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What Advice Would You Give to New Longhorn Breeders?
Don & Lois Huber Bent Oak Ranch Montgomery, Texas
Getting into the longhorn business should be treated like any other business venture. You need to accumulate as much information as possible before you start making decisions. Longhorns can become addictive, as you find yourself making decisions on every aspect of the animal. If you are going to participate in the show circuit you will be concerned with color and body confirmation. In developing a breeding program, you need to decide if your priorities will be horns, body, color or one of the longhorn family bloodlines.
You can acquire information buy visiting ranches or calling breeders. Keep in mind that every person you talk to will consider you a prime prospect for a quick sale. He or she may try to convince you that what they are doing is the only program and that their cattle are the only good animals in the long-horn breed. You will soon realize that these are just their strongly held opinions. You need to talk and listen to as many people as you can and then make decisions on what you feel is in your best interest. When you are spending your money, you should be making the decision. I have a number of opinions that I'll share with you here. This is how we've built our herd, and it has worked to our satisfaction.
Horn is our top priority. Our second criteria are body confirmation and temperament. Last but not to be overlooked is color. We have considered color as the least significant factor since we have not been able to predict what color calf will come from a breeding combination. I am convinced that Mother Nature decides the color of longhorn calves. Breeding a cow to the same bull for the last three and a half years, we've seen one black and white calf, one brown and white spotted calf, and one solid white calf.
When we got started we purchased animals on price and emotion. We now have only one of the original fourteen longhorns we started with. For a breeder to get a good price for an animal it must be of above average quality. If I were starting a beginner herd, I would purchase fewer head but better quality. We have culled our herd twice in eight years to get to our current position. Six years ago we decided to have animals we raised with our brand on the left hip. When you raise the animal you know their temperament and full pedigree. Any animal difficult to handle is not in our pasture. Now we have 28 we have raised, and the 12 cows that were our foundation herd. I had to decide what heifers would be keepers. After a lot of talking and listening we settled on a horn measurement of 27 inches or above by twelve months of age, and 40 inches or above by age two. The heifers that did not qualify were sold, often as ropers. This has worked for us, but you need to set your own standards.
We culled our cows based on horns and size, not bloodline. I felt a blend would give me the animals I wanted. The cows, as our foundation herd, were just above average, with horns ranging from 54 to 61 inches, tip to tip. I feel the bull is 75% of the herd's success. I decided I could get better calves by having good cows and a fantastic bull, since the bull is 50% of every calf that hits the ground. When we decided to try and raise our own herd, we ordered semen on a number of premium bulls and had every cow we owned bred to greater bulls than we could afford to own. This process resulted in getting two fantastic bulls out of The Shadow. Our black bull, Shadow's Reflection, has over 63.5 inches of horn tip to tip, and our brindle bull, Texas Tornado, has 60 inches tip to tip. Even after breaking 6.5 inches off the right horn, he has an 84-inch pole measurement. We've used these two bulls for our last three calf crops, and the quality has been fabulous. I seriously believe the value of your herd sire should be as great as your best three or four cows.
After using Reflection and Texas Tornado, I wanted a totally different bloodline. We acquired Unparalleled, a big multicolor bull with over 63 inches tip to tip and a 15-inch base. Unparalleled is a son of Unlimited and out of a 1500#cow that is full sister to Zhivago. We are hoping this Butler and King mix on our Shadow daughters and granddaughters will raise our calves to the next level in horns, size and color. The longhorn industry promotes tip to tip horn measurements as the basis of an animal's value. We have a number of cows with 54 to 46 inches tip to tip, but the pole is in the upper 70 inches, and one is at 83 inches. The cows with the most horn seem to be producing our longest-horned heifers. I have to conclude that our program is improving based on the total horns of our cows and a great bull.
Don and Lots Huber raised registered Brahman cattle for twenty-five years. In 1997, Lois wanted a black and white long-horn for a pasture decoration. By 1998, the Hubers owned only longhorns. Visitors to their home in Montgomery, Texas, will see longhorns from every window.
Woody & Mary Woodside H&W Longhorns Desoto,Texas
We first became involved with longhorns in 1977. Mary's parents were farmers and ranchers and were great people I was fortunate to know. Mary's dad was a western buff who enjoyed cowboy pictures and western novels. He always talked about purchasing some of those longhorns he loved in books and movies. So we loaded up in 1977 and went to the third annual YO Ranch sale. We had a great time being hosted by the Schreiners and bought three bred heifers. There weren't many shows or sales to go to in those days, but we visited with other breeders whenever we could. And there was the 40 Plus Club: 40-inch horns were really something back then! Mary's folks have since passed away, and we temporarily quit raising cattle in the late 1980s.
We cranked back up in 1996 with our good friends, John and Sheila Hodges of J/S Longhorns. We also met Joe Valentine and Lorinda Beal, who introduced us to the ITLA. We have been members since 1997 and enjoy the shows and their functions. It has been a real learning experience the second time around.
Speaking from our own experience, there are many ways people enter the long-horn business. John and I heard of a man with seven or eight longhorn cows selling out for a very reasonable price, so we went down and bought them. Sometimes folks see a herd on the highway and get the long-horn bug, or know a friend who bought a couple for his new place, whether it's five or five thousand acres. When folks catch longhorn fever they may want to hit a long-horn sale or call up the number on a rancher's sign. We had no idea that the few average longhorns we bought for pleasure would turn into what H&W Longhorns. We've met some great people in the ITLA who show cattle and have a serious desire to raise quality genetics for the show ring and sell good stock to new breeders. We've found that shows and sales are great fun and help us learn about pedigrees and types of longhorns.
Are you looking to build a quality herd for resale and the show ring? Or would you rather own a few of these great cows for your own enjoyment? If the answer to either of these questions is "yes," I advise you to talk to several breeders and visit them. By learning about their programs, you can get an idea of what to look for in longhorn cattle.
Raising the cattle you like will bring you the most enjoyment. If you love it enough after you've been in it a while, go to a local show with a few of your animals to see how you compare with fellow breeders. Not only is it great run, but you can also learn more about the different families and pedigrees of longhorns and continue to develop your personal taste in cattle.
Many people enjoy the breed by simply sitting on the porch and viewing these great animals. There are many avenues into the business. You don't have to jump in with both feet, so take your time. See as many longhorns as you can before you decide which direction to take. Start out slowly because there's a lot of work and time involved in caring for these animals. Pasture size and quality will determine the number of animals you can handle. Other important considerations include catch pens or working pens where you can see to your animals' health concerns. Just remember, you shouldn't buy just one longhorn - these are herd animals that need companionship.
We're still learning more every day about raising and caring for longhorn cattle. If the longhorn business grows on you as it has for us, then we hope to meet you down the road and swap a cow or two. Good luck!
Woody and Mary Woodside of H&W Longhorns in Desoto, Texas, have been married 29 years and have one married daughter, Courtney Murphy, age 26.