Not all beasts are created equally when it comes to cutability – the amount of saleable meat from an animal. Otago Limousin breeder Rob Johnstone, says when it comes to cutability, limousin cattle have the sharp edge over the more traditional cattle breeds and Limousin cattle have plenty of ribbons from Otago/Southland beef Carcase competitions to prove it.
He says Limousin dominance in carcase competition all around the world underlines that. Making a comparison with the sheep industry Rob says everyone is now familiar with Texels.
He says the reason they are so popular is the same reason that he is explaining – cutability – sheep farmers want to get more yield from the animal. Rob operates his Glencairn Limousin stud from his 700hectare sheep finishing operation in the hills behind the Taieri Plains.
To say that Rob is passionate about the French limousin breed and the positive advantages it can provide to the New Zealand beef industry is an understatement.
He’s been involved with the breed since the mid 1980’s when he was looking to take on a cattle stud as an interest along side his sheep finishing operation.
Initially drawn to the breed by its characteristics, Rob was later encouraged by leading cattlemen like Monty Ericson and Doug Lindsay.
“Monty was an early Otago convert to the advantages of the Limousin breed and it was Monty who explained the Limousin advantage to me – cutability.”
Encouraged by his mentors, Rob entered a steer into a local carcase competition in the early days of his career. It was the beginning of a lasting passion.
“It was only a very small animal. I didn’t go to the competition because I was working on the farm. Doug Lindsay tracked me down and told me I got third. He was beside himself. It was a surprise to both of us because my steer was 100kgs less than theirs, which were Simmental and Charolais.”
Several articles have been written about Rob and his limousin cows in the past – focusing on ease of calving, moderate size, hardiness and efficiency.
All ‘mothers milk’ when it comes to telling the limousin story – Rob says a lot of people know about those things.
But that’s not the full story and it’s not the story that Rob wants to tell. He’s emphatic about that. He wants to spell out why limousin cattle offer breeders and producers better value in comparison to the more traditional English breeds.
“When you go to Europe, where you fi nd some of the best beef dishes in the world, you don’t see herds of Angus or Hereford cattle – they’re all limousin, charolais or simmental or something like that.”
Rob says the real advantage is the breed’s cutability – if you enjoy eating beef, limousin is perfection.
“When you eat meat you’re eating the muscle. So the more muscle on an animal the more saleable meat there is for the processor. Limousin have some of the best meat in the world. It’s very fine textured meat and very tender. If you like a rare steak limousin is extremely good. It’s very low in fat so its cholesterol free.”
Rob emphasises that limousin cattle are known to have superior muscle characteristics due to the F94L myostatin gene, particularly in the high value cuts like fi llet steak, rib-eye and porterhouse and that is where all the money is.
Rob draws from a real example that compares a limousin cross animal weighing 433kgs/carcass weight of 258kg with a traditional cattle beast weighing 462kg/ 259kgs carcase weight.
“When you analyse the carcass there was 26kg fat trimmed off the limousin and 42kg off the traditional one. They both had 44kg of bone. In the case of the limousin one you are left with 168kg of saleable meat and traditional one there was 150kg of saleable meat.
That means a retail yield on the limousin of 65.2% whereas it’s 57.5% for the traditional. The cutability of the limousin is 38.6% saleable meat by the live weight of the animal while its 32.4% for the traditional animal.”
Based upon an estimated wholesale value of $15.00/kg or saleable beef off the whole carcase the extra 18kg equates to $270 or over $1.00/kg.
A yield payment system by the meat processors has long been talked about and Rob says it would provide the incentive needed by many in New Zealand’s beef industry.
“We are talking about Limousin, but we’re a terminal sire breed. Crossing with other breeds, both beef and dairy, would improve the carcase quality and value of the progeny.”
He says that while reputations have a tendency to stay, over the last 25 years selective breeding has removed the adverse temperament issues experienced by the early import of Limousin cattle. Today the breed is considerably more manageable.
This article was brought to you in association with the following businesses…
- Glencairn Limousins
- Davis Shearing Contractors
- Agricultural Contracting Otago Limited
- Harvie Green Wyatt