Thursday, June 13, 2013

Texas Longhorn Cattle in the Catskills!!

 Its a steady rain and 65 degrees on a June morning here in the Catskill Mountains of New York. That's a far cry from the weather in San Antonio today, where it is 94 and very sunny. Not that it doesn't get to be 94 here but the contrasts between the two places is obvious.
  On our way to western NY, my son and I take Rt 17which passes through a lot of hilly country with some farms mixed in. There are a couple Angus farms and dairy operations with lots of Holsteins. We sometimes take a scenic route off of 17 which takes us past the Papacton Reservoir and then through Downsville NY.  On the edge of Downsville there is a huge pasture-covered hillside. And there right along the edge of the fence we saw something that made us stop the car and grab the camera phone; pure-bred Texas Longhorn cattle with their huge horns and an indifferent expression of "Watchya'll lookin at?"
 Tom and Julie Markert own the Triple M Ranch in Downsville NY and also the beautiful Old Schoolhouse Inn and Restaurant. They have over 250 head of pure bred Texas Longhorn cattle on site and they use the cattle for their famous longhorn burgers and other special meats on the menu, including short ribs. The cattle are fed on pasture for most of the time but finished on corn feed for about 90 days before slaughter just to provide some extra fat. The grain is all locally grown and these cattle live in one of the most pristine areas one can imagine. Here is a photo of one of their prize stock bulls.

 Longhorns fell out of favor with cattle growers in the west years ago due to the fact that many growers switched to stocky meat breeds from England and Europe. They are a unique breed in that they are very hearty and can fend off predators but are actually an easy going breed that can be trained to ride! Longhorn can live off scant pasture and do very well in hot dry climates. Their meat is leaner than most beef cattle but they can be fattened to a certain extent to get some marbling. They are one of the oldest breeds of cattle in the world claiming ancient ancestry to Spanish Iberian cattle. First brought to the Americas by the early Spanish explorers in the 1500s, they are considered the closest thing to wild cattle that we have in the US. The fact that they are difficult to move around in chutes and gates makes them an unpopular choice for many growers but a lot of Texas ranchers now keep a few as a symbolic connection to the past. Their horns are valuable and ranchers such as the Markerts, sell the ornamental horns.
  Since 2010 there is a USDA certified program for Certified Texas Longhorn Beef with a criteria that focuses primarily on pure bred genetics and not so much on marbling scores like most Angus programs. The idea was to keep the breed pure so processors could market Texas Longhorn without it being mostly cross bred with another cattle breed.
  Next time you're in Downsville NY, bring your fishing pole and then stop by the Old Schoolhouse Inn and try an authentic taste of the old southwest, right here in the southeast of NY.
  Another note....bring your camera because not only do the Markerts raise Longhorns, they also raise Watusi cattle which have even larger horns!!