Having only existed in the United States since the 60s, Limousin cattle have explored in popularity. The Limousins are among the few beef cattle breeds known for their muscling, an important attribute in the beef industry as breeders seek to produce more meat for the ever-increasing beef market.
While Limousin cattle may not have the benefits of the extreme double muscling seen in other beef breeds like Piedmontese and Belgian Blue cattle, their unique muscling endears them to cattlemen and earns them the name “The Carcase Breed”.
Here’s the story of France’s “Butcher’s animal”.
Table of Contents
Where Does The Limousin Cattle Breed Come From?
The Limousin cattle breed originates from the Limousin and Marche regions of west-central France. The Limousin and Marche homeland is a region of heavy rains, poor granite soils, and poor crop agriculture.
The region better supported animal agriculture, and the French raised Limousin cattle as draft animals and for leather and beef production.
The early days may not have been the best for Limousin beef because of the harsh climate—the cattle were small and light, but selective breeding has improved the breed to greater weights.
Despite the harsh environment, Limousins developed as a sturdy and resilient cattle breed with lean, high-quality meat regardless of the slaughter age.
The high quality and higher killing-out percentage of Limousin beef have earned the cattle the “Carcase Breed” codename.
As the breed picked up as the preferred beef cattle, the first Limousin herdbook was started in 1886 to ensure breed uniformity.
Louis Michel, the first presiding officer over the French herdbook, established stringent guidelines by which cows and bulls were recorded in the book. By 1914, only 5,416 heads of cattle had been accepted.
The first Limousin cattle came to North America in the 1960s. Prince Pompadour became the first Limousin to be imported to Canada from France in 1968, while the first Limousin bull consignment arrived in the United States in 1971.
The growing interest in the breed as travelers brought back news of a “new” impressive beef breed and its arrival in North America led 15 cattlemen to form the North American Limousin Foundation (NALF) in 1968.
The foundation’s mandate was to promote and develop the Limousin breed in Canada and the United States.
From their origin in France, Limousin cattle have now spread worldwide to over 70 countries, such as Zimbabwe, Belgium, South Africa, Argentina, the US, Canada, Holland, Uruguay, Germany, Venezuela, Denmark, Russia, Spain, Ireland, Portugal, Brazil, Hungary, and Italy.
Limousin Cattle Characteristics
Limousin cattle have the following characteristics:
|Official Breed Name||Limousin Cattle|
|Appearance||Large-bodied, with a strong bone frame|
Short neck and a wide muzzle
Small, short head with a wide forehead
Golden-red color, but lighter wheat color around the muzzle, eyes, anus, inside the thighs, at the tail end, and under the stomach.
Some Limousin cattle with black genetics (from the black cattle of Australia) have genes that cause them to turn to a deep black color at a mature age from a light fawn or brown color at birth.
No skin pigmentation and no markings
Naturally horned or genetically polled (the base of the horns is yellow while the tips are darker)
|Calf Weight||79-81 pounds (some bull calves weigh 92 pounds, while some female calves weigh 85 pounds)|
|Mature Cow Weight||1,500 to 1,600 pounds|
|Mature Cow Height||Average 53 inches at the shoulder (a range of 53-58 inches|
|Mature Bull Weight||2,200 to 2,600 pounds|
|Mature Bull Height||Average 57 inches at the shoulder (a range of 55-61 inches|
|Ready To Breed||2 years|
|Gestation Period||9 months|
|First Calvings||33 months|
Calving is easy due to the long body and lighter frame
|Time to Slaughter||2 years|
|Carcass Weight||617 pounds for steers butchered with live weight averaging 970 pounds|
|Expected Lifespan||8 years (10 to 12 years on occasions)|
|Productive Lifespan||5+ years|
|Known For||Marked sturdiness and resilience|
Low birth weights and high weaning weights
Early maturing (than one of their main beef competitor, the Charolais breed)
Good milking ability
Ease of handling and relatively good docility (Limousins were initially Temperamental but now docile since the NALF advocated docility and culling balky animals).
Strong immune system
Hyperplasia (increase in muscle fibers)
High feed conversion efficiency
Highly fertile bulls that pass their conformity to their offspring, even when crossbred
Highly fertile full-bloods or purebred suckler cows (high conception rates)
|Weaknesses||Can be aggressive|
|Climate||Adaptability to a wide range of environments and climates|
What Is So Special About Limousin Cattle?
Besides fast growth, early maturity, high weanling calf weights, and high feed efficiency, Limousin cattle are known for their superior carcass and hybrid vigor.
Limousin bulls and cows excel at converting all types of feed into lean beef, a trait born out of the adaptation to the nature of their homeland, which had poor vegetation.
The crossbreeds of Limousin cattle demonstrate the ability to gain more live weight per kilogram of feed than other beef breeds. Fullblood female Limousin cattle are top suckler cows in the beef industry.
The superior quality of the Limousin carcass owes to the leanness of the beef and the characteristic hyperplasia observed in the cattle. They have been labeled as leaders in muscle growth efficiency because of the Limousin muscling gene.
The missense mutation in Limousins causes the number of muscles to increase (hyperplasia) rather than cause the inactivity of the myostatin gene, which would lead to an increase in the size of muscle fibers (muscular hypertrophy).
The result is a superior carcass with a higher dressing percentage and higher saleable meat yields than the carcasses of other beef breeds that do not have the muscling effect.
Limousins are crossbred with other breeds and backcrossed to pass Limousin genetics, such as superior carcass characteristics, hybrid vigor, efficiency, and flexibility.
Limousin breeders also breed Limousins for the muscling gene. The bulls have two copies of the gene and pass one copy to their crossbreeds.
Among the notable crossbreeds include:
- Limousin x Holstein Friesian
- Limousin-Holstein Friesian cross x Limousin bull (a backcross)
- Lim-Flex (Limousin x Red Angus or Black Angus). Lim-Flex hybrids combine the muscling and feeding efficiency of the Limousin and the marbling and maternal instincts of the Angus cattle.
- Brahmousin (Limousin x Brahman) – accepted as a cattle breed in Australia
Limousin crossbreeding programs also feature crosses with Simmentals, Jerseys, Herefords, and Shorthorns.
Why Should I Raise Limousin Cattle On My Farm?
Here’s why you should raise Limousin cows and bulls on your farm:
- Limousins require little supervision, thanks to their honed ability to survive with poor vegetation in their motherland
- Limousin cattle are highly flexible in adaptation for efficiency in a wide range of climates and environments
- Limousins exhibit excellent productivity at low costs because of their high feed-to-meat conversion efficiency
- You can reap high profits from the lean beef of Limousin cattle, which is low in fat and bone content, has a high killing-out percentage, and has a high yield of real, saleable meat at about 73%
- Being good milkers, many farmers make a decent profit from selling their milk locally
- Full-blood female Limousins are good suckler cows, and suckling calves won’t hinder their ability to grow fast and produce high-quality cow meat.