History of Australian Lowline Cattle
History of Australian Lowline Cattle

Lowline cattle are not 'miniaturised'; they have not been bred down from larger framed cattle.  They are the continuation of the stable genetics of the Angus breed prior to the 1960s when the introduction of larger framed animals were infused to increase the size of Angus to what we see today.  It can be said that the Lowline breed is in fact more pure Angus than todays Angus!  So they were never made smaller because they were never bred bigger.


An Angus bull in 1960


 

"Never have so many scientists, geneticists and stud masters been in at the birth of a new cattle breed"


Trangie Research Station, situated in western NSW, was following a charter to provide quality breeding stock for the NSW beef industry. This began when the state's Department of Agriculture imported two top Angus bulls in 1929 to join its existing black cows. In the following 27 years they added some of the best Angus genetics then available with the importation, mainly of bulls, from Canada, the US, Scotland and England. In the early 1960s it was the leading NSW Angus studs that provided fresh genetics, before the herd was closed to outside sires and dams in 1964.

At that time Trangie began performance recording of the herd, one of the first studs in Australia to do so. Dr Peter Parnell, director of NSW Agriculture's Beef Industry Centre wrote in 1990 that Trangie's breeding program in the mid to late 60's "gave equal emphasis to yearling weight and visual conformation score in the selection of replacement bulls and heifers" and this policy "successfully demonstrated that performance recording could be used in a closed stud herd without excessively increasing inbreeding".

In 1974, 10 years after Trangie's herd of high quality Angus cattle (with a huge array of data collected on them) had been closed, a new project was started "to evaluate the effect of selection for growth rate on total herd profitability". The Trangie herd was divided into three groups: a "high line" based on high growth rates, a "low line" selected for low growth and a randomly selected "control line'. The cattle in each "line" were carefully measured for feed intake, weight gain, fertility, milk production, carcass yield and structural conformation.

Satellite herds were also established at Glenn Innes in Northern NSW and Hamilton in Western Victoria to account for performance in different climates. In the project's final report in 1995, Dr Parnell, who was then the livestock manager in charge of the experiment, wrote that "selection for increased growth rate should lead to increased herd profitability". Low growth rate cattle were about to cause a sensation!

The Department of Agriculture held it first auction in August 1992. The average price for the animals (nine bulls, 23 heifers and seven cows) was just under $500. By the time the second auction was held at Glenn Innes 14 months later, the average price per head was four times more at almost $2000 a head.



Published in Australian Lowline Cattle Annual Journal 2006, pp6.