South Farms Specializes in Texas Longhorns
CHARLTON, N.Y. — Thirteen miles from cosmopolitan downtown Saratoga Springs, Bud and Katherine South are keeping alive a slice of the Old West.
As upscale hotels and luxury condominiums keep springing up in Saratoga, a town famous for its world-class thoroughbred horse racing, South Farms in rural Charlton attracts countless curiosity seekers who are mesmerized by the site’s herd of 50 Texas Longhorns.
At this time of year, with cows nursing newborn calves, the pastoral scene is a treat for young and old alike.
“We’ve got 10 on the ground and seven on the way,” Bud South said. “People stop along the road and spend 20 to 30 minutes just looking at them. They’ll take a few pictures and then leave. Most people don’t get out of the car.”
The reason for that is obvious. The powerfully built animals — one bull weighs more than a ton — with a tip-to-tip horn spread measuring 59 inches, are enough to intimidate anyone.
It’s common sense; look all you want, but don’t get too close.
One prize heifer named Honeychex has a special group of admirers. Last fall, she won top honors in her class at the G&G Roundup & Fall Futurity in Virginia, where animals compete for cash awards and considerable bragging rights.
This week, the Souths trucked her all the way to Texas for the May 16-17 Millennium Futurity & Sale in Glen Rose, just west of Fort Worth. Judges rate animals based on their color, length of horns and conformation. Prize winners may fetch top dollar for breeding purposes.
“She’s a pretty special heifer,” Bud South said.
She must be to compete against other top Longhorns in their own home state of Texas. But South isn’t afraid of favoritism since the judges don’t know where each animal is from when making their evaluations.
To Bud South, owning Longhorns is the fulfillment of a boyhood dream.
The farm was previously his parents’ dairy with a small herd of 28 milkers.
“As a kid, I always liked cows with horns,” he said. “When we took cows to the fair, I’d make sure their horns were polished up.”
After his father sold the herd, he eventually took the farm over and began raising beef cattle with a number of black Angus, which require much less work than dairy cows. Then he turned to pork, but something was still missing.
In 2002, he discovered three Longhorns for sale, a bull named CJ and two cows, Freckles and Rosie. The black cows and pigs are long gone and South Farms is now home to more than four dozen Longhorns. After a hard day’s work, Bud South can hardly wait to get home from his full-time construction job to take care of the animals.
“We do this as a hobby,” he said. “If we make a few dollars, fine.”
Bud said that his wife, Katherine, didn’t need much convincing to support his Longhorn venture.
“Look at this,” he said, admiring proud “mama” cows protecting their babies, from several weeks to only a few days old.
“How could she (Katherine) not love this stuff, seeing new calves born each spring. I didn’t have to twist her arm too hard,” he said.
In comparison to black Angus, which look virtually the same, Longhorns have their own unique identity with different colors, markings and horn shapes.
The Souths give each animal a name.
“They’re just different,” Bud South said.
He said that Angus and other commercial breeds of beef cattle grow quicker, giving owners a quicker return on investment for meat production. However, Katherine South said Longhorn beef is lower in cholesterol, calories and leaner than many other breeds of beef.
“The Longhorn in general is a much healthier beef choice,” she said. “People that have trouble processing red meat do better with Longhorn beef. It’s got less fat.”
The Souths’ herd is registered with the Texas Longhorn Breeders Association of America and the International Texas Longhorn Association
“Primarily, it’s grass-fed,” Katherine South said. “They’re primarily pasture-raised animals. We give calves grain when they’re weaned.”
Katherine South, who comes from a suburban nonfarming background, is just as much in love with the lifestyle as her husband.
“I wouldn’t trade it for anything,” she said. “This is the best time of year.”