Texas Longhorn Changes

This article was written a while back by Darol Dickinson and was reprinted in the ITLA section of the in June 2013 Texas Longhorn Journal. Included is the forword added by Randy Witte


Plenty of Bulls for Everyone!

A pioneer in the improvement of the Texas Longhorn looks back at the rapid evolution of this breed over the past 40 years, thanks to those who studied predictable genetics in their breeding programs.

My wife, Marsha and I receive a lot of satisfaction with our modest-size herd of Texas Longhorns. We work hard at managing our cattle-probably harder than we need to in our "retirement years"- but it's easy to grin while looking at a colorful newborn calf or checking the horn measurement on a promising bull or heifer. We raise our own beef and enough for a handful of customers, and life is good when we get enough rain to green up the pastures.

We ventured into the business nearly 20 years ago, and one of the fellows we have to thank for helping us get started is Darol Dickinson, who helped not just us but legions of others with their cattle through the years. Darol and his wife, Linda, are easy to spot at any Texas Longhorn gathering. Just look for a good crowd of folks, and you'll find the Dickinsons in the middle, visiting and answering questions.

Darol became seriously interested in Texas Longhorns back in the early-1960s, at a time when he and Linda were starting a family and ranching at Ellicott, Colorado, east of Colorado Springs. Darol was both a talented horse photographer and western artist-a member of the newly-formed Cowboy Artists of America. He did a lot of commissioned horse photography in those days, much of it in Texas, and he made it a point to search out pockets of Longhorn cattle during his trips to that state.
He gradually put together his own herd of Longhorns and continued to add to it, studying the various crosses in his breeding program, selling and promoting the cattle to others. The Dickinsons moved their cattle company to Barnesville, Ohio, years ago-a part of the country with abundant grass and water-but the years they spent in Colorado are still reflected in all the Longhorn cattle herds still seen in the state.

Darol is a Living Legend with our breed, a founder of International Texas Longhorn Association, longtime member of Texas Longhorn Breeders Association of America, and member of Texas Longhorn Marketing Alliance. About the only thing he didn't do with these cattle through the years is trail them north with Charlie Goodnight - Darol used a semitrailer to get 'em out of Texas. After reading his comments on breed improvement, you'll see why this month's annual Herd Sire issue is filled with plenty of top bulls, enough to fit into everyone's breeding program. For more on Darol, visit him at www.texaslonghorn.com

-Randy Witte

Texas Longhorn Changes

by: Darol Dickinson

This early foundation sire was used by one of the largest ranches in the nation. He was considered a good Texas Longhorn in 1967. He weighed nearly 1000 lbs and just a hair over 27" tip to tip.   This early foundation sire was used by one of the largest ranches in the nation. He was considered a good Texas Longhorn in 1967. He weighed nearly 1000 lbs and just a hair over 27" tip to tip.
This early foundation sire was used by one of the largest ranches in the nation.  He was considered a good Texas Longhorn in 1967.  He weighed nearly 1000 lbs and just a hair over 27" tip to tip.   Today there are 22 month old heifers with 60" tip to tip, weighing over 1000 lbs. A lot of things have changed.

Every progressive livestock breed association has some method of measuring breed improvements. It may be pounds of milk, rate of gain, the speed of a horse, the color of an Appaloosa or the tip-to-tip on a Texas Longhorn. Whatever the goal, it is consistent that the most treasured attributes are more profitable to the producers.

It goes another step that the peculiar traits desired are even more profitable if a huge population wants the same trait and can share increased profit from it. It may appear about sentimentality, preservation or hobby, but in the long run, profit is the main driving force. Profit can make any hobby into a realistic business.

Intelligent management and record keeping has allowed the agriculture industry of the United States to lead the world in plant and livestock genetic superiority. Breed improvement may be achieved faster and more intelligently today than in any period of history. Tools of frozen semen and embryos can be flown around the globe in a matter of hours making progress not only possible, but easy and fast.

The technology for breed improvement is very valuable-often at only a small premium. The Texas Longhorn survival-of-the-fittest--generations of time and stress--was a major changer of the breed for 500 years. The genetic failures and the weak died young.

Early Inspections

The next big change was the early breed association inspections. Inspectors believed capable of visually deciding which Texas Longhorns deserved to be registered were employed. The main three inspectors were Heck Schrader, Garnet Brooks and Graves Peeler. Every foundation animal registered passed their visual inspection.

Early producers ( 1960 to 1975) worked to change cattle with obvious improvements to breed purity, faulty conformation, structural defects, and beyond that, beef conformation, horn growth and value colors. A good bull was 900 to 1,100 pounds and some very favored herd sires had a tip-to-tip of 28 to 36 inches. In the early 19 70s, very few bulls measured up to 40 inches at any age.

Die-hard Texas Longhorn producers (like the author) took criticism on the chin when our bulls sported no longer appendages than a horned Hereford. At a time when very few range bulls weighed over 1,700 pounds, Texas Longhorn bulls were way behind the pack slightly over half that size. In reality, the foundation cattle didn't. have exhibition horn or valid beef merit. We talked about longevity, calving ease, disease resistance and so forth until the breed had some time to improve.

Today, after more than 150,000 Texas Longhorns have been registered, and careful attention to the earlier faults have given way to the fine tuning of the best of the best. The intelligent selection of matings to produce the highest of today's values take the breed far past simply historic western preservation. The market demands producers keep pace, excel or be lost in the dusty alleys of the local livestock auction sale.

Good Advice 30 Years Ago

Johnnie Hoffman of the Seven T Ranch, at Metairie, Louisiana, is quoted in an interview for a Texas Longhorn Journal article more than 30 years ago: "There have been a lot of breed improvements since I started raising Longhorns. Back then, a 40-inch horned cow was top-of-the-line, regardless of body conformation. Today, every serious breeder has a few over 50-inch horned cows that weigh 850 to 1,000 pounds. Before, no one cared what they weighed if they had big horns. We can look back at the old-time breeders and see how the cattle have improved."

"If you can put right matings together and it works to improve the cattle, stay with it. If not, change matings. Watch what other good breeders do. Now, we have much bigger-horned cattle with beef conformation. The bigger, beefier bulls are here to stay! We're not just raising novelty cattle... it's competitive beef." At my first Wichita Refuge sale (for 40 years, this was the one sale per year), the speckled brindle and blacks topped the sale. This was a change from the pale foundation cattle. Everyone agreed color was the single highest value. After that period, a change to the factor of size won the favored value designation.

The first bull to weigh a ton was Rangers Big'un, who sold to Larry Smith Jr. in the early 1980s for $20,000. Big-'un's sire, Texas Ranger, had brought body size and horn to the breed, and a giant step forward was achieved. The Butler family brought a change with the new birth of horn to the breed. A Bold Ruler daughter sold in the Wichita Refuge sale for $32,000,the all-time record for a government Texas Longhorn sale.

For a few dozen years, the Texas Longhorn business was so "hot" producers paid no attention to commercial cattle prices. It cost $400 to maintain a generic cow for a year, so when the calf sold for $5000, Texas Longhorn producers considered commercial cattle a very poor business. Their own Longhorn heifers were selling from $800 to well beyond. The commercial cattle business had no intrigue.

"If you can put right matings together and it works to improve the cattle, stay with it. If not, change matings. Watch what other good breeders do. Now, we have much bigger-horned cattle with beef conformation. The bigger, beefier bulls are here to stay! We're not just raising novelty cattle... it's competitive beef." At my first Wichita Refuge sale (for 40 years, this was the one sale per year), the speckled brindle and blacks topped the sale. This was a change from the pale foundation cattle. Everyone agreed color was the single highest value. After that period, a change to the factor of size won the favored value designation.

The first bull to weigh a ton was Rangers Big'un, who sold to Larry Smith Jr. in the early 1980s for $20,000. Big-'un's sire, Texas Ranger, had brought body size and horn to the breed, and a giant step forward was achieved. The Butler family brought a change with the new birth of horn to the breed. A Bold Ruler daughter sold in the Wichita Refuge sale for $32,000,the all-time record for a government Texas Longhorn sale.

For a few dozen years, the Texas Longhorn business was so "hot" producers paid no attention to commercial cattle prices. It cost $400 to maintain a generic cow for a year, so when the calf sold for $5000, Texas Longhorn producers considered commercial cattle a very poor business. Their own Longhorn heifers were selling from $800 to well beyond. The commercial cattle business had no intrigue.

New World

Another change: as the world's appetite for beef increases, the United States can no longer produce enough beef to feed the nation. As a result, commercial prices have virtually doubled for generic beef cattle. This fast switch went mostly unnoticed by Texas Longhorn producers. While they were working on the highly popular tip-to-tip fad, the value of cattle by the pound became an all new world.

Today, each of us is re-evaluating, rechecking our basic business plan. We have new challenges, but new and different opportunities. To our surprise, beef, whether Longhorn or whatever, is the highest price in world history. Cull cattle are going to a grind market at high prices never reached before. It is time to switch gears in the Texas Longhorn business and breed more size for this beautiful new and expanding market.

In 1975, the best commercial beef bulls weighed 1,800 pounds. Now there are Texas Longhorn bulls well over a ton that carry the over-80-inch spreads, low birth weights and spots wall to wall. It is time to use Texas Longhorn bloodlines and raise not only the kind of exhibition cattle desired, but also cattle that press the scales down. It can and is being done.


Longhorn History
Bullet Point They’re Back! A History of Texas Longhorn Cattle
Bullet Point Longhorn History - Origin
Bullet Point Longhorn History - Seven Original Families
   Butler Family
   Marks Family
   Peeler Family
   Phillips Family
   Wichita Refuge Family
   Wright Family
   Yates Family
Bullet Point Texas Longhorn Changes
Bullet Point Don Quixote
Bullet Point Horn, Horn, and More Horn
Bullet Point Impact On American West - Cowboys and Indians
Bullet Point World Cattle History (part 1)
Bullet Point World Cattle History - Cattle Movement (part 2)
Longhorn Info
Bullet Point Fun With Longhorns
Bullet Point Longhorn Legacy
Bullet Point Famous Cattle
Bullet Point Longhorn Clones
Bullet Point Longhorn History
Bullet Point Management Tips
Bullet Point Mating Strategies
Bullet Point Marketing Tips
Bullet Point Longhorn Steers
Bullet Point Unique Longhorn Traits
Bullet Point Longhorn Inventory
Bullet Point Photo Reference Section
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