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Irish Limousin Cattle Society, Kilglass, Mitchelstown, Co. Cork

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All breeds have bloodlines known to be nervous. There is no doubt that calmer cattle are more desirable than nervous ones. They are easier to handle and safer to be around. They are also associated with higher gains and more desirable meat quality.

If you are a commercial cattle producer who has concerns about docility and how Irish Limousin breeders have addressed it, read on. No other breed has made greater strides toward improving docility than Limousin.

Thanks to the diligence of Limousin breeders across the country, not only do Limousin offer flexibility, efficiency, calving ease and a unique balance between beef and maternal traits, they are no quieter than ever before. In the late eighties the Irish Limousin Cattle Society identified improving Docility as a key breed priority. Limousin breeders took their mission to improve this trait very seriously.

In 1992 former society Mr Seamus Cody went to France for training in the system of linear scoring which incorporated an assessment for docility. A few years later Seamus was joined by Mr Martin McCullagh both of whom gathered valuable data on docility that laid the foundation for the first BLUP index for Docility in Irish cattle breeding.

Using docility BLUP index to drive selection and culling of problems animals, Limousin breeders put strong selection on docility and made remarkable gains to improve the trait. Rapid genetic progress was possible given the positive habitability of 0.40 for the trait.

Current policy of the Irish Limousin Cattle Society is that all pedigree Limousin cattle registered with the society must be linear scored before a pedigree certificate is issued. By default, this means that every animal with a pedigree certificate and registered with the society now has an assessment for docility and a corresponding BLUP index for docility.

Scores range from 1 to 10, where 1 represents the most aggressive and 10 represents the calmest.




1 - 2


Animal cannot be held in a corner and may jump penned area, exhibits long flight distance, aggressive in behavior towards scorer and threatens to charge or does charge.

3 - 4


Animal cannot be held in a corner and may jump penned area, exhibits long flight distance

5 - 6


Animal is not easily held in the corner even when the scorer is some distance back from the animal. Continual movement and tail flicking.

7 - 8


Animal can be held in the corner but exhibits some restlessness and flicking of the tail. The scorer cannot get close enough to put his hand on the animal before it moves away.

9 - 10


The animal is easily held in the corner and the scorer can get close enough to put his hand on the animal.

Raw docility scores are used to compute docility BLUP indexes. Such indexes indicate genetic differences in the likelihood that progeny of particular sires or dams will be docile or not. The higher the index the greater the chance that the progeny of that animal will be calm. On the other hand if the index is low index then the progeny are expected to be more nervous. Reliability values associated with BLUP indexes vary considerable. The higher the value the better as it means that a lot of information has been gathered for the animal in question.


Limousin breeders in Ireland have been using docility indexes since 1992. By placing strong emphasis on selection for docile cattle, they have dramatically improved the temperament of Limousin in Ireland over the last decade. Figure 1 shows the genetic trend for docility for pedigree Limousin cattle born in Ireland from 1984 through to 2004. The graph shows that cattle assessed in 1984 had an average docility index of 93 but those assessed to date in 2004 average 108 – an increase of 15 points in 20 years. This trend is set to remain as Limousin breeders continue to assess docility and select and cull accordingly.

docility graph

Let us not take our eye of the ball but let me applaud the breeders for their commitment – they must take great satisfaction from their achievements. At Irish Limousin we are committed to providing genetics that are demanded by the commercial sector of the Irish beef industry.

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