Central Queensland cattle handler, 4, knows his way around Texas longhorns
Leading a half-tonne cow with giant horns around a paddock is all in a day’s work for four-year-old Jace Lamb.
“I like brushing her and washing her,” he said.
Jace, and his siblings, Johannah, 7, Jack, 11, and John, 14, are fourth-generation cattle handlers on a 6,475-hectare property between Banana and Theodore in central Queensland.
“[My grandfather] spent the last few years of his life here with us,” dad Dan Lamb said.
“He got an immense amount of enjoyment sitting on the verandah and watching the three generations below him working together and doing his life’s work, continuing it.”
The Lambs run a commercial cattle operation of 1,000 Brahman and European breeders and own a stud of about 90 registered Texas longhorn cattle.
“They [longhorns] are unique in colour, in horn, but also their personality,” mum Megan Lamb said.
“We’ve all got our favourites, and I enjoy that we can all do it together as a family.”
Not a typical four-year-old
Ever since Jace learnt to walk, he has had no trouble putting bulls and heifers in their place.
“Our youngest, who is now four, started showing longhorns when he was just two,” Ms Lamb said.
“He particularly enjoys it.”
All four children have their own “sweet-natured”, horned animals to break in, take care of and lead.
“We know their [the longhorns’] personalities so much that we just trust them,” Ms Lamb said.
“I think having grown up with the horns, they’re [the kids] aware of how to move their body around them.”
Before and after school, which they do through distance education, the kids work with their animals.
“They seem to get a lot of pleasure out of seeing the cows go from something that’s never had a hand on them, to something that just wants to be with them,” Ms Lamb said.
Johannah leads “the biggest steer” the family owns, a seven-year-old with horns more than two-and-a-half metres long.
“I love communicating around my cattle,” she said.
“They only lead for me. You only have to say, ‘Come on’ and give them a yank.”
A rewarding family hobby
The Lambs always wanted “an animal to put in the paddock and grow out a set of horns”, so they gave it a go nine years ago and purchased their first Texas longhorns.
“We went to get one and came home with two, and then it just snowballed a bit from there,” Mr Lamb said.
Eldest son John said while leading longhorns was not a common teenage hobby, it was extremely rewarding.
“You test yourself, it teaches you a lot of lessons because life’s not going to be easy and you’re going to have struggles, you’ve just got to work through it,” he said.
The siblings show their Brangus stud cattle at regular agriculture shows, but Ms Lamb said showing horned animals at these events was not allowed.
“Most people think they’re scary because they have horns, but they’re actually quite friendly,” Jack said.
Months of tireless preparation went into the Texas Longhorns Australia 2022 show, where the N-Bar stud claimed several awards including Reserve Champion Cow, Champion Bull, Supreme Exhibit, Champion Junior Parador and Most Successful Exhibitors.
Lean meat and a long life
Longhorns are “a niche market” commonly used for display and rodeos in Australia, but the Lambs make the most of their “hobby” by showing, breeding and selling them.
“What we put into the longhorns, we make back and more,” Mr Lamb said.
“Our old girls go to a butcher at Monto. So we’re getting paid for the meat, for the head and horns and for the hide.”
Mr Lamb said commercial breeders bought registered heifers to produce “highly marketable” cross-bred calves.
“Longhorn calves are super tiny when they’re born, so it eliminates that calving risk,” Mr Lamb said.
He said the animals had great longevity and the meat had “an unbelievably unique flavour”, but the herd in Australia was not big enough to provide a constant commercial supply.
“We don’t eat anything but longhorn meat,” Mr Lamb said.
“It’s a very high marbling meat, but they don’t lay down a layer of cap fat on their carcass.
“Fellow breeders at Monto are doing a longhorn beef pie, it’s in a few pubs over in that area and it’s hugely popular.”
A strong future
Now secretary and vice president of national body Texas Longhorns Australia (TLA), the Lambs said domestic demand for stud females had quadrupled.
“When we started, the top price female in Australia was $4,250 and now we saw, earlier this year, that the top price female went for $18,000,” Mr Lamb said.
“In eight or nine years, that’s a huge price difference.”
With four eager pairs of hands learning the ropes, Mr Lamb said he was confident the business had a strong future.
“It makes us extremely proud,” he said.
“These kids are fourth generation here on this place, so to see that tradition continuing on is very humbling.”