SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Whether confidently striding to the front to share facts on beef cattle or shyly reciting what they know, youthful members of the New York Junior Beef Producers Association did presentations at the New York Farm Show on Feb. 25.
While some other Farm Show attendees took a break to eat one of the Beef Producers’ hot beef “sundaes” sold nearby, the junior members offered slideshows, video clips, photos and drawings to illustrate their beef knowledge and hone their public speaking skills.
What About Those Longhorns?
One youth member, Travis Clark, emceed the Junior Beef Producers event and talked about Texas Longhorn cattle. It was only the fourth presentation he’s done.
“Texas Longhorns nearly went extinct,” he said. “They were the first breed created without human intervention.”
Travis said that during the Civil War, cattle management halted in Texas and cattle ran freely. Wild cattle mingling with British breeds resulted in the first Longhorns. For this reason, the Longhorn is considered the first American breed, he said.
“The Longhorn is a testament to the survival of the fittest, natural selection and adaptation to the environment,” Travis said.
After the Civil War, with no buffalo in the Great Plains, ranchers moved northwest for grazing land. In that era of cattle drives and the American cowboy, Longhorns dominated the beef industry.
But by the 1900s, as pioneers continued to buy land and fence in their homesteads, the time of the cowboy began to fade.
“This led to near extinction,” Travis said about the cattle.
In 1927, the U.S. government established wildlife refuges in Oklahoma and Nebraska. The Southern Cattlemen group formed as well, said Travis. In 1964, the Texas Longhorn Association was established. These efforts helped preserve the breed.
“Today’s population is 100,000 Texas Longhorns,” Travis said.
Travis likes that no two Longhorn hides are alike in their patterns. The breed is also versatile in the sense the cattle can eat nearly any vegetation — even cactus. They thrive in environments ranging from Texas to Canada. Their high fertility of 99% to 100% and typically easy calving also make them more profitable to cattlemen.
According to Travis, the cattle’s prime age is 10 and they may be bred into their late teens. Longhorns can live up to 20 years.
“The Texas Longhorn’s meat is tender, flavorful and lean,” Travis said. “It’s lower in cholesterol than other beef breeds. In grassfed (cattle), it’s lower in cholesterol than skinless chicken breast.”
He said that as more people discover the Longhorn’s vigor, fertility, longevity and hardiness, many breeders are crossbreeding Longhorns into their beef program.
“The outlook for Texas Longhorns is bright,” Travis said.
Cattle-Breed Youth Projects
Another Junior Beef Producer presentation was given by Talia Pallokat, who said that the black Angus breed is naturally polled (doesn’t grow horns).
“Dairy farms are breeding to black Angus for meat quality,” she said. “Black Angus are best known for meat production. People also show them.”
She also said that the Scottish-origin breed first came to America in the 1870s.
Talia’s sister Taylor Pallokat gave her presentation on red Angus cattle.
“They have excellent quality meat and are registered separately from black Angus,” Taylor said.
She commented on the breed’s gentle nature and ease of handling. She looks for traits in a red Angus to include a smooth finish and frame, thin pliable hide, bones of adequate size, and a clean cut.
Hereford cattle was the focus of Madelyn and Isabella Montross’ presentation. The breed is known for its vigor, foraging ability, and long reproductive age.
“Many breeders keep their elderly cattle until they die of natural causes,” Isabella said.
Kelsey Whitmore spoke about British White Park cattle, a naturally polled breed recognizable for its white coat accented with black or, less commonly, red points. Primarily used for beef, the breed originated in the 17th century.
“British White Parks have high conception rates and live as long as 15 years,” Kelsey said.
She also noted that the breed is disease-resistant, can survive on poor feed and doesn’t need a lot of shelter. The meat is also high quality.
At the event, in a departure from the youth beef presenters, Owen Grefrath talked about how his family’s dairy farm in Canandaigua, New York, raises dairy calves.
“There are many parts of a farm that make it successful,” Owen said. “The calves and heifers are a very important part of the farm.”
He described the care that new calves receive, including the navel dip, feeding colostrum within the first two hours of life, and vaccinations as soon as possible. Once separated from their mothers, calves live in calf hutches, followed by a transition barn and then a free-stall barn, all the while eating increasing grain amounts until they eat only a total mixed ration.
Owen said that at 13 to 14 months old, heifers are bred with sexed semen, vaccinated once pregnant, and moved to join other pregnant cows three weeks before their due date. His family’s farm has 850 head of Holsteins, Jerseys, Brown Swiss and Ayrshires.
Junior participant Addison Claudio gave a presentation about Angus beef cattle.
“Why is black Angus so popular? The answer is that the meat is very popular due to its marbling qualities,” Addison said. “It’s the superior marbling that makes black Angus beef so flavorful, tender and juicy.”
But, she said that heavy marbling may be a detractor for those who prefer lean beef. And, she said black Angus’ popularity can mean they’re overbred and lower quality.
She said that to qualify as a certified Angus, the cattle must possess certified genetic qualities, including a minimum of 51% solid black hide coloring.