DCC Ranch eNews #94, 1-5-2017

TO SELL A $10,000 COW...

by Darol Dickinson

Texas Longhorn (TL) steers are now measuring over 100" T2T, some bulls are over 80" at 40 months -- the day of over 90" cows is here. The Texas Longhorn (TL) world is moving fast. New values are popping up in many directions.

Pure bred Texas Longhorn steers of a thicker type

Pure bred Texas Longhorn steers of a thicker type, with heavy bone will gain an average of 3 lbs per day on feed. An occasional steer will gain 3.6 to 4.1 lbs per day of the very best genetics for growth.

Never will a TL event be staged that someone doesn't ask, "How much horn is enough?" The hard-liner horn lovers will make grandiose projections of 120" or 150." Some talk of trailers needing to be nine feet wide for future safety of larger horned cattle. Who am I to say this won't happen. Somewhere along the way economics will always play a valid part. Memory serves us correct to recall a $170,000 cow selling just a few years ago (pre-Obama). This and other sales over $100,000 caused an explosion of embryo transfers, clones and a dead serious multiplication of the very top end cattle. The planners and the multipliers were certain that another 100 buyers would promptly show up ready to buy the next $100,000 cattle that they multiplied. With careful watching of the market the 80"+ plus cattle have multiplied very fast, yet the new $100,000 cattle buyers are slow in showing up with trailers.

At this particular time under 5% of TL buyers could afford to buy a cow over $10,000. This is a very tight-knit market group and they have a comfort level of buying most of their cattle from each other. (Certainly not to say "each other" doesn't have really top end cows.) At Dickinson Cattle Co (DCC) we have always targeted the $1500 to $4,000 market. A full 100% of the industry enjoy purchasing in that value range. They will often purchase more than one animal and look forward to coming to the ranch again next year to purchase more. Not that we don't enjoy an occasional high-dollar sale, which we really do, but life and death at DCC doesn't hinge on the one big "killer deal."

Where should TL producers focus their business outreach? Only focus where you

  1. KNOW there is a market that you can reach.
  2. Aim for a real market that you can locate or develop.
  3. Don't assume anyone wants to develop this market for you, free.

In 1977 there was one bull with 60" T2T and no 60" cows. Many TL cows and bulls had little more horn than a registered horned Hereford. The breeders were ashamed of their short-horned cattle. The 60" horned bull Classic became an overnight success because he could cough up the genetic strength to pull away from the harsh criticism that had overshadowed the breed -- small horns. After a few years people noticed that Classic progeny had some baggage that also was criticized -- he was white, small and frail in body. His own mother, Beauty, had a top weight of less than 600 lbs. To pull away from the small narrow type, many bigger TL bulls were sought out to develop larger weights. This direction change is slowly moving the breed toward more of a beef type.

Through the years the commercial cattle industry was not a factor to the trends, styles and horn shapes that were fetching the big TL bucks. Only a few TL producers owned a cattle scales because weight gain was not a value consideration -- none what so ever! Well, now weight is a consideration. Nationally the US beef cattle herd is the smallest most ranchers can remember. During the past 12 months the US ranchers could not even produce enough beef to feed the nation. Over 18% of the beef consumed in the USA is now imported. In most places the scales price (value per pound) of a medium TL cow will bring as much or more in the commercial grind market as in a registered TL sale. Things have changed -- changed a lot!

Longhorn producers in for the long haul will be forced to change. The prized 1% market will buy an 80"+ cow. Of the industry's TL producers, 99% will buy a $1500 to $4000 TL, but, ho-ho-ho, over 300,000,000 people in the USA will buy lean meat for their own consumption.

The best beef type TL cattle will produce steers that grade low choice with a short period (100 to 120 days) on grain. This is a lean, yet marbled meat quality that is very popular and very healthy. A TL steer of beef type genetics will sell for $2800 to $3200, cut and wrapped in quarters. The skull, hide and scrap meat for pet food can add another $400. This is a sweet deal, yet is still a lower price than buying *Holstein beef at the grocery store. TL producers can profitably do their clients a favor by the savings and healthy qualities of providing TL freezer beef.

Many will never sell a $10,000 cow, but hundreds will profit from freezer beef. Four times $3000 is well over the $10,000 cow. Success is hinged on genetics with growth factors of the thickest, most beef conformation Texas Longhorn genetics. 300,000,000 are waiting on this great product. They will buy it from anyone else until TL people realize the profit of this market. They will even import it from unsanitary sources outside the USA.

Recommendation: Sell bulls/steers as freezer beef to sustain the registered TL business. Three steers will bring over $10,000. Keep those beautiful $20,000 cows for your own personal enjoyment and for continued herd improvement. If you ever need to buy land or a new home, sell a few high dollar cows - it's better than money in someone else' bank.

*More Holstein cattle are bred and raised in the USA than any other breed. Therefore, more Holstein steer meat is available on the grocery counter. The consumer has consumed more Holstein beef than any breed. Holstein breeders make no effort to breed for meat quality and aren't about to start now. That is the way it is.