Limousin cattle have proven beyond doubt that they can not only survive, but also thrive and add value in some of the tougher environments of central Queensland.
One producer whose experienced first-hand the production gains delivered by Limousins is Darren Gilliam.
Darren, together with his wife Sandra and their family manage the 20,200 hectares (50,000 acres) “Lake Elphinstone” near Nebo. Hes used Limousin bulls over Brahman females for eighteen years with outstanding success.
“The Limousin cross cattle provide more avenues and options,” Darren said.
“Live export, stores, prime cattle, feedlots and backgrounders are all markets that readily accept our product. Straight bred programs don’t give you that degree of flexibility.”
“Lake Elphinstone” supports 2,500 breeders and progeny in a 900mm rainfall environment. Breeders are run mainly in forest country timbered by Iron Bark, Box and Sandalwood with areas of light Buffel grass.
“We started using Limousins when we noticed premiums for the Limousin cross cattle at local store sales,” Darren recalls.
“There’s a premium of 11-12c/kg compared to purebred Brahmans. There’s also extra weight, typically 15 to 20 kg at weaning, possibly more in a good season.”
The top end of the Limousin cross steers are taken through to bullocks and finished on scrub country at around 680kg live weight. The middle run of steers and heifers are generally sold to feedlots between 380-420kg live weight.
Limousin bulls are joined at a rate of three percent with fertility being excellent.
“We’ve just branded a paddock of 170 heifers and marked 163 calves,” Darren said.
Darren maintains a component of his herd as pure Brahmans to breed replacement females. The tops of the Limousin cross heifers are also joined to Brahman bulls. All other females are joined to Limousin bulls to produce the productive crossbred cattle he is aiming for.
Darren is forthright in his assessment of his program.
“You have to have a cross somewhere. There’s very good money for our crossbred cattle, the finer hair types are suitable for the live export market and there’s a premium for them,” added Darren.
Replacement bulls are selected to commence work at around 22 months of age and used until eight years of age.
“We usually require six to eight Limousin bulls per year. We look at coat type, scrotal statistics and all other visuals along with Estimated Breeding Values (EBVs),” Darren said.
“We’ve got to have a sound animal, one that will survive and deliver in this country, once those visuals are right then we’ll look at the other data like eye muscle area (EMA).”
In order to ensure his cattle have enough fat cover for the markets he is targeting, Darren pays particular attention to the bulls he is selecting.
“It comes down to selection as well as the season. I select bulls with enough coverage. That takes away a lot of the problem. Seasons play a huge part as well, the lighter the season, the lighter the coverage on cattle so you have to factor that in.” Darren said.
As far as comparisons with other cattle are concerned, entering the operation’s cattle in hoof and hook competitions has shown Darren he is on the right track.
“We’ve had a lot of success at local shows and in carcase competitions against both purebred and crossbred cattle,” Darren said.
“We’ve exhibited in the Mackay Show carcase competition for the past 9 years and at the Pioneer Valley Show for 11 years.”
“We’ve taken out the grand champion steer at the Mackay Show in the hoof competition on two occasions, as well as plenty of wins in the carcase competition”.
In 2012 “Lake Elphinstone” took out the double at the Mackay Show, being the most successful exhibitor in both the hoof and carcase sections.