While we may be a long way from Texas, the Longhorn breed reminiscent of cattle drives and western movies has found a home in the Gem State.
“I had always wanted some Longhorns,” says Nick Noyes of Running N Longhorns in Fruitland. “I kept seeing a herd along the highway in Rigby and finally decided to buy some. Our family business is honey bees, so it started out more as a hobby.
Noyes bought three bred cows in April 2011 and has grown to a few dozen. He is a member of both the International Texas Longhorn Association and the Texas Longhorn Breeders of America.
“They are tough, calve on their own, easy to maintain and breed back, and are hearty,” he says. “They also can have a good disposition, and we cull them if it’s questionable.”
The first year Noyes purchased a purebred bull, but has also utilized AI and has leased a bull to breed cows.
“Everything is registered Texas Longhorn,” he says. “We’re raising breeding stock and our goal is to raise elite females.
At this time, Noyes steers all the bull calves and sells the meat at The Honey Store in Fruitland.
“We’re breeding for a good disposition, frame size, horn length and color pattern,” Noyes says. “The goal is to have 50 inches by two years of age. Having 70-inch horns is quite common these days. Some bulls are in the 80s.
“It is a constant battle for selection as you can gain horn, but may give up pounds,” Noyes says.
He kept that in mind when making his selection for a new, young herd sire he purchased from a breeder in Ohio. “The bull I purchased has a sire who measured 84 inches and a dam who was 72 inches,” he says. “And both of them are large framed animals too. The dam was 1,300 pounds and the bull should be nearing 2,000 by now.”
In addition, he leased a bull last year who was beefier, in order to add more pounds to his calves.
While many other breeds use EPDs (expected progeny differences) as a selection tool, Longhorn breeders look at actual data, for example, length of horns, which is measured tip to tip and mature weight. These numbers help Noyes make breeding decisions. He hasn’t sold any Longhorns bulls to commercial producers, but says it is a possibility in the future.
“Longhorns are known for their heartiness and calving ease, so they would be a good choice for a crossbreeding program,” he says. “Right now I’m focusing on improving the quality of my cow herd and raising beef to sell.”
Noyes is realistic and says that while the horns and hide are what Texas Longhorn cattle are most known for, but the carcass quality is important.
“At the end of the day, it’s still about the pounds of beef you can produce,” he says.
In order to keep a consistent supply of Longhorn beef available, Noyes has both spring and fall calving cows. His production system utilizes grass pasture and that’s how he finishes his beef.
“We’ve found a market with people looking for lean, grass-fat beef,” he says. “It does have a different taste to it, so I encourage people to try a few steaks at first before they purchase a quarter or half of beef. We get a lot of repeat customers.”
Noyes enjoys the variety having the Longhorn cattle provides. “It’s something different from honey bees,” he shares.
Improving herd quality is his number one goal and encourages anyone seeking a niche cattle breed to focus on quality as well.
“Go with the best quality you can afford,” he says. “Five quality cows will be more profitable than 10 average ones.”