Photo and story
By Pat Ratliff
Dunn County Herald
Chad and Janelle Smith are raising cattle on their ranch north of Killdeer, but even a casual observer will see that something is a little different.
Published November 1, 2013
Those horns! They’re huge!
The Smith’s are raising registered Longhorn cattle, and have some competition quality stock that are just beginning to make their mark.
“We’ve been raising the registered show quality animals for about four or five years now,” Chad Smith said. “But I’ve been involved with them a lot longer than that.
“My dad had longhorns when I was a kid, we used them to rope.”
Everyone has seen Longhorns, either in person or on TV in cowboy movies, but there aren’t many around this far north; but that may be changing. The breed is much more plentiful further south, especially in Texas.
“Not many people up north raise them, but they’re excellent cattle,” Janelle Smith said. “They have very hardy calves.”
That’s an important trait for the Smith’s, who both work away from home during the day.
“Since we’re both away from home, we have a lot less trouble when calving,” Janelle said.
But what’s really got the Smith’s charged up over the Longhorns is the competition aspect.
Longhorn cattle are judged by the length of their horns, in three separate categories:
• Tip to Tip – just like it sounds, a tape runs from the tip of each horn and the total length determines the standing of the animal.
• Total Horn Length – the tape loosely follows the curve of the horns and lies against the horn and head of the animal.
• Composite – The totals of the other two competitions plus the circumference of the horns is added.
The judging of the animals took a strange turn recently, and brought the competition to Killdeer.
The Smith’s had a bull that was to be judged in Rapid City, SD.
“It’s a one time a year deal,” Chad Smith said. “It’s all done on satellites from all over.”
It just happened to be the weekend of the recent snows.
When the weather started to move in and the snow started flying, it was decided to move the judging further north. The Smith’s ranch became home to the competition that day. Two other competitors brought their animals up to Killdeer, two others were snowed in and missed the competition completely.
It’s the farthest north a measuring competition has been held.
Just how big are these horns?
A young bull the Smith’s own shows a lot of promise. He’s only three years old and measures just over 60 inches.
As can be imagined, not just any old pen can be used with the Longhorns. A special chute is used to allow for the horns of the cattle. They just won’t fit in a normal one.
Chad Smith recently traveled to Ft. Worth to a large show, it showed him just how much interest there is in the competitions.
“They measured over 400 that day in Ft. Worth,” he said. “But they were doing video competitions also. Over 1000 animals were measure that day. They were taping in 14 or 15 other places at the same time.”
Smith said there was a “Bull Alley” at the show where all the animals were on display.
“There was a 90 inch bull and a 90 inch cow down there,” he said.
What makes the long horns?
“It’s genetics,” Janelle Smith said. “Genetics has played a big part in the horns getting bigger, quicker.”
The genetics are big business. Bull semen is sold from the best bulls.
“We started selling semen from our bull this year,” Chad Smith said. He noted both parents of his bull are over 80 inches in horn length.
How big will they get? The world record for bulls and cows is around 90 inches. But steers have much longer horns. World record for steers is in the 130-inch range.
But if you think a couple of long horns is all the breed has going for it, consider this: According to the Texas Longhorn Breeders Association, Registered Longhorn Beef is leaner that all other breeds of cattle, and is also lower in saturated fats.
So low in fact, that Longhorn Beef is lower in calories, cholesterol and fat than chicken or turkey.
“Lean beef is good for you and the key word is ‘lean,” Dr. Joseph Graham, Cardiovascular Surgeon at St. John’s Medical Center in Joplin, Missouri, and a Longhorn breeder himself, said. “A heart patient can eat steak every meal if it is in the right proportions. Registered Longhorn meat on the average contains 10 percent less saturated fat than that of other cattle.
“That puts lean Registered Longhorn Beef on par with skinned boneless white meat of chicken, and this fact may come as a surprise to many dieticians.”