Young people who are exposed to livestock often have desire to raise animals later in life. That’s the case with Steve and Tina Anderson, of Boiling Springs, PA. Steve grew up in 4-H and FFA, and spent summers working on a cousin’s dairy farm. He recalls knowing that he always wanted to raise livestock.
The Andersons had been raising Hereford cattle for beef, but when Steve saw Longhorns at the Pennsylvania Farm Show, he was impressed. Shortly afterwards, Steve and Tina sold their Herefords and purchased three Longhorn cows from a breeder who was going out of business. That was the start of Boiling Springs Longhorn Cattle Company.
When Steve brought the cows home, they were thin and undernourished, and Tina wondered if they’d survive. “Traditionally, a Longhorn is thin and lean,” said Steve. “That’s the way they look, but they aren’t supposed to be as scrawny as these were.”
Two of the original cows had heifer calves, but the Andersons were learning more about the breed and were already seeing better Longhorns. They decided to sell those heifer calves and begin the process of upgrading. “We started to see the conformation breeders were seeking and what kind of horns were most desirable,” said Tina. “If we wanted to sell cattle, or breed to show, we needed to get some better stock. We were introduced to other people who had Longhorns, and met Shawn Pequignot, who lives in Wellsville. He’s very active in regional and national Longhorn associations, and we got a bull and a heifer calf from him.”
Steve and Tina say that Shawn helped them see what they needed to do to improve their herd. “We slowly started to build the herd,” said Steve. “We researched to find out what kind of genetics we wanted in the herd, and what we wanted the herd to look like. We got three animals from Texas and one from Utah.” The Andersons also purchased a cow from a ranch in Virginia that had what Tina refers to as above average genetics.
Tina says one of the most recognizable features of the Longhorn breed — long and correctly shaped horns — is something that breeders strive for. “Every year, people try to get longer horns,” she said. “People also like color. They want the complete package.” Steve agrees, but says that while breeding for the total package is more difficult, it’s worth working toward the goal of good conformation and desirable horns.
The horns of the Longhorn are measured tip to tip. Tina says to be competitive with the market today, horn span measurements for heifers at two years old should have a 55 to 60 inch span. “We’re finding that the market is changing,” said Steve, describing the evolution of horn shape. “Now that we’ve hit the 90 inch mark, people are wishing that we hadn’t bred out the twist. They wanted the horns to measure the longest tip to tip, so they bred out the twist.” Steve added that when breeders concentrate on a trait such as horns, other important traits may be sacrificed.
In order to be registered, Texas Longhorns must be branded. Since that’s impractical for relatively small herds, area breeders get together on one farm for branding parties. “All the breeders in the area bring their calves to be branded,” said Steve, adding that cattle are identified with both a brand and a herd number. “Or maybe they need to be wormed, or need shots. We all work together to get it done.”
Breeders try to finish branding prior to registration or sales. A veterinarian is usually on the scene to handle immunizations or health papers. The branding party is also an opportunity for breeders to see other stock, trade cattle and catch up on changes in the industry.
Longhorns can be registered in the International Texas Longhorn Association or the Texas Longhorn Breeders Association of America. A relatively new organization, the Texas Longhorn Cattle Association, also registers cattle. Longhorns are shown two ways: halter and non-halter. In the non-haltered classes, animals are judged loose in the ring, observed by the judge for ease of movement, disposition and conformation.
The Andersons say that the internet is a convenient way to view cattle available for sale. Steve says that a Longhorn cow with the right combination of exceptional pedigree, color and horns might sell for as much as $10,000. “Online sales have really helped the industry,” he said. “There are top caliber animals consigned. They won’t even take an animal for the sale if it doesn’t meet certain criteria.”
Tina spends a lot of time studying bloodlines, and has spotted some exceptional animals online and purchased them at a reasonable price simply because they were young. “If the right people aren’t there to buy, you can get a good deal,” said Steve. “We have gotten some very good animals that were overlooked. We try to buy them young when we can. We bought a calf that had the genetics to be awesome, and had we not bought her as a calf at the price, we would have paid triple for her as a two-year old. So it takes a little longer for us to get where we want to with a six-month old calf versus a five-year old cow ready to have a calf.”
Tina adds that having the genetic potential on paper doesn’t necessarily mean the animal will turn out to be superior, but it’s a good calculated risk. “I’d rather take that chance,” she said. “If they don’t turn out for us, we have a market for the meat. We can make the money back that way.”
The Andersons’ cattle spend most of their time on grass, and on a sacrifice lot in winter. Soil tests every two years determine fertilizer needs. Last year, the Andersons harvested 95 large round bales of hay from 10 acres of hay ground, which turned out to be plenty for winter feeding. Cattle are supplemented with minerals.
Longhorns are easy calvers, with small calves that weigh about 40 to 50 pounds at birth. Both Steve and Tina appreciate the docility of cows, and find them easy to handle.
The Andersons are continually upgrading their herd, and show cattle when they have an opportunity. “The heifers we have now are awesome,” said Steve. “By the time they become cows, we should be able to sell some of our older cows. We watch online sales to see what sells and what doesn’t sell. The key is to have an animal that out-produces itself.”
Visit Boiling Springs Longhorns online at www.boilingspringslonghorns.com .