By Audra Brown
’Tis the season for bull-buying. The choices are many and so are the dollars.
It’s a critical decision point for any cattleraiser. For a beef producer like me, the end game is all about pounds, and color.
That’s right. Color. Why? I’d love to know. But the truth is black cattle will bring a premium that other shades don’t.
And spots? Don’t even get me started. Some cattle buyers will cut out a spotted calf faster than a cripple.
But I just hauled three, skinny little longhorn bulls home. Considering the downsides, why would a longhorn be important in a beef operation?
Two words. Calving heifers.
Heifers — female bovines before they’ve had the first calf — are a special sort of trouble.
Calving for the first time is an iffy business — and a big, pretty, beefy baby doesn’t help.
Enter the longhorn bull. But that’s the bull we put on the heifers that first time around because it keeps those first calves small and makes calving as close to easy as it can get.
Sure, you might get some spots, and they’ll never weigh like you want ’em to, but the extra sleep I get at night is well worth it.
Longhorns have their faults: skinny in the rear, pointy up in front, and a little too good at jumping over fences, but I’ve got a soft spot for the breed.
Ease of calving, by far the main reason for using longhorn bulls to breed the heifers, isn’t the only perk.
Longhorns are smart and resilient. I’ve seen longhorns live on not much more than sand and water. Longhorn cows make the best mamas, taking care of the calf, fighting off varmints, and they live a long time.
My grandma had a longhorn cow. That old thing had a calf every year, took good care of it, and lived to be twice the age of most cows. The last time I saw her, she was on her way to the sale, and so old we’d all lost count.
She also had four horns.
I doubt I’ll ever see a cow as cool as her again, but if I do, I’ll be reaching for my checkbook.
Audra Brown writes about life on the farm. Contact her at: