York Farmer in Line for National Longhorn Award

9/21/2013 7:00 AM
By Philip Gruber Staff Writer

WELLSVILLE, Pa. — For Shawn Pequignot, a high-school dream of riding angry bulls has transformed into a family venture and earned him national recognition.

Pequignot, whose name is pronounced Pick-a-no, was honored in the August issue of Texas Longhorn Journal as one of 20 people under age 40 who are helping to shape the future of the breed. He is receiving the award this weekend at the Longhorn Extravaganza in Oklahoma City.

Honorees were nominated by essays submitted by Facebook and email. Texas Longhorn Journal is owned by the Texas Longhorn Marketing Alliance.

Pequignot has been raising Texas Longhorns since 1996 and keeps about 30 head at a time, including cows and calves on his farm north of York and steers on his father’s farm nearby.

Pequignot shows at the York Fair and The Great Frederick Fair in Maryland. He was chosen to judge at the prestigious The Millennium Futurity and Sale in Glen Rose, Texas, this year.

Although Texas Longhorns are popularly associated with the Great Plains, Pequignot said the breed is growing in popularity in the Northeast.

A New Jerseyan, a Virginian and two North Carolinians joined him on the 20 under 40 list, the first such list Texas Longhorn Journal has compiled.

Pequignot raises Longhorns for both the beef and registered markets. “I like the registered more,” he said. It focuses on horn length and other breed distinctives.

Pequignot received the award partly for his participation in Texas Longhorn-related events.

“You need to be involved in the activities. If people don’t know who you are or where to find you,” it is much more difficult to succeed, he said.

But involvement is about more than just making money for himself.

“I enjoy helping new breeders. It’s fun. They have excitement,” he said.

Pequignot said he wants to make sure that new breeders have a good experience instead of getting burned by a bad deal right at the beginning.

Texas Longhorn owners have shows and field days. They also put on branding and other events to help out smaller or newer producers who do not have the equipment to do some of the things themselves.

“The Longhorn people are so generous,” Pequignot said. If someone needs to have a cow hauled, someone will haul it, he said. Pequignot has done that for others many times.

Pequignot was also honored for his breeding program. His success has been bolstered significantly by WF Poker, a 5-year-old bull he owns with Paul Corlett of Glenmoore.

Poker is a “100 percent complete bull. He’s got size, he’s got color, he’s got pedigree,” Pequignot said.

Poker has been a massively successful breeder, providing good genetics beyond what Pequignot has achieved even through artificial insemination. Poker is AI-certified, and his “genetics are in demand,” Pequignot said.

The bull has won The Texas Longhorn Breeders Association of America Horn Showcase for horn length all five years he has been alive.

His horns measured 73.75 inches tip-to-tip at last year’s Longhorn Extravaganza and unofficially measured 74.5 inches in April.

Pequignot likes Texas Longhorns’ personalities and colors. “You never know what color you’re going to get” from a calf, he said.

Longhorns come in solid red and white, speckled red and white, black, white, and grulla, a sort of brown-black.

Longhorns are also smart. They have 70 inches of horn but can figure out to navigate a 3-foot-wide cattle chute, he said. They are also gentle and make healthy meat.

“It’s so lean, and with everyone being so health-conscious these days,” Longhorn meat has definite market appeal, he said.

Pequignot got his first Texas Longhorns as a senior in high school.

“I wanted to raise bucking bulls,” he said.

His first animals were indeed spirited. One jumped out the back of a trailer in Gettysburg. Another bolted from a trailer, and he could not catch the escapee until the next day.

He got some of his animals for free from the late Tom Brown, who offered to let him have any animal he could catch. Pequignot and his friends had some wild times trying to wrangle the athletic animals.

“We might chase them for a day, but we’d get them,” he said.

His early adventures with Texas Longhorns prompted one of his brothers to declare, “This is a crazy cattle company,” and the name stuck.

Pequignot has thought about changing the name to something more conventional, but Crazy Cattle Co. is easy to remember and is well-known in the industry.

Now that Shawn Pequignot and his wife, Seasons, have two children, Sam and Hannah, he butchers the irascible animals and keeps the calm ones.

Both elementary-school-age children have their own Longhorns, though Sam has been more involved so far. As a small child, he sat on his father’s shoulders and held onto his ears while he was working with the cattle.

Sam has his own prefix, SP, and passes out his own business cards. Other breeders often pay him to feed their animals at shows.

The children are also assigned heat watch. They take it seriously, too, setting up lawn chairs in the field

Seasons Pequignot said the house seemed too quiet one morning before school. She found the children outside.

“They were just sitting there watching the cattle,” she said.

“It was my cow. I wanted to get her bred,” Sam replied.

Seasons Pequignot took classes in AI so she could get involved in the breeding. She also takes care of much of the hay.

“It’s contagious, the Longhorn bug,” she said.

Shawn Pequignot works full-time with his brothers in the family construction business. His brothers are impressed that he wants to work 10 hours in construction and then go home and work another four.

How does he balance the two careers? “The grace of God and my wife,” he said, laughing but meaning what he said.

Texas Longhorns tend to calve easily, so he does not have to worry if they give birth while he is at work.

Attending industry events also keeps him in the loop, he said.

Pequignot said his herd is about average size for the Northeast, though there are some bigger breeders. He would raise more cattle if he had more land, but he has figured out his optimal herd size. Between pasture and hay, the food grown on his land is enough for to feed his animals year-round.

He keeps one calf every year and sells the rest. One of his cows is about 20 years old, a testament to Longhorns’ longevity.

People “want one cause they’re cool,” but “then you get hooked,” he said.

“I never imagined these things would get me the way they got me,” he said. “I wouldn’t raise another breed.”

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