Lowline cattle are a unique breed developed at the Trangie Research Station in N.S.W. as the result of a research project started in 1974. They were bred at Trangie and Glen Innes as a part of project to investigate the implications of selection for growth rate.
At the same time a high growth rate line (High Line) and a randomly selected line (Control Line) were established. This experimental method was chosen to produce rapid divergence from traditional within herd selection. Yearling bulls were selected for low growth from birth to yearling age.
The herd was based on Angus, and it was kept closed from 1974. It was built up to exceed 400 head. Despite some objections from other breed societies "Low Line" cattle were released into the industry in the early 1990s and the research herd has now been dispersed.
Enthusiasts started the Lowline Cattle Association, and the first herd book was published in 1993 with an index of 36 bulls and 150 registered females.
Since 1992 the membership of the association has doubled every year and in 2002 there were 260 members from all Australian states, New Zealand, North America and China. Lowline Associations have also been formed in USA and Canada.
Because of their size, breeders claim that ten Lowlines can be run on the same area as six conventional cattle. The main appeal is for hobby farmers, and producers wanting to target niche markets for smaller cuts of beef. The use of Lowline cattle will continue to be for small acreages, but mixed farms wanting to diversify may be attracted to them because of their lower feed requirement.
Lowlines require the same facilities as other cattle, but because of their size they are, like Dexters, well suited to smaller acreages. They have good temperaments and yards and fences need not be as high as for other mainstream cattle breeds.
A mature Lowline bull is about 110cm high and cows grow to about 100cm. Adults grow to weights of around 300kg, and calf birth weights are about 21kg for heifers and 22.5kg for bull calves. Some calves have been known to only weigh 14kg. at birth.
Management is the same as for any cattle, but one major advantage of Lowlines is that they do not pug up wet ground as badly as other breeds because of their small hoof size. Lowline are the newest institutionally recognised beef breed (designated AL) in Australia and they have been accepted for showing in most states, including Victoria.
For producers with only a few cows, semen is available from a variety of bulls, but unlike most other breeds it is not possible to upgrade to pure status. To be registered in the herd book it is a requirement that all calves be blood typed or DNA typed for parentage verification.
This is intended to maintain the breed's exclusivity and ensure a high and consistent standard without risk of throwback. Lowlines do not carry the Achondroplasia (Dwarfism) gene so there is no risk of genetic deformity or abortion.
Demand for Lowlines in Australia is currently strong and should remain so, because they offer such a good alternative to small acreage farmers. Many people have also bought Lowlines as an investment, with the view to selling stud stock locally, and some are looking to source markets overseas.
Registered Lowlines attract prices from one thousand dollars for a heifer to more than $15,000 for animals which have won broad ribbons at the Royal Shows. Embryos may also be purchased, either frozen or in recipient cows
Organisations and Contacts
Australian Lowline Cattle Association (ALCA)Inc.
c/o ABRI, University of New England,
Armidale, NSW 2351
Phone: 02 6773 2393, Fax 02 6772 1943
Farm Diversification Information Service, Bendigo