Some producers are raising longhorn cattle
By Diego Flammini
About a dozen Ontario beef producers are raising cattle more associated with the Wild West and Texas than Southern Ontario.
These farmers are part of the Ontario Texas Longhorn Association. The organization works to promote the breed and provide support for producers interested in starting a longhorn herd.
One association member is Clarence Dekens, who owns Harm-N-E Longhorns in Clinton, Ont.
Aside from the cattle, Dekens also raises hogs, chickens, hay and crops.
Dekens knew he wanted to own this breed of cow ever since he was a child.
“I’d watch John Wayne movies and old western movies with my dad,” he told Farms.com. “I fell in love with those cows as soon as I saw them.”
His favourite part of raising longhorns is watching their animal instincts come alive.
This especially happens during calving, Dekens said.
“When the calves are born, they try to hide the calves from the main herd for about a week,” he said. “They are so protective of their calves but also very friendly and let you give them a rub.”
Dekens and his wife Ingrid started the longhorn operation in 2015.
He bought his first cow from a neighbouring farmer. Since then he’s purchased cows from the United States and even resorted to bartering in order to get his herd numbers up.
“I traded my Harley Davidson for some cattle with a good friend of mine down from Michigan,” Dekens said. “I got a really good herd sire from him.”
Dekens’s herd stands at about 70-head.
From a business perspective, Dekens markets the longhorns in multiple ways.
He sells breeding stock to interested producers. Last winter he sold some cows to farmers in Ontario, Quebec and into Atlantic Canada.
He also sells the beef at local farmers markets and through farm-gate sales.
His calves are grass-fed and the cows ready for processing are grass-fed and grain-finished.
This helps bring out a flavour customers really enjoy, Dekens said.
“The biggest shock to me is how flavourful the meat is and that’s what we hear from our repeat customers,” he said. “The meat is so lean and so delicious.”