To hear Andy Rainsford tell it, there’s no cattle quite like the Texas Longhorn.
It’s the breed that survived the harsh terrain of the American South-West – they adapted to eating cacti, fending off tick-borne diseases, and were simply born hardy.
That’s not an exaggeration – the Texas Longhorn is one of the best breeds of cattle for calving ease.
“And that’s paramount,” Andy says as his ute bounces over the green fields, scattering lambs and sheep in its wake.
“You put a bull in with the cows, nine months later there’s calves. All you have to do is count ‘em.”
Having cattle that calve easy lowers the risk of stillbirth, but it also leads to considerably less work for the farmer. Texas Longhorn calves are born sprightly, and full of vigour.
While the breeds has a low birth weight, this smaller weight can reduce dystocia for first-calf heifers. Texas Longhorns also still fall into the recommended weight range – 8 per cent of the breed’s body weight.
Andy describes himself as a “cattle enthusiast”, and has spent years researching and breeding multiple kinds of cattle.
He came across the Texas Longhorns in 2012. There was “a French fella” who was looking to export exotic cattle, and Andy was his intermediary, connecting him with numerous breeders.
One day the French man reported that his boss wanted Texas Longhorns. After locating the Longhorns, the French man balked at getting them onboard, worried about their horns damaging either the ship or the animal.
So, eventually 20 to 30 Texas Longhorns were left onshore, and Andy took them back to his property in Apsley.
Andy’s brother-in-law, Chris, was also involved in breeding the Longhorns. After Chris died recently, Andy has decided to sell half of the Longhorns, in what marks the first sale of Texas Longhorns in South Australia.
The sale is on Sunday July 22 at 11am (SA time) at the Naracoorte saleyards. There will be commercial bulls, cows, calves, and semen lots. For more information and enquiries, potential buyers can contact Dale Keatley on 0408 102 060 or Darren Maney on 0428 849 101.
There may be a horn measuring contest at the sale, for a bit of fun. As the ute stops by the herds, Andy points out different types of horn:
There’s the Texas Twist, where a horn curves up and forward;
And half up, half down.
While the Texas Longhorn with the longest horns in the world resides in Queensland, the American breeders are constantly trying to go bigger and bolder with their cattle’s horns.
It’s a practice that Andy disapproves of, labelling it “entertainment”.
“They (the Americans) have created a fad. The cattle have unusually long horns, but a sh*t body. I pride myself on breeding good quality cattle.”
That being said, Andy wouldn’t be opposed to buyers wanting to use all parts of the cow. The Texas Longhorn skull is an impressive sight, and he knows of a buyer who sold a hide as a floor rug for $900.
Texas Longhorns have an array of coat colours, being red, black, and everything in between. Some cattle have ‘finch back’ hindquarters, with their coat mottled with white.
Millions of Texas Longhorns once provided meat to a ravaged United States after the Civil War, and they’re still a good beef breed.
They can also be used in rodeos, to capture the spirit of the Wild West.
And when it comes to breeding, they have been successfully bred in the past with the Murray Grey, Jersey, Angus, Wagyu, Piedmontese, Tuli, and Brahman for calving ease.
The Texas Longhorn has a long and varied history. It can trace its lineage back to the ancient aurochs of the Middle East and India. The modern breed has the genes of the Spanish Barrenda, Retinto and Grande Pieto breeds that came over with Christopher Columbus to America.
And it has kinship with the English Longhorn. The English Longhorns came over in 1830 with Captain Stephen F. Austin, “The Father of Texas.”
Far from Austin, the Texas Longhorns at Andy’s farm in Apsley calmly gaze at the ute’s inhabitants. They gently swing their horns as they graze on hay, and lay in the grass with Andy’s other cattle, the gentle Swiss Braunvieh.
But there’s no mistaking them as cattle of the Old West. The bulls have hefty flanks of muscle, and even the one year old calves have horns that could gut an unlucky predator.
“There’s nothing quite like them,” Andy says proudly.
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