Combining Unique Bovine Genetics from Two Continents
by Stewart H. Fowler, Ph.D.
The TEXON is a composite breed evolving from a blend of the genetics of the historic Texas Longhorn and the ancient Devon. The breeding objective is to combine the desirable unique traits of these historically old breeds into a new breed that is better adapted to specific environmental and economic conditions. The Texas Longhorn was "Made in America" by Nature over a 500-year period; and the Devon, "The Beef Breed Supreme at Grass," was introduced to America from England in 1623.
The TEXON is being genetically engineered to combine the grass utilization of the Devon with the browsing ability of the Texas Longhorn and the marbling of the Devon with the leanness and favorable unsaturated fatty acids of Texas Longhornbeef. Traits common to both breeds include: high fertility, calving ease, climatic adaptation, and longevity. It is hoped to add a bit of disease and parasite resistance from the Texas Longhorn and good milk production of the Devon.
The Texon project was initiated in 1989 and is utilizing reciprocal crosses to exploit the fullest genetic diversity from both breeds. The F-1 (first-cross) is not a TEXON; it is a crossbred which possesses great genetic variability. Several breeding routes are being explored (backcrosses, F-2s, etc.). To "fix" the desired traits and to increase the homozygosity (purity) of the desired gene pairs, selection and exploratory matings will be followed by mild inbreeding and/or linebreeding. As an aid to sound selection foundation animals are being evaluated through feedlots and packing plants; and some bulls are being put through forage bull tests.
At present a specific breed-percentage composition has not been projected for purebred TEXONS. The final breed percentages will evolve through selection for phenotypic appearance and performance. When TEXON cattle look and perform like expected for TEXONS, breed composition will automatically be established. Breed development is being based on: (1) quality stock on both sides of the pedigree (2) strict selection (3) performance, and (4) unbiased data.
To guide the selection programs a precise mental picture of the "end product" is essential. The purebred TEXON is visualized as a red, polled, docile animal with a short, sleek summer hair coat. The TEXON will be medium in mature size (cows 900 to 1100 pounds) and will have dense, clean-cut, flat, medium-sized bone. It will possess a strong muscle pattern, exhibit trimness of middle, and have adequate length of leg to cover pastures and rangeland. Conformation will evolve from selection for "beef where beef counts."
TEXON females will exhibit distinct femininity and will possess substantial vulva development and well-developed udders that have strong suspensory ligaments and well-spaced teats of a size that calves have no difficulty in suckling.
TEXON bulls will exhibit robust, pronounced masculinity and aggressive libido, trim sheaths, and well-developed testicles. An alert (but not ill-tempered or vicious) disposition will be characteristic.
The "Texon" name was trademarked in 1991, and the International Texon Cattle Association was incorporated under the laws of the State of Texas in September 1991. The major cooperators in Texon breed development are Dr. Robert M. Simpson, Wild Plum Ranch, Duncan, Oklahoma, and Dr. Gerard A. Engh, Lakota Farm, Remington, Virginia. Other breed cooperators are located in Oklahoma, Texas, and Alabama.