I'm 25 and my wife and I (married 7 mo. ago) just moved back to her family's small hometown in OK. Her fourth generation family farm is a few thousand acres, mostly wheat pasture, and they put a few thousand stockers on it yearly.
I'm a city boy, in every sense of the phrase. I didn't grow up fishing, hunting, farming, or tending to the land. My first time within 50 feet of cattle was when my father in law asked me to come work some with him while we were in town about 10 months ago. He handed me the ear tagger and explained what to do, and I proceeded to gingerly and spastically tag the next 100+ cattle that came through the squeeze chute, dreadfully afraid and more skittish than the animals themselves the entire time, even though they were fully immobilized in the chute and incapable of injuring me... I was the subject of many a good laugh and behind the hand chuckles. The next week I received lessons on using the wormer, vaccinating, placing implants, and learning how to operate the chute. I still haven't graduated to banding, but that job is reserved for the most senior rancher in the corral since it comes with a nice rolling chair . I now help with cattle on a weekly basis and am slightly less skittish than I used to be.
It's been an entirely new world to me, one that I find fascinating, and more intriguing and complex than any business I'm aware of. I think Wendell Berry's explanation of a farmer/ranchers role in the world gives the best voice to what I have experienced and continue to learn about it:
All of that to say... The little ranch house my wife and I moved into included just about 25 acres of fenced grass pasture with a good sized pond on it. Nobody has used it for the last 5 or so years, so it's overgrown, but still in decent shape. Not much mesquite, mostly grass and a splattering of weeds. My wife has some health issues (auto-immune related) and requires a diet low in saturated fat, and high in "organic" veg/fish/lean meat. Tough to find in rural OK. While researching what kinds of meat are best for her, we stumbled across the data on Longhorn beef. We were buying grass-fed lean beef and bison at the store for $6-$8/lb+, and learned that "grass-fed" doesn't always really mean they are what we hope for when we purchase something with that label. So we've decided to put that 25 acres to work for us and have purchased 1 young longhorn bull and 2 young heifers, with the plan of butchering the meat from the offspring (or another steer potentially on the way) (or maybe the bull at 20-24 mo.? would love some input from those of you who have butchered young bulls!) for our own consumption, as well as trying to market about half of what we butcher at local farmers markets and on social media with friends and family to offset the costs.The best farming requires a farmer - a husbandman, a nurturer- not a technician or a businessman. A technician or a businessman, given the necessary ambitions, can be made in a little while by training. A good farmer, on the other hand, is a cultural product; he is made by a sort of training, certainly, in what his time imposes and demands, but he is also made of generations of experience. This essential experience can only be accumulated, tested, preserved, handed down in settled households, friendships, and communities that are deliberately and carefully native to their own ground, in which the past has prepared the present and the present safeguards the future.
To be frank - we're not wealthy enough to purchase high-quality longhorn stock, and even if we were that's not really our goal. My wife and I both work for an East African nonprofit organization, which pays the bills, and allows for some flexibility, but not the purchase of $5,000 cows with 80"+ horns. Not knocking that at all, by the way, it's just not for us right now. So I found two Longhorn guys in my area who started out with registered stock but haven't registered the offspring, which meant I could get full blood longhorns at a price that made sense for our little plan.
I purchased Wick's high-copper mineral, as well as some diotomaceous earth (parasite/worms), which I'll be leaving out free choice. Other than that I won't be giving them anything. This was another advantage we saw with longhorns - that they can forage around 10-20% more than some other breeds, and are a little more resistant (not immune) to the general cattle health issues found in some places. Plus easy calving was a huge plus. Can you imagine a city boy like me having to pull calves consistently? Here's to hoping (and praying) we have healthy mamas and calves in the future.
If I were in it just for the money, or wanted to do it big, I probably wouldn't have purchased our long-horned creatures. I would be doing what my father-in-law does. But I'm more in it for the health benefit of longhorn beef, and their ability to be self-sufficient and healthy without much input from me (hopefully they just need some winter hay and mineral). A happy byproduct of our plan would be that we can make some money with a D2C model. The goal isn't to be very big, it's just to have a small herd that can pay for itself while we build a little customer base for this niche market.
Because this style of raising cattle is much different from what my FIL does, he can't really answer some of my questions. Specifically about the Longhorn breed, and grass-pasture ranching. So those of you who are in that sphere, I'd appreciate your help. That's why I'm here! I would so appreciate any tips, tricks, or good questions that would cause me to rethink or review my plan, or improve my strategy and ability to provide what these cattle need in order to be healthy.
Again - thanks for all of your help already. I've relied on this board many a time in the past 10 months for my cattle questions.