From time-to-time in the normal course of a day’s work, I get the chance to pull out an old issue or two of Limousin World or International Limousin Journal. Usually it is because I am trying to locate a photo for someone or doing some historical research on behalf of a subscriber or advertiser.
It never fails, a project that should only take me minutes, often turns into an hour or more. Not because I can’t find what I am looking for, but because I get caught up looking at the old photos and breeders from days gone by. It seems the further I go back in time, the longer I spend looking at the yellowing pages and fading ink.
It is no secret, nor point of contention, that the men and women involved in production agriculture have made tremendous strides in improving not only the quality of, but the efficiency, of their products. Whether it’s bushels to the acre or pounds of calf weaned per cow exposed, we are definitely getting more out of less like never before. In the beef industry alone, consider we are still managing to keep the nation fed with a cow herd the size of what they had in the 1950s.
So I guess I shouldn’t be surprised when I look back through the pages of 30- and 40-year-old magazines and see dramatic changes in the Limousin breed. Those of you who live and work with these critters every day know what I am talking about. They are calmer, more fertile and easier doing than ever before. Yet breeders have managed to keep the muscling, efficiency and carcass characteristics the breed is known for.
Along those same lines, I guess it should come as no surprise that the breeds EPDs have improved drastically as well. The other day, I spent some time comparing the breed’s genetic trends since 1994 and this is what I found.
Calving-ease direct, calving-ease maternal and birthweight have all dropped significantly, while weaning and yearling weight EPDs have climbed 20 and 40 pounds respectively. It’s never a bad thing when calves come easier, yet grow faster.
Milk, scrotal circumference and stayability have all seen major improvements. While the Limousin breed has always been known for its longevity, few would argue we needed to improve milk production and scrotal size, which is exactly what breeders are doing. I am also happy to report that carcass weight and ribeye have improved, along with marbling, which of course is not an easy thing to do.
I of course, saved the best for last. Docility. I would venture a guess, no other breed made more progress faster on any given trait than what has been accomplished with respect to temperament in Limousin cattle.
Limousin cattle were not a perfect fit for the North American beef industry when they were brought into this county, but there was obviously a need for them, or else they wouldn’t have lasted this long. So change was inevitable.
Whether you are comparing pictures from decades ago, studying EPD genetic trends, or charting the progress in your own herd, I think it is safe to say the Limousin breed has made great strides in producing the kind of cattle the industry demands. But I can’t help but wonder about what the guy who sits in my chair 40 years from now will think about the cattle we are so proud of today.