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Lovin’ his longhorns

By Staff | May 15, 2009

Charles Henaman dispels any idea that Texas Longhorn cattle are wild, untamed animals. They are docile, good mothers, producing lean beef.

HARTLEY – For Charles Henaman the reasons to breed Texas longhorn cattle are many.

“They have a quiet disposition, generally requiring minimal maintenance, without many of the diseases cattle have,” he said. “They also have longevity.” Cows have calved at 35 years old.

Henaman made it his goal to own Texas longhorn cattle after the saw them at an event at the 2002 Clay County Fair. When he did his research on the breed, he became fascinated by the history.

Known to many historians as the breed of cattle begun in America, the longhorn is a mixture of Spanish cattle and English breeds. Distinctive to the breed are the long lateral horns and the animals’ many colors. They are also renowned for their ability to survive in less than ideal conditions, Henaman said.

When calving, you just never know what color the calves will be, Henaman said. Texas Longhorns have 2,200 genes determining coloring, while English breeds have six. Colors can be any combination, in splotches, splashes or large areas covered with one color.

This young calf is already showing horn buds that are characteristic of the Texas Longhorn breed.

By the time the 20th century started, Henaman said, the Texas longhorn faced extinction. The beef needed to supply both armies of the Civil War, the California Gold Rush and a myriad of cattle drives had exacted a huge toll on their numbers.

Serious action and discussion took place to preserve America’s only native breed of cattle, Henaman related. In the late 1920s seven entities stepped in to halt the dwindling numbers.

One was the U.S. government, which placed Texas longhorn cattle on the Wichita National Forest Game Preserve in Cache, Okla., in 1927.

Six families also worked at maintaining pure Texas longhorn bloodlines. These lines run true today, said Henaman.

“These families worked separately choosing those characteristics and traits that they felt important to have in their cattle or represented Texas longhorn cattle.” Longhorn cattle are often referred to as having Peeler, Butler or Drummond bloodlines.

The welcome sign at the entrance of his yard shows Charles Henamon's registered brand and devotion to the Texas longhorn cattle breed.

“The classic horn shape is lateral,” Henaman said. “Horns do their main growth the first two to three years, growing 3 to 4 inches a month. They will continue to grow most of the animal’s life, but at a much slower pace. Horn length is measured from tip-to-tip with 70 to 80 inches desired.”

There is no way to guarantee the shape the horns will take. That and the color combination make Texas longhorns unique to cattle breeds. But they can hold their own when it comes to hardiness and survivability in tough conditions.

Those are the only reasons the longhorn breed is not totally extinct, Henaman said. They can survive and grow on poorer quality feed.

They will reach market weight in feedlots, but not as quickly. However, Henaman said, it takes less feed to put the weight on. The meat is tender with marbling. Naturally very lean there is no need to trim excess fat. The cattle tend to grade better with a higher percentage of choice and prime cuts.

They experience easier calving, because of smaller calf size. Other breeders have counted on Texas longhorn bulls for their heifers. The calves are small, but they will grow, said Henaman. “One bull calf I had was named Little Bit owing to the fact he only weighed 30 pounds at birth. I sold that calf but kept in contact with the new owners. That calf is now close to weighing a ton.”

To register longhorns, they must have a brand. Henaman’s LCC, or Langdon Cattle Co., represents his former Iowa home near Langdon in Dickinson County. The animal also has another brand on it declaring the herd number and year of birth.

Henaman works diligently on his own to help others get started with the longhorn breed. He is a board member of the Midwestern Longhorn Association. The MLA, which was founded by Texas Longhorn Breeders in Iowa and surrounding states, is dedicated to the promotion and preservation of the Texas Longhorn breed and to promote the breed’s positive aspects.

One easy way for the general public to see Texas longhorns up close is to attend their sanctioned TLA show on June 20 at the Wapello County Fairgrounds in Eldon.

This event will provide a good opportunity to see a wide range of Texas longhorn cattle up close.

“I have never had any livestock I love as much as I do these longhorn cattle,” Henaman said.

Contact Renae Vander Schaaf by e-mail at renaefarmnews@gmail.com.

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