The Longhorn is beyond equal as a suckler cow. Its combination of qualities in terms of milk, calving ease, longevity, docility, length and leanness of body is unrivalled by any other breed. It has stood the test of time but does not rest on its laurels. Responding to market trends the breed continues to adapt and improve, so much so that the Longhorn is now superbly placed to meet the challenges of Quality Beef Production in the 21st Century.
The Longhorn is noted for its "feed responsive milk supply". The cows do not pull themselves down so much in winter that they will not take the bull; but when grass comes in the spring they can really pump out the milk. It is well known that it is the butterfat element of the milk which gives "bloom" to suckled calves. The Longhorn was renowned for the high butterfat of its milk which, in days gone by, was used in the making of famous cheeses like Stilton and Red Leicester. The lactation is long and level which helps to avoid a flush of milk at calving when the newborn calf cannot cope.
This is where the Longhorn really comes into its own. The combination of prominent hook bones with wide deep pin bones, whilst still retaining a level top line, produces a roomy birth canal at the right angle to minimise calving problems. This means that a Longhorn or Longhorn cross cow when put to a continental bull experiences little or no calving difficulties and thus forms a highly efficient, productive and profitable unit. She is an adaptable long-lived cow that can produce and rear big, growthy calves to any breed of bull.
Longhorn cows live to an unusually old age – and keep on breeding. Their hardiness and thriftiness together with their level lactation and ease of calving ensure that they do not place themselves under undue stress. The longer the cow will breed the fewer replacements are needed each year which is a significant economic consideration.
Depth over the pins allows greater length from hooks to pins without incurring calving difficulties. Indeed the great overall length generally associated with the Longhorn is correlated with a rapid growth rate and lean carcase. It is a well established fact that intramuscular fat or "marbling" within meat is largely responsible for succulence, tenderness and flavour – the hallmark of beef with superior eating quality. Unlike many rival breeds, which require the laying down of excessive amounts of external fat before the formation of intramuscular fat can take place, a properly finished Longhorn carcase will benefit from "marbling" without such excess external fat cover. Today's Longhorns are clean, modern cattle, well capable of producing lean beef with superior eating qualities to suit today's discerning market. Such beef can command a premium price, which when coupled with the economical costs associated with its production, place the Longhorn in pole position for Quality Beef Production in the 21st Century!