The Texas Longhorn cow is an icon of the southwest with its highly distinguishable horns and variety of colors from browns to speckled.
Their origin dates back to the arrival of Colombus in the 1400s and unlike most modern breeds they had about 200 generations of natural selection.
Having spent years roaming free these cattle proved very hardy and were self-sufficient in protecting themselves against predators with the evolution of their long pointed horns.
In this article, we’ll explore some of the main disadvantages of this breed in the modern world.
Ready? Let’s dig in.
Disadvantages Of Texas Longhorn Cattle
1. Not for the novice ranchers
Although many experienced ranchers describe the Longhorn as a calm breed, they do need a lot of human contact to stay that way. This is because the Longhorn was undomesticated for a long time. As a result, it can sometimes revert back to its more suspicious and wary traits if not handled consistently and properly by ranchers.
The Longhorn can be aggressive when provoked and because of its horns, it can be a lot more difficult to handle than other breeds.
Mothers are especially protective of their young, and it can be difficult to get to calves if they need medical attention when young. They have even been known to hide their newborns in tall grass.
They are more suited to larger plots of land so not ideal for amateur ranchers just wanting to keep a few cows in a small patch.
When pinned up in small areas, fights are not “uncommon” to break out amongst the more unruly cows, says one experienced Texan rancher.
2. Fence/corral problems
If you happen to be a rancher looking to make the switch over from another breed, you may have to upgrade your current fencing system.
On most Longhorn forums you’ll hear anecdotes of Longhorn cattle jumping like deer over fences and some even describe them as escape artists.
In order to secure Longhorn tall and strong fences are needed which may be an increased cost to the rancher.
On top of that, it’s important not to have any vertical spaces in the fences. As cattle move around horizontally they are prone to getting their horns caught in vertical openings which can spook the animals.
In extreme cases, they can break their horns which can lead to infection and is very painful for the animal.
The same principle applies to transporting the Longhorn. They cant be transported in any type of trailer. You may have to find transportation companies that specialize in horizontal-only openings.
3. Production problems
The calves of Longhorns tend to be smaller than the calves of commercial cattle in the United States, which is good for avoiding birthing problems but means they are slower to develop weight.
On top of that, there is a longer gap between the periods that the Longhorn will give birth, meaning a lower production in calves over an entire lifespan.
Longhorns are also known for their leaner meat and as good hybrid breeders.
This made them a prime candidate for cross-breeding throughout the years (with the likes of Hereford cattle) to make up for the lack of lean meat.
In the quest for a higher-producing cow, this extensive cross-breeding almost led to their extinction in the early 1900s until conservation efforts were implemented.
4. Dangerous horns
With horns ranging from anything from 6-8ft in length and pointed, you don’t want to be at the receiving end of them.
The Longhorn has 50% of its horns grown at year 1 and they are already at 95% by their 4th year. Formidable weapons at an early age!
The Longhorn developed horns in its feral state as a protective measure to ward off hungry prey like wolves.
But now as domesticated animals, the horns prove to be more of a safety hazard to ranchers than providing any real necessity for their survival in secure plots.
Coupled with the fact that Longhorns are well known for being able to defend themselves and that’s a serious damage risk to both other livestock you may keep (and any humans that help keep them).
With stories of them spearing coyotes, the rancher’s dog doesn’t stand a chance if it finds itself in the wrong place at the wrong time.
5. Lower market value
The biggest competitor to the Longhorn in terms of beef production is the Angus. An average Longhorn carcass will weigh 639 lbs whereas its counterpart the Angus carcass will weigh on average 750 lbs.
A big factor why some ranchers choose Angus is the consistency of size. Typical charts for an Angus for slaughter show the average weight to be 1200-1800 lbs whereas the Longhorn has a wider range from 800-1500 lbs.
A well-known Longhorn rancher who preaches heavily on their pros will even admit that at sale barns in texas, cattle are discounted heavily for having horns and color.
Buyers want consistency in size so they can better plan the costs it will take to grow them based on grain amounts.
The majority of the beef industry is based on grain costs as it’s more commercially viable. Longhorns don’t grow as effectively on typical grain finish methods as they are better suited to grass given their pedigree.
Longhorns take longer to finish than typical beef cows and, in general, ranchers want a quicker rotation of livestock off the farm.
A quicker turnaround means more money for the rancher.
In this article, we’ve discussed some of the reasons why ranchers might want to think twice before deciding to raise Texas Longhorn cattle.
But that doesn’t mean some ranchers aren’t making it work.
The owners of the Trial of Faith Ranch have made it work for them by carefully selecting only the best breeds of Texas Longhorn.
They also state that before choosing what herd type is best for you, you first need to consider what type of farmer you are, the type of grass in your area, and your climate type.
So despite their disadvantages, the Longhorn can still be a good cattle choice for the right farmer!