A focus on carcase yield and softness has delivered David York and his family a profitable cattle operation with the use of Limousin genetics.
Operating across several properties, covering 8,700 hectares (21,500 acres) east of Roma, in the Wallumbilla area of Queensland, David together with his brother Graham and their wives Kirsten and Christina, run between 900 and 1,000 cows.
“We started using Limousin bulls in the late 1990’s when we purchased an additional property with an existing herd of Hereford type cows. They were fairly ordinary cattle and we wanted to quickly improve their carcase characteristics,” David said.
Prior to this the Yorks had started an on-farm feedlot. As well as feeding cattle they had bred themselves, they were also buying cattle for finishing.
“We were buying different breeds and types of cattle for the feedlot back then. Pretty quickly we worked out that the Limousin cross cattle were outperforming all other breeds in the feedlot, so when it came to selecting bulls to put over the cows in order to improve them, Limousins were an obvious choice,” David recalls.
These days the Yorks no longer operate their own feedlot but instead choose to send their cattle to Smithfield feedlot at Proston to be custom fed.
“We’ve been sending cattle to Smithfield for a couple of years now and are very happy with the results.”
“They are a professional outfit that ensure the cattle perform well and they have good access to markets,” David said.
Cattle are usually sent to Smithfield around the 300kg mark, but depending on seasons can go either lighter or heavier.
“The cattle generally end up in the domestic trade or jap-ox markets. We leave that up to Smithfield depending on the individual animal and market.”
“Whilst we still buy some cattle of different breeds to background, most of our own cattle that we are sending to Smithfield have a Limousin influence in them.”
“We find the Limousin cross cattle yield so much more than other cattle. We are regularly having Limousin cross cattle yield up to 59%,” David said.
Fat levels recorded in the carcases are also ideal for the market with the Limousin cross cattle that the Yorks are producing generally measuring between 5-12mm of fat at a carcase weight of 260kg.
“We focus on fat coverage and softness when selecting our bulls each year. We like to buys bulls that have good fat coverage at 2 years of age, as that’s the time we are processing their calves,” David said.
In order to balance softness and finishing ability with carcase yield, the Yorks aim for 50% Limousin content in the cattle they send to Smithfield.
“Because the Limousin cross heifers can go with the steers and are fed exactly the same, ending up in the same market, we tend not to keep many replacement heifers by Limousin bulls.”
“We basically treat the heifers like steers which improves the profitability of the business,” David said.
Hereford bulls are run as well to breed replacement heifers that the Limousin bulls are then joined to.
“We have no problems joining heifers to Limousin bulls. Generally the calves are born pretty small but quickly catch up,” David said.
Running large numbers of cattle and often working them by himself, David has no tolerance for cattle with poor temperament.
“Any beast, be it a cow or bull that shows any sign of poor temperament is culled immediately.”
“We find absolutely no difference in the temperament of Limousin cattle to any other breed. If cattle are handled poorly they will react unexpectedly. It has nothing to do with breed.”
This is backed up by processor feedback that the Yorks regularly receive and always pay a lot of attention to.
“If the cattle had poor temperament and stirred up when handled, we’d see that reflected in the feedback we receive. We rarely see a bruised carcase and when we do, it’s got as much chance of being from a non Limousin animal as it does from a Limousin cross,” David said.
David’s confident that the direction he and his family are taking with their cattle operation is a good one.
“The profitability of our business, has for many years, relied on the ability to finish cattle on grain. Whilst we choose to do that through a custom feedlot, versus our own feedlot these days, the underlying traits we select for in our cattle hasn’t changed.”
“Limousins provide us flexibility in our markets with a carcase that finishes well with an above average yield.”