Who Wants To Be A Steer?

by: Darol Dickinson - Reprinted from Sept. Trails 2012

Who Wants To Be A Steer
Who Wants to Be a Steer Photo 1

A herd sire prospect should be able to win a World Halter class and also win the horn category. He should have attractive color, be gentle, have beef qualities and excellent growth. This bull is at that starting point. At a year he will start to show his stuff, but at two years he will start to define himself as either good or great. Many decide at too early of an age and then find out later they did not mature to the best quality. Give them time to mature. Give yourself time to watch, measure and weigh, then decide.

Each year decisions are required -- what to do with Texas Longhorn bull calves? Unlike generic beef breeds which can only be used for beef, the versatile Texas Longhorn not only has several uses, but several decisions must be made to identify the highest value use. With a good genetic and marketing plan the bull calves should sell well enough to totally maintain the female herd.

Thousands of bull calves are weaned by fellow producers, mostly in the fall. The best result would be to raise all breed improving herd sire prospects that sell for high dollar prices. Yet, we all know, it may not happen -- but sometimes it does.

Separating the good, from the great, from the others is a brain straining job. Some folks weigh every calf at birth, at 205 days and 365 days. Some measure horns at early ages and work to project adult horn sizes. There are serious pedigree evaluations, disposition tests (the Temple Grandin exit test), eye ball scrutiny, testicular palpation, color considerations, correct horn growth directions, plus over all type and style. Identifying that one special bull is much harder with young Texas Longhorn stock than just calculating an EPD score from an Angus herd book.

A start in separating the weaning bull calf crop could be divided into 1) Herd Sire Prospects, 2) Exhibition Steer Prospects, 3) Feeder Steers and 4) Recreation Steers.

Who Wants to Be a Steer Photo 2

As a feeder steer this calf is perfect. Look at his thick forearm, heavy bone substance, long body and full hip. If he has great horn genetics he may be an excellent herd sire prospect, but if his parents have medium horn, a feeder steer he is -- and a good one. At early ages the pedigree is the most important thing for evaluation.

Further dividing these four groups; herd sires could be selected for the total package of all the good qualities for registered herd improvement. They could be selected for commercial use which sometimes tends to lean toward solid colors of red, brown or black. A commercial use bull would need to have good beef qualities, correct feet and legs, straight back and ample bone and muscle. There is a small market for recreation herd sires used in raising stock for competition. A recreation bull would have less value, should come from the smaller bloodlines of cows 800 to 900 lb. and bulls about 1000 to 1400 lb. adult weight. This would keep the size small for rodeo or competitive use. (As Mexico discontinues raising horned cattle, ropers will be forced to raise their own stock in the USA.)

Selection of exhibition steers would derive from a grade of bull calf that couldn’t make the herd sire selection. They need to be pretty colored, have excellent horn growth and may not have the correct show quality a herd sire must have. They may be used for riding steers or high class pasture decor and sell for some nice money. In separating the herd a group could be picked for exhibition steers and later discover they were not going to develop enough horn to achieve full value. Some of this category will evolve over to the feeder steer or grinders.

Who Wants to Be a Steer Photo 2

This calf is bred to grow a lot of horn and also have flashy color, but his sloppy under-skin and low back eliminate him from being a good herd sire prospect. He has everything necessary to be considered as an Exhibition Steer prospect. He should be castrated at 6 to 8 months and hope he makes a fine steer. Time will tell.

Feeder steers could be less colorful, minimal horn and perhaps not as fancy of pedigree as the herd sire group. A feeder steer should be selected on their ability to gain profitably, have a beef type appearance with adequate frame and substance to grow to a mature 1250 lb. weight for freezer beef. Although many would enjoy raising a famous sire and may retain a large group of herd sire hopefuls, the real profit may be easier to achieve with the Texas Longhorn feeder steers. A well fed steer can be easily sold for $1,900 to $2,200 as cut and wrapped beef. That can be more than the other three groups for total profit.

Recreation steers are the least profitable and hardest to market. They should be from the smallest genetics of the herd. Perhaps an early calving two year old heifer or an old cow on her last leg would raise a smaller, fine bone calf for this market. The recreation steer, to serve his purpose, should be a slow gainer and remain small for an athletic career of 8 to 18 months. Texas Longhorn calves will grow horn faster than anything else in the roping pen. At weaning time, their horns will be nearly as long as their ears. By a year old, they will develop a great horn base of up to an 11 inch circumference. Many ropers cast their horns and start roping them at 9 to 11 months with excellent results.

Ropers want to buy economical steers when they are 10 to 14 months old and go right to the arena with them. Yet, it is more profitable for producers to take less money and move them out right at weaning time allowing the ranch grass to be used by more profitable cattle. To sell promptly it is important to accumulate a list of recreation steer buyers in advance, and prepare them for purchasing at weaning time. Pre-selling steers is a satisfying thing.

Who Wants to Be a Steer Photo 2

This weanling is all you could hope for as a recreation steer. However, with his many conformation faults, and lack of eye appeal, his other uses would be discouraging.

Some steer ropers like to rope Mexican cattle and think that's all there is. But, there's more to it. Longhorns grow more horn faster and then when they have finished their rodeo career, they grow out in the feed lot and produce well-marbled lean beef far better than Mexicans. Some will grow to be exhibition steers themselves and can be trained to pull or ride.

As the four directions to market bull calves is carefully considered the percentage of each type can be manipulated by sire selection. Sires can be used that cause top-end high-dollar herd sires to be multiplied, or sires for recreational steers may be used. This is planning, management and personal goals of which direction makes the most sense. The herd can be registered and certificates kept up to date, or the herd can dwindle down to a generic unregistered or mongrel program. These are all management planning decisions that each person must decide.

Texas Longhorns are the most versatile cattle on earth. There's more different ways to make a profit with Texas Longhorns than you can beat a borrowed mule. Now, pick a direction and go for it!