Generic Longhorns - a Nightmare?

What is "generic"? According to the dictionary, generic means, "not specific"; "general"; "not having a trade mark or brand name".

Several years ago I was walking through a supermarket and an isle looked like I was in a foreign country. Instead of brightly clad labels with well known brand names, many food products were offered for sale at reduced prices with white typed or black and white labels. The image was very unattractive and obviously economical. There was a large sign that said generic. If you are not as interested in the very tasty product, the very high quality product, or the very well known and trusted name brand, then you purchase generic products. I am told that many of these products are produced by the same people that produce the brightly colored highly advertised product. Yet, for some reason they cut the cost and produce this particular generic product at a much lower price.

Generic Texas Longhorn Cow

Last winter I had a prescription for some antibiotics. I ask my local druggist what it would cost to fill the prescription. He advised me that it was $93 for enough pills to supposedly stop and terminate my drippy nose and wheezy cough. After I whined and complained, he ask me if I wanted a generic product. I asked him what a generic product was. He said that it would do basically the same thing as the $93 medicine, except that it would only cost me $11. I would not know the manufacturer of the generic product, and the pill itself was not packaged in a brightly colored capsule. Due to the fact I like to know who the manufacturer is, for medications that I may consume, I purchased the name brand product. If per chance I take some medication that is life threatening, I do not want my heirs to be hunting a company named "Generic" in the phone book in order to file a timely lawsuit.

In the Texas Longhorn industry there is a massive multiplication of "generic breeding stock". What is a "generic" Texas Longhorn? One of the simplest ways to identify a generic Texas Longhorn, would be to attend a Texas Longhorn consignment sale and watch for anything that sells for under the average market price of that day. Most generic cattle sell for a price similar to what any other breed of cattle would bring by the pound. Most generic Texas Longhorns do not have known pedigrees or brand name animals in their bloodline. You can look two, three, or four generations in their pedigree and a student of Longhorn pedigrees still can't identify the name of any specific animal that has had any great national recognition or appreciation. Many generic Longhorns have no special color, they may be small in structure, have a sway back or minimal muscle condition. Often generic Texas Longhorns have very small horns well below breed average. A generic Texas Longhorn has no genetic seed stock special value. No one will pay any premium to purchase generic Texas Longhorns. Nor do they receive a premium for progeny from these cattle. (There might be a possibility that certain new producers would not be able to identify generic cattle and pay somewhat of a premium due to their inexperience.) A generic Texas Longhorn, with close observation, does not appear to have any special quality or trait that demands a premium.

Generic Texas Longhorn cattle are very easy to raise. The qualifications of starting a generic herd only require male and female cattle plus an adequate amount of grass to give them minimal sustenance. The knowledge required to produce generic Longhorns is quite minimal. No former experience is necessary. The key would be to start out with the most economical cow you could purchase. Buy the most economical bull and give them as little attention as possible. You will become a generic producer over night.

In the Texas Longhorn breed, most cattle that have large horn or excellent growth ability, could fall into some value range other than generic. Most generic cattle are small in the horn department and very small in the muscle department.

Every breed of cattle has "generics". If you drive down the interstate and look across the pastures, you will see mongrel groups of commercial cattle that are generic. Their owner knows that they are generic. They raise them without any particular consideration for pedigrees, birth weights, performance data or even breeds.

It is not a crime to raise generic cattle. Once I knew a fellow in Florida that used Texas Longhorn cattle to assist in his real estate business, in order to eat leaves and brush to make the land more presentable for sale purposes. Obviously, there were numbers of acres available with jungle type landscape. The Texas Longhorns, although generic in quality, did a wonderful job in cleaning up the area and became a very profitable investment.

Over 95% of all hamburgers consumed in the United States come from generic cattle. No one knows what breed nor do they know the origin of these generic meat factories.

Generic is O.K., but it is very important that every purebred seed stock producer understand the difference in multiplying "generic" cattle and "genetically engineering high quality, high value seed stock". The difference between these two types is a chasm to rival the Grand Canyon. However, no matter how hard people try to raise the highest quality possible, massive numbers of generic Texas Longhorns keep multiplying and showing up in public. Breeders and owners continually feel there is some value there beyond ordinary generic cattle.

When generic cows are bred to generic bulls, the result is generic progeny. To possess a pasture full of cattle in the generic quality range and expect to raise show winners or high dollar sale value cattle is like the little hen hunting corn in the city dump. After a period of time she found that all she got out of it was exercise. The dump had been thoroughly picked over before it became a dump.

Where do generic Longhorns come from? I contend many of them are from the "pure family breeders". A "pure family breeder" is a person who selects one of the original seven families of Texas Longhorns, and then breeds to maintain that family in a pure state. They have locked themselves into only one family. They will not go to other pure Longhorn families to produce outcross hybred vigor genetics. The rule they make for themselves is to stay within that one family. Therefore, they are eliminating any other valuable genetic traits of the other six families. That immediately locks the "pure family breeder" into a closed door situation. There is no flexibility and in today's market almost no premium available to the pure family breeder.

A very good friend of ours determined would breed a pure family. No other Longhorn blood would be admitted to this closed herd. They worked on this pure family for years. Although they felt they were doing something for the industry, the market ability for producing a pure family was almost zip. After time, maintenance and cost involved for five or six years, they finally liquidated this part of their program and out crossed their very best cattle with their other herd of Texas Longhorns. There was no market for their pure family, as good as the money being received by other breeders. It is my contention that many of the generic cattle being bred today in the Texas Longhorn industry, are from very well meaning producers of pure family herds. To substantiate this statement, look at winners of the major Longhorn shows. Are these pure family cattle? No! They are "blend genetics". These are genetics blended with more than one family using the highest quality individuals within those families. The high selling cattle in all the sales . . . are they pure families? No! They are "blend genetics". Historically, our industry continuously refers to the seven families. But, an eighth family is more prominent than any of the seven. It could be called "blend". The people who breed "blend genetics" have the ability to go to any family of Longhorn cattle to bring in any quality or value necessary to take their herd up one more level. "Blend genetics" are a no holds barred, non prejudice genetic approach.

What do you do with generic Longhorns? We have friends who have whole herds of generic Longhorns and they thoroughly understand what they have. They may breed for roping cattle sales, whereby they use a huge horned bull of a small stature and professionally produce the very highest quality rodeo cattle. That is a profitable thing to do with generic cattle. Other people disregard maintaining a pure registered herd and put thick muscled beef breed bulls on their generic Longhorn cows. A 900 lb. Longhorn cow, when bred to a ton plus beef bull, can produce a 600 lb. calf, more efficiently than any breed of cattle in the nation. This small Longhorn cow when bred to a big bull can do a wonderful job and keep the cost down to maintain the cow. This little generic cow may live to produce calves until she is 18 or 20 years old. Therefore, another economical factor. The cost of maintaining a herd of generic Longhorn cows is probably the least of any breed. That is a major profit factor.

What is a generic cow worth? A Texas Longhorn generic cow will sell at public auction in any county sale barn for about the same price as any other breed. They sell at so many cents a pound. The more pounds the more they bring. Under today's market, a Texas Longhorn generic cow will bring $300 to $400 for hamburger.

There is a difference between "generic" cows and "genetic seed stock". It behooves every Texas Longhorn breeder to know the difference. Many people have bought cheap cattle thinking they were of a really high quality. This is seldom true. Most generic cattle do not sell for very much money. The key to identifying non generic animals is how much will they bring above their hamburger value. That is a non generic value. This is their "genetic seed stock value".

Generic cattle should not be fattened, halter broke and fitted for show purposes, although they may occasionally win some show during weak moments of inexperienced judges. The long range value of generic cattle is still a generic value.

A very sad thing has happened in the Longhorn industry. Some generic cattle have been fitted for shows and have in fact, won major awards. When the owners began to promote their cattle, experienced people who know values do not purchase semen on those particular animals, nor buy progeny from them. The owner may not know they are generic, but the breeders who refuse to buy, verify there generic status. It doesn't make any difference how many shows a certain bull may have won. There are people who know the difference in generic and non-generic. These are the people that buy or don't buy.

What to do with generic cattle? First of all realize that generic cattle are generic cattle and that is not easy to change. No matter how many shows or how many ads are invested in generic cattle, they normally maintain their status. Some generic cattle can be bred up. Most herds that are generic can be selectively mated to bulls known to produce quality stock. It is un-wise to buy semen on a $25 to $50 per unit bull and place this in a $300 or $400 generic cow. I would recommend economical semen as the first effort to up-breed generic Longhorns. There are bulls available with semen priced between $6 and $12 that are much above the breed average. These bulls can be a starting point on an economical basis to up-breed a generic herd. If a herd starts out with a generic value, and all the calves next year are sired by a well known and appreciated bull, their value increases. Granted these calves may not be top of the line, but at least they are a respectable place to start by using name brand stock. The heifers from this first generation cross, can then be artificially bred to a very high quality bull. Then another generation can be bred the same way. By the time this happens three times, the offspring will be 7/8 the blood of very well known and appreciated cattle. The original generic base will only consist of 1/8 at that point. Although this process takes a minimum of five years, it can be done in order to bring a low value herd up to a decent sale value. Keep in mind, the generic animal has still forced its owner to be five years behind another breeder who did not start with generic stock.

How to dispose of generics? The ability to dispose of cull cattle is easy. There are county livestock auctions in every state on a weekly basis that dispose of the other grease-ball cattle. The normal sale fee is about $8 to $15 per cow. No guarantees, registration papers or pregnancy checks are required. Most areas have processing plants that buy lean hamburger cattle and allow the owner to get the horns and skull back. This makes an extra profit to market above the local auction sale value. Keep sale commission fees at $15 or less. There is no profit margin on generics. Take them to the closest market and save hauling cost if possible.

When breeding registered cattle you may cross an excellent bull with an excellent cow and get a generic. At least with this process there is a fighting chance of getting an excellent animal and your success could happen on a consistence basis. When breeding generic to generic the odds are almost 100% nothing will result but ---- you guessed, it more generics.