Lowlines easier on equipment, perfect fit for family freezer
By STEVE BROWN
PUYALLUP, Wash. -- Nancy Chapman figures her Lowline cattle are perfectly suited for small-acreage operations. And they also offer benefits for larger outfits.
"If you're growing one steer for one family, the carcass size of a Lowline fits easily into a freezer -- about 450 to 500 pounds," she said. "It's also an easy animal to work with, bred to be docile and to maximize pounds per acre."
Chapman and her husband, Glenn, own Lazy G Lowline, a 30-acre ranch near Yelm, Wash. They brought a couple of their animals to display at the recent Puyallup Spring Fair, and the pair of cattle attracted plenty of attention.
The animals look a lot like the Angus cattle they were bred from, but they're quite a bit smaller.
"They're about two-thirds size," Nancy Chapman said. "The cows run about 1,100 pounds; the bulls, 1,500. They've got a lot of volume, looking a lot like cattle raised in the 1940s."
The Lazy G started in 2002 with breeding cattle brought from Minnesota. "We were the second or third people to have Lowlines in the Northwest," she said. With about 40 Lowlines on their pastures now, the Chapmans are primarily in seed-stock production, plus a few steers.
They have found the smaller animals easier on equipment than larger breeds. Lowlines are gentle, naturally polled and easier to work with, she said.
"And they're easy birthers," she said. "We rarely have to pull a calf." Birth weights run about 45 pounds. And they carry that trait to other breeds.
"We bred a half-Lowline heifer to a Hereford, and the calf was 59 pounds," she said.
Lowlines were originally bred starting in 1974 as an experiment by the Australian government, starting with Aberdeen Angus. The aim was to establish whether larger or smaller animals were more efficient at converting grass to meat.
Highline, Lowline and Control Line herds were established, and the program evaluated weight gain, feed intake, reproductive performance, milk production, carcass yield and quality, and structural soundness. It turned out that both Highline and Lowline were equivalent protein converters.
When the research ended in 1992, Australian stockmen bought the smaller-statured herd and formed the Australian Lowline Cattle Association.
"They were looking for a breed that could finish quickly and efficiently on grass, and the animals were selected for docility and high yield," Chapman said.
Lowlines made it to the U.S. in the mid-1990s, coming in as embryos from Canada. Now Lowline herds are found in almost every state, according to the American Lowline Registry.
The registry also promotes the breed as a better choice for riparian areas. Rotational grazing of more and smaller animals on a property creates more hoof action, beneficial to implanting seeds and re-establishing grasses and legumes in sensitive areas.
Also, the Lowline's Angus heritage makes it adapt well to all weather conditions and climates.
The breed's characteristics of weight gain per acre make it popular for crossing with other breeds, Chapman said, with some crosses winning carcass contests in Australia.
"We're trying to get Lowlines into other bloodlines to make more money per acre. The crossed animals are not much smaller, but they're more efficient. You lose some of that leg but not the volume."
The Lowline's smaller frame would also make it a good choice for 4-H or FFA project animals, especially for youngsters who are intimidated by larger cattle, Chapman said. "It's a little more encouraging."
Pounds of retail product per acre
Murray Grey 105.7
Source: Nancy Chapman