle that are tall, narrow through the shoulders and ribcage and small gutted will not do well on a forage-only diet.

Lloyd, an ultrasound technician, has used ultrasound technology to select genetic traits that include one-to-one ribeye area per hundred weight, marbling and tenderness. He’s combined those traits with phenotypical characteristics that indicate strong femininity in females and masculinity and good scrotal measurements in his bulls.

“In the grass-fed industry, leaders say producers need moderate frame size cows to be profitable,” Lloyd says. “If you’re using a big bull and a 1,400 to 1,500 pound cow that’ frame size 6 or larger it could take a lot of years to reduce the size of the cows in your herd. If you want to make that change quickly, Lowlines can help do that in a short amount of time. They also add numerous beneficial genetic traits to your gene pool.”

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