Australian Lowline Cattle were developed from the Angus herd that was established at the Trangie Research Centre in 1929 to provide quality breeding stock for the NSW cattle industry. The Angus breed has its origins in eastern Scotland, in the counties of Aberdeen and Angus, where it was developed from the native black hornless cattle.
Trangie's foundation stock were purchased first from Canada and comprised two bulls, a cow and calf, and 17. The Trangie herd was reinforced with further imports from Canada, the United States of America and Scotland between 1930 and 1950. The last imported bull was Pro Ben of Balfron, which was brought from Scotland in 1956. Bulls were bought from leading New South Wales studs Wambanumba, Glengowan, Tulagi and Wallah between 1961 and 1964, and the herd was then closed to outside animals.
The emphasis at Trangie switched to research, and in 1963 the Australian Meat Research Committee asked the Trangie Research Centre to conduct a project aimed at establishing the role of performance recording in the breeding program of a herd. Equal emphasis was given to weight gain and to visual conformation score in the selection of replacement bulls and heifers. The project continued until 1970, pioneering performance testing in Australia, and demonstrating successfully the usefulness of measuring performance in a stud herd.
From 1971 and 1973 trials were conducted using objective measurement and appraisal by experienced stud breeders in the selection of replacement bulls and heifers. The herd was divided into two, with the results indicating that performance testing compared with the assessment of experienced stud breeders assessing growth potential.
The trials which produced the Lowline breed began in 1974, with funding from the Meat Research Corporation, to evaluate selection for growth rate on herd profitability. The aim was to establish whether large or small animals were more efficient converters of grass into meat. This trial continued for 19 years.
The Trangie staff chose one herd selected for high yearling growth rates and another selected for low yearling growth rates, with a randomly selected control group. The dubbed the herds High Line, Low Line and Control Line. Satellite herds were established at Glen Innes in the northern tablelands of NSW and at Hamilton in the Western Districts of Victoria to enable climate to be taken into account.
The program involved a detailed evaluation of weight gain, feed intake, reproductive performance, milk production, carcass yield and quality and structural soundness.
The original Low Line herd comprised 85 cows, which were joined to yearling bulls also selected for low growth from birth to yearling age. From 1974, the Low Line herd remained closed, with all the replacement bulls and heifers selected from within the line.
The protein conversion performance of the High Line and Low Line animals was monitored on an individual basis, and then recorded. The Trangie Research Centre concluded that the High Line animals were about 5% more efficient converters of grass to meat than the Low Line. Nevertheless, the data that showed the best performers were High Lines and the least effective performers were Low Lines, also showed that for the great bulk of High Lines and Low Lines their efficiency as protein converters were much the same.
After 15 years of selective breeding, the Low Line herd had stabilized at about 30% smaller than the High Line cattle. The bulls were maturing at about 43 inches, and the cows at about 39 inches or less, against 59 inches for standard Angus bulls, and close to the same height for standard Angus cows.
Mr. Ian Pullar, a grazier from Armidale, secured 43 cows and then two bulls from the satellite herd at Glen Innes and registered the Australian Boutique Cattle Association as an umbrella organization. His interest saved from extinction what had become a new breed of cattle, a breed which had the desirable characteristics of the Angus breed, but which was only about 39 inches high. They are smooth, free from waste, and produce high quality meat. They are free from the eye cancer, and they have proved adaptable to Australian conditions. Being descended from stock that have been handled in Australia for 60 years, they were also exceptionally docile.
Although the Trangie Research Centre retains some of its herd as a stud, its emphasis now is on research, and the spurt of interest in experimental as opposed to stud animals was unexpected. The Trangie researchers had not set out to create a new breed. Their aim was a controlled experiment in meat production, and their selection process produced a Low Line herd with the excellent conformation of their other stock.
The NSW Agricultural Department was proposing to terminate the experiment, sending the cattle from the trial to abattoirs for slaughter. After some hesitation, and after strong representation, auction sales were held at Glen Innes and at Trangie. Seven purchasers n met beneath a gum tree at the Trangie Centre auction site to form the Australian Lowline Cattle Association, adopting the name LOWLINE. Those names appear in the Herd Book as foundation members.
The Australian Lowlines are of champion stock with an Australian history dating back to 1929, and beyond that in Canada, the United States, England and Scotland. They are docile, and well conformed. They offer small holders and those farmers with limited acreage available the option of keeping docile cattle of high quality.