You could have put all our prior cattle experience into a thimble and had room left over when we bought our first cow/calf pair. Had it not been for some VERY good friends who helped with advice, working facilities, hauling, branding, vaccinating and especially moral support, we probably would have just been raising freezer beef these many, many years later.
Instead, we have learned so much from other breeders as well as our own mistakes. We hope you can benefit from our experiences and also enjoy the often humorous side of our story.
TIP NO. 1 - The very first lesson we learned is that you should not purchase just ONE longhorn (or any bovine), but should get at least two!!
TIP NO. 2 - The fence should be a tight 5-strand barbed wire! Other kinds of fencing are acceptable, but need to be high enough and close enough that jumpers are detered and calves can't crawl through.
The first cow we bought was bred with a heifer calf at side. A friend offered to let us use his longhorn bull every year so we could always have a beef in the freezer and "VOILA", we were in the "longhorn business".
The friend hauled our new cow and calf home to our waiting pasture that had housed horses for the previous years. We had NEVER had any problems with our horses getting out or even attempting to do so. We had a tight, 3-strand barbed wire fence with knee high grass in the pasture.
He unloaded the pair into the pasture and left. The cow, with calf following closely at side, made an inspection of all four sides of the pasture. She then went back to the northeast corner, reared onto her back legs and calmly hopped over the fence! Her calf slipped through the strands and they walked off down the road and into the timber. We stood there in shock!!
Gary ran for his rope and headed off down the road where they had disappeared into the trees and I headed to the phone to call the friend. The friend arrived and helped us search the 100's of acres of unfenced, timbered river bluffs. Eventually, they returned with the rope around the calf's neck and the cow following behind voicing her displeasure!
Gary tied the rope inside our 3 sided barn and hauled the calf in. The cow refused to enter the open side and stood outside in the rain all night calling to her calf.
When it was time for the calf to eat, Gary opened the door, untied the calf and let the rope out so the calf could eat. Then, when she had her fill, he "reeled" her back in again and tied the rope to the post in the barn.
The next day, we went to the lumber yard and bought enough boards to enclose the fourth side of the barn. By lunch, it was finished. We stood back and watched in shock again as that cow calmly walked past us into the barn to her calf where they spent the next couple of weeks until we could refence the pasture!
Cows don't like to be alone, so to keep yourself and your animals happy, always purchase at least two.
TIP NO. 3 - ALWAYS double check your trailer before you pull out.
On one occasion with an older style trailer, some good friends of ours were hauling a cow to another breeder. They had loaded her, and the "Mr." double checked the back door. Everything looked good, it was shut and latched, but before he pulled out, the "Mrs." suggested he wire the back trailer door just to make her feel better. Stating that he had just double checked it and it was secure, he didn't feel he needed to. She stated, "Humor me anyway!" so being a great guy, he did.
When he returned home that evening, he was laughing as he told her the only thing holding the back door shut when he arrived at the breeder's place, was the wire that he had "humored her" with! It sure can save hours and thousands of dollars later, to take just a couple of extra precautions!
Some good friends of ours had loaded up a steer that had a date with the butcher 30 miles away. They had made this same trip numerous times and were "old hands" when it came to cattle. When they arrived at the butcher, backed the trailer in and opened the door of the trailer, they got a HUGE surprise! The trailer was empty!! They looked at each other and discussed the fact that each other HAD seen that steer go into the trailer and that they had then closed the back door?
Yes, they had loaded the steer and had closed the back door. Where could he be and how could he have gotten out?
They drove back home discussing the possibilites all the way and trying to figure out how they were going to find a steer in a 30 mile area. There was a message waiting for them on their answering machine when they got home. A friend who lived just a couple of miles down the road had called and wondered if they were missing a longhorn steer since he found one along the road and had put it in his pasture.
Apparently, the trailer door had closed, but the spring loaded latch hadn't latched properly and when they pulled up a hill, the weight of the door, swung it open and the steer hopped out.
They now do a "walk around", around the trailer checking the door, tires and hitch AND also wire the back door everytime they haul cattle! So do we!
We all know how difficult it is to photograph our pride and joy cattle. I had a young bull that I desperately needed to update my pictures on who was in a pen with another young bull. As you know, bulls like to establish dominance on a regular basis so my windows of opportunity were few and far between.
One morning, I noticed the bull that I wanted to photograph was grazing by himself in the pasture...here was my big chance. I gathered up the digital and headed for the door.
At the time, we had a small dog and several cats that roamed the farm. As I was headed to the pasture, the dog and one of our friendliest cats decided to tag along with me. The dog and cat followed me into the pasture like faithful pets do. While trying to get the "perfect" picture of my bull, the dog and cat played around in the pasture in front of, behind, and off to the side of the bull. The bull was more curious about what the dog and cat were doing than paying attention to what I was trying to do.
After several failed attempts, because of the bull's head placement, I realized that maybe if the dog and cat were by me, the bull would at least look in my direction. The dog and cat again played off in another direction with the bull and me following right behind them.
When the bull stopped, his legs were lined up almost perfectly with one rear leg slightly behind the other and the front legs square, with the cat and dog directly in front of him. I began to wonder if maybe I could use the dog and cat to my advantage. I I said, "Here kitty, kitty.", and the cat and dog both responded and started to walk towards me. I noticed the bull only moved his head as he followed the path of the dog and cat with his eyes.
I got down on one knee and wouldn't you know it, the bull was finally looking in my direction. I quickly snapped off a shot. The bull stood motionless, but his head was still hanging down. I thought, what else could I do?
Still on one knee, I held the digital in one hand and grabbed the cat in the other. I lifted the cat over my head. As I did this, the bull's head again followed the cat. When I I had the cat as high as I could get it, there it was...the perfect picture. I took the shot and knew immediately that I had just accomplished the almost impossible.
The bull's stance was perfect. His head was up, ears forward and I had gotten what I set out to achieve. I have used this trick on other occasions and it always seems to work.
The next time you need to take a picture, employ the assistance of a cat! It takes some coordination, but at least keeps the cow's attention.
Tips 5, 6, 7, & 8 were submitted by Neal & DeeDee Strauss, Premier Longhorns, Stillwater, OK.
"These are 4 tips we believe are very important that ALL new breeders should know and even some older breeders could benefit from. We didn't make these costly errors, but only because someone was thankfully kind enough to point out the dangers. So, perhaps this information will save the life of some beautiful Texas Longhorn
Tip No. 5 - MAGNETS - Longhorns like to eat, seem to do so on cruise control and can easily ingest foreign matter, like bits of metal (wire, screws, etc.) found in the pasture or hay. Many a favorite cow has tragically died prematurely & unnecessarily due to "Hardware Disease", including one legendary sire. You can prevent this from happening by giving each cow an inexpensive 1/2" x 3" cattle magnet, inserted at the back of the tongue with a balling gun. Available at the feed store for a few dollars each, it loks like a silver bullet. The calf must be old enough (about one year old) for the rumen to be fully developed. One magnet will last a lifetime.
(Note: Check cattle purchased from someone else to be sure there isn't already a magnet in place before inserting another one. Check with your vet about a simple method to detect an existing magnet... Lisa Baugher)
Tip No. 6 - ROUND BALE RINGS - For most breeds, open tubular rings work fine, but not for Longhorns! If they can get their head through the rails, they can easily get their horns hung up. Open rings are suitable only for weanlings. For all other longhorns, a solid wall construction hay ring works better. Owning Longhorns is exciting, but the excitement of seeing your best cow or bull running hurt and confused through a fence with it's head entangled, dragging a hay ring, possibly breaking a horn or wose, we can do without! We're not saying it will happen next week or next month, but it will happen with open design. Don't let it happen to you. Thanks to Curt Winters (www.redhillsranch.net) for this wise advise.
(Note: We have used the open ring feeders, but only after hacksawing every other bar out so there is ample room for the large horned cattle to get their heads in and out.... Lisa Baugher)
Tip No. 7 - PERIMETER FENCE - Good fences not only makie good neighbors, but keep your Longhorn safe. Where possible, use woven field fence to the ground with a hot wire over the top - to keep the critters out and your cattle in. In rural areas, coyotes hunt in packs and big cats range along rivers and will try to kill your calves for dinner. Longhorn moms are protective and will want to "eliminate" the neighbor's dogs that get into the pasture and think it's fun to chase and terrorize the babies.
(Note: Make sure you check your fences (whatever kind you have) routinely and before turning cattle into a currently vacant pasture. Storms, high winds and aging trees along fence lines as well as an aging fence itself can cause any number of problems. Better to find and repair a hole in the fence than to get the 2 a.m. phone call to hear the words, "Your cows are out!".... Lisa Baugher)
Tip No. 8 - BALING STRING - Hay bales usually come wrapped in either plastic netting, plastic string, or wire. It keeps your bales securely contained until ready to be consumed. However, it is important that extreme care be taken that ALL the string/netting be completely removed, not just from the bale, but from the entire area that cattle have access to before ever exposing cattle to the bale. String carelressly left either on the ground or concealed in the midst of the hay is easly consumed. You may even find old partially chewed string around your pasture. More than a few cows andc calves have died unnecessarily from ingesting string...something that could have very easily been prevented.
(Note: Cattle and calves can also get their horns, feet, head, etc. caught in the twine which can be quite a rodeo to try and cut them free, risking injury to them and yourself as well..... Lisa Baugher)
Do you have some "memorable" stories that you would like to share? Some that may help someone else avoid the mistakes you made? Please share them with us!