Limousin celebrates its founding fathers

REGINA – Mary Hertz is convinced her father would be proud if he could see what Limousin cattle have achieved in the last 40 years.

The Limousin breed has recognized its 40th anniversary in Canada and as part of its celebrations, eight families that were involved from the beginning were honoured.

Hertz’s family was one of them.

Her father, Ben Plumer, was an early pioneer and her entire family has stayed loyal to Limousin cattle.

“Our most exciting moment was selling our first calf from our first bull,” she said.

Plumer imported cattle and extensively used semen from Limousin bulls at the Brandon Research Centre where Agriculture Canada was experimenting with crossbreeding.

“He believed so much in the cattle and the carcass merit. He thought the Canadian industry needed it at the time,” said Hertz, who raises cattle with her husband Rick near Duchess, Alta.

Limousin has a reputation for producing lean, tender meat. At the Hertz’s Ivy Ranch, science is incorporated with the cattle subjected to DNA profiling and ultrasound tests.

That has led to a contract with Laura’s Lean Beef, a natural branded beef product processed in the United States. The Hertzes market 60 head a year and not only does the program pay them bonuses but also gets them around the U.S. country-of-origin labelling rules.

Hertz’s three sons are the next generation of Limousin enthusiasts, winning honours at numerous shows, including show dam of the year and champions at major shows.

“The Limousin breed has given so much to our junior program so the kids have been blessed to grow up in their ranks,” she said during Canadian Western Agribition held in Regina in November.

“I think Dad would have been proud of all his children and his grandchildren, especially those who continued with the cattle.”

She carries on the legacy as director for the Canadian Junior Limousin Association, where she has watched young people develop into good cattle producers and community volunteers.

Rob Matthews’ family was also recognized.

“I was involved right from the beginning,” said Matthews, whose son Tim, a fourth generation breeder, exhibited the family’s Highland Stock Farm cattle at Agribition.

“In 1970 we got our first permit to import.”

Working with his father, Don, and grandfather, Charles, Matthews helped import females and breed their mostly Angus cows to Limousin sires.

Other producers contracted Don to select cattle in France. Only young calves could be exported because they had to test free of foot-and-mouth disease.

It was risky business.

“You had to be lucky that the four-month- old calves would turn out to be something,” he said.

Matthews thinks modern Canadian Limousin have been adapted to North American conditions. Their bodies are less round yet deeper and thicker. Fertility is also better than the original imports.

“We have changed the cattle a whole bunch in the 40 year period,” he said.

The original cattle were red and had horns. The modern Limousin is more likely to be polled and could be solid black or reddish brown. There are few fullblood offspring left from the original imports.

Like other importers of the new Continental breeds, Limousin breeders had to work hard to sell their cattle.

“Some of the people ridiculed us until they saw how much money we were making. The criticism ended,” said Matthews, who is a former past-president of the Canadian Limousin Association.

Highland Stock Farm relocated to Olds and Bragg Creek when the city of Calgary sprawled onto the 100-year-old property. Today, Tim Matthews has about 300 cows at Olds and his father keeps about 50 on his place.

The highlight for them is annual bull and female sales where they offer elite genetics as well as commercial stock. Last fall their female sale averaged $6,000 that included a $36,000 heifer that was exported to Pennsylvania. They market about 70 bulls per year.

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