Mini beef breed catches the eye at Suffolk Show
PUBLISHED: 11:34 01 June 2013
A "mini" breed of beef cattle with all the virtues of a traditional Aberdeen Angus caught the eye of livestock farmers at the Suffolk Show.
Although many may have thought that Dexters had strayed into the beef rings, it was the first appearance in East Anglia of a new breed to Britain – the Australian Lowline.
It was three years ago that the first Lowline cattle – direct descendants form original Aberdeen Angus exported to Australia in 1929 – were brought back to Britain, said Dorset farmer and breeder Nick Weber.
On the opening day, the judge of the any other pure beef breed section, Ben Harman, of Chesham, Buckinghamshire, was faced with a selection including Charolais, a British Blue and a Lowline bull and heifer with calf at foot. “I really didn’t know what to do. They’re really amazing creatures and I really enjoyed having them in the ring.”
However Mr Harman was at least more familiar with the breed that most of the others at Trinity Park because he had seen them in Australia.
Mr Weber, who started Wessex Lowlines with business partner Geoff Roper, said that there were about 50 Lowlines in Britain and they had about 30 at home near Blandford.
“We obtained the original animals from Alberta, Canada, because it was the only place that we could access the animals. We don’t have an import protocol for Australia.
“In 2010, we brought ten from Canada which had to be under a year old because of the concerns about enzootic bovine leukosis, EBL. We had to buy animals which were blood tested before they were vaccinated at 12 months of age. “When they came in 2010 they were the first cattle to come into Heathrow from Canada for 30 years,” said Mr Weber. “We bought another group of nine in January 2012, since then we’ve been breeding our own,” he added.
The Lowline was bred at Trangie Research Centre, New South Wales, when registered pedigree Aberdeen Angus stock from Scotland, the United States, Canada and Australia were imported.
In a closed herd, they produced two pure beef types, the Highline, which ceased in 1956 because it was not as economic, said Mr Weber. The Lowline, which can finish off grass, has been made more widely available in the past decade.
“They are a definite beef breed, polled and normally black and are 100pc Aberdeen Angus, derived from the genetics of the original breeds of the early 1900s.
At all stages of growth, they’re about 60pc of the normal beef breeds,” he added.
“Although it is a smaller animal, it can be stocked more heavily, typically at two to the acre, and the extra lean meat yield is higher because it has a smaller frame. “With two to the acre, it is possible to show that more beef can be produced to the acre from a small cow. We think this cow is ideally suited to smallholders because it is has good temperament from the Angus.
“We can calve them down inside two years, and it has also a shorter gestation, a fortnight earlier, than a traditional breed,” said Mr Weber, who said that the calves weigh an average of between 18kg and 20kg at birth.
As yearlings, they weigh about 190kg (420lbs) for heifers and 230kg (510lbs) for bulls. A mature cow will weigh aboput 320kg (710lbs) and stand between 95cm and 1.1m at the shoulder. The bulls are slightly taller, between 100cm and 110cm at the hip, weighing about 400kg (880lbs).
Mr Weber said that they had imported some frozen embryos. “We’ve done our own ET with Aberdeen Angus cows and we were lucky to get 80pc conception but we’ve got five bull calves and three heifers,” he added.
The herd is managed by David Maughan, who is helped by his wife, Sam.