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The top cattle breeds in Australia

There are a vast variety of cattle breeds present within Australia. Each breed possesses its own unique characteristic and traits that make them suited for different purposes. Some breeds are mostly used for beef, while others for milk production, there are even some breeds which can be used for both. The climate and environmental conditions of a farm will also determine which breeds are most suitable. Bos indicus cattle breeds, such as Brahman, being more suited for hot – tropical climates, whereas Bos taurus cattle breeds, typically European breeds such as Angus and Holstein Friesians, being more suited for cooler and more temperate climates.

Beef cattle

Government estimates put the number of beef cattle breeds now in Australia at more than 100. As the country has a vastly diverse climate – ranging from tropical in the far north to the chillier plains and forests of Victoria and Tasmania, producers have increasingly looked to stocking breeds that are suitable for local areas.

Cross-breeding in recent years has helped to introduce characteristics to make beef cattle breeds more pest and disease-resistant. Crossbreeding within the herd can make better use of breed selection by combining breeds with different strengths to produce a final progeny with desired characteristics from both original breeds.

British breeds, such as Angus and Herefords, are generally earlier maturing and are thus able to gain weight on less feed. For this reason, they perform well on moderate nutrition and are popular in many parts of the country. They have high fertility and good eating quality. Some British breeds are used in the industry as high-marbling breeds and are suited to the Japanese feedlot market.

European breeds, such as Charolais and Limousin, generally grow faster and have more muscle. They are generally later maturing than British breeds and need more feed to lay down fat cover. Many successful crossbreeding herds cross European bulls over British breed cows to produce faster growing, higher-yielding calves.

These are some of the popular beef cattle breeds:

British breeds

Angus, Hereford, Poll Hereford, Shorthorn, Galloway, Murray Grey

European

Dual purpose: Simmental, Brown Swiss

Meat – large mature size: Charolais

Meat – medium mature size: Limousin

Double-muscled: Belgian Blue

Bos indicus

Brahman, Sahiwal

Japanese

Black Wagyu, Red Wagyu

Composite

Santa Gertrudis, Braford, Brangus, Droughtmaster, Charbray, Belmont Red

Dairy cattle

Dairy cattle are breeds that have been specifically bred to maximise their milk output. According to the most recent figures, there are just over 1.5 million dairy cattle in Australia (2016/17), located in roughly 5800 registered dairy farms. The dominant dairy breed in Australia is the Holstein Friesian, accounting for around 75% of all dairy cattle. Other important breeds include the Jersey, the Holstein/Jersey cross, Brown Swiss, Ayrshire and local breeds, the Australian Red and the Illawarra. Dairy breeds are sometimes combined with British beef breeds to produce specialist vealer-producing cows. As producing milk requires a high amount of energy, dairy breeds of cattle require high levels of nutrition and require supplemental feeding in addition to grazing on pasture.