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Docility: A Trait for Practicality and Profit

Published December 14, 2021

Anyone who has been in a dangerous situation with an ornery bovine knows the difference temperament can make. And, as the average age of the cattle producer continues to increase (the average age will be 60 by 2050 according to census data) while finding skilled help becomes more difficult, handling animals who are high strung and excessively unpredictable are a serious liability. As if human safety weren’t enough, research continues to point to docility also contributing to profitability.

Fortunately for Limousin and LimFlex producers, the smart genetic decisions and progressive breeding programs have brought the breed to be an industry leader with this trait.

“Limousin breeders have done an outstanding job of collecting a large amount of docility data, really paying attention to it and improving the population substantially over time,” says Bob Weaber, a professor and beef extension specialist at Kansas State University, noting that for a long time the breed didn’t have such a great reputation for temperament.

He continues, “Now you talk to Limousin breeders, commercial users and folks that have actually purchased (Limousin cattle) for user roles are very happy with the disposition in terms of the population.”

Consistently, Limousin and LimFlex active sires are in the top percentile ranks for docility. Per the latest International Cattle Evaluation, Limousin and Limflex sires and dams have a +12 average EPD score.

A Cattleman’s Asset

Having smaller flight zones, cattle who are naturally more docile are notably easier to work with and around. They are more likely to be more receptive to equipment and doctoring as well.

“One of the things we observe is that the more docile animals have better health outcomes in terms of resistance to disease,” says Weaber. “Obviously (there’s also) better human interactions and fewer worker handling issues with those good-dispositioned animals.”

Overall, he says that by contributing to a better human-animal relationship, docility helps contribute to enhanced health and well-being, in addition to growth and performance.

Adam Nielson operates ROM’N Limousin & Club Calves in Arlington, S.D., with his family.  Over the years, he has seen firsthand how far the breed has come in terms of docility and how it’s impacted the bottom line for those in the commercial market.

“I see improvement in our area quite a bit as far as commercial men are,” he says, noting that a high-stung and excitable nature used to be a serious stigma against the Limousin breed. “Now when they’re looking for a more muscular breed…they aren’t looking away from the Limmies anymore.”

This change in attitude he attributes to a noticed change in the breed’s disposition due to breeding focus on more docile characteristics. Instead of looking at other breeds like Charolais for improvement, Nielson says he sees more buyers investing in Limousins for their needs.

Docility for Profitability

Keeping docility in the breeding program has effects that go beyond practicality right into the bottom line. A 1997 feedlot study found that of 13,000 cattle, the ones who were more docile consistently outperformed those who were classified as either “restless” or “aggressive” in terms of growth and carcass quality.

More recently, a 2017 study from Texas A&M found that feedlot heifers who qualified as “calm” compared to those who were “excitable” earned approximately $62 more revenue.

Similar research has also uncovered data that supports similar results in pastured settings as well.

“While many of the rewards of maintaining a high level of docility may be difficult to measure, there is no doubt that higher docility adds to our bottom line,” says Gary Gates, of Gates Limousin Ranch in Roscoe, Mt., where his family has raised Limousins since 1975. They are very strict on keeping docility a foundation of their cow-calf and bull breeding programs. “Cattle that are easy to handle require less labor. Less labor means less cost.”

He adds that bull buyers know the value of well-tempered cattle and are often willing to pay more for bulls they know will be easy handling.

“Maintenance costs on your facilities and equipment will (also) go down when you have a herd that is easy to handle as well,” he says. “At the end of the day it only takes one goofy one to have an impact on a whole herd. There is really no excuse to tolerate any poor dispositions.”

Moving forward, Weaber is confident that docility will continue to be of industry-wide significance and be a big talking point in sharing the story of beef with consumers.

“Attributes of docility are really important to our business,” he says. “We have the ability is as the stewards of those animals to make good breeding decisions on traits that affect outcomes. It’s part of our sustainability story, and a part of our profitability story as well.”

Voisinet, B. D., T. Grandin, J. D. Tatum, S. F. O’Connor, and J. J. Struthers. 1997. Feedlot cattle with calm temperaments have higher average daily gains than cattle with excitable temperaments. J. An. Sci. 75: 892-896.

Olson, Cameron Alexander (2017). The Effect of Temperament at Feedlot Arrival on Growth Efficiency, Feeding Behavior, and Carcass Value in Beef Heifers. Master’s thesis, Texas A & M University.


Limousin cattle deliver to your bottom line. With superior genetics, a simple crossbreeding plan and state-of-the-art selection tools, the Limousin breed will serve profit-minded cow/calf producers. In today’s competitive markets, taking advantage of all available opportunities is key. The Limousin breed offers a variety of options from Fullblood to Purebred to the Lim-Flex® hybrid (Limousin x Angus cross) to match your program’s needs and market goals. Crossbreeding for the right blend of muscle, maternal ability and profit is easy with Limousin seedstock.