Things to Consider when Purchasing a Longhorn

We have been asked many times “what makes one animal more valuable than another?” There are several factors involved in the answer to this question. First and foremost, as with all other breeds, a female must be a sound producer, having a calf each year and milking sufficiently to raise that calf to a healthy weaning weight.

The term “name brand genetics” is a key a new buyer should keep in mind. Purchasing animals with a pedigree known in the industry enables you to utilize thousands of advertising dollars spent by someone else. This immediately puts your program on the same level of the breeder who has been working for several years to produce the high dollar cattle of the industry.

A certificate of “Over 40 Inch Horns Tip to Tip”, at one time was issued for every Longhorn who achieved this mark. Our breed has since moved onto the level that over 40” horns is a must for high dollar return today. It should be noted here that it is very difficult to take a 35” horned female and breed her to a 39” horned bull and produce 50” horned offspring. This is why special attention should be directed at the dam of the bull that you plan on using as your herd sire. Have you seen many 6’ tall children from parents who heights average 5’5”? There may be some World Show winners who will never see this mark. They may have won the show, but the buyer will not be trying to obtain their genetics. The buyer, not the judge, should be your guide to the genetics you choose to produce that is, unless you are not in the business to make a profit. I love these cattle, but my banker demands that I listen to the buyer, not the purist or the breeder who has never made a dime with his Longhorns.

Eye appeal is a major value factor in our breed’s popularity. If you have two equal (in horn and body) animals for sale - one white, one speckled and spotted or black and white - the fancy colored animal will bring the highest price. Not hard to figure out. But I would like to say that color is the easiest thing to “fix” on a female, by the selection of the bull you breed her to for her next calf. Another good reason for utilizing artifical insemination is to match a female to the bull that will “color up” her next calf.

“Correct body” must be addressed at this point. In order to have a market for your bulls, you need to also consider body in the selection of your breeding stock. Since this is a consistent market, even if not the highest dollar return for our Longhorns, we must consider it because 50% of our calves are bulls and we must have a place to market them. The bulls that do not have the size or correctness required by the commercial buyer for use on virgin heifers have only one other place to go...the sports world, i.e., ropers. This is a real market and sometimes stronger than the beef market when cattle prices are down.

The first question that we ask someone who wants to start their own herd is “What do you want to do with your program?” Many times the answer to the question is something like, “I want to start off with cheap cattle so that I can get more” or “I’ll sacrifice quality just to get started”. At first, these statements seem to make sense. After all, many people buy less of a first home or car than they really want just to own something. However, any breeder, new or established, must consider re-sale an integral part of their program.

Nature dictates that cows will calve and thus herd numbers will grow. One cow easily becomes a pair. That calf may be a keeper type heifer or it may be a bull calf. The next year the same thing happens. At some point, you will need to market your animals. The point is, if you sacrifice quality for quantity, you will have to deal with the ramifications of that sacrifice when you begin marketing.

Larger breeders have room in their program to include cattle ranging in quality. This spread in price is a must for large breeders to be able to cater to the various types of buyers in the market. However, quality over quantity is vital for “small” breeders. Not only will it assist you in making a name for yourself and your program in the industry, but assist you in marketing the animals that are not “keepers”.

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