Charolais in winter coats in France, c. 1935
Charolais adapted to Florida heat
Spanish Colonial (Cracker) cattle
Bulldozer and harem
Texas Longhorn steer on Crescent J
Florida Cracker steer on Crescent J
Efrain, kids and oxen, 2007
CRESCENT J HERD
Dr. Broussard’s father, Alphé A. Broussard, first learned about a breed of French cattle that was exceptional in beef production about 1947. He bought some cross-bred bulls from Ben Burnside of North Louisiana, but decided he wanted purebred. He learned that the only herd of full-blooded Charolais cattle in North America was in Mexico. This was The Foundation Herd of Charolais Cattle in North America.
Dr. Broussard’s new ranch in Florida did not have a name. He wanted to name it Flying J Ranch but that name was already registered in Florida, so he chose the name Crescent J Ranch because the brand is very similar. The 32 Charolais brought to the Crescent J from the Flying J were therefore part of the Foundation Herd. Their descendents are now the only registered remnants of the Foundation Herd.
In 1990, Dr. Broussard purchased 12 cows and one bull (“Bulldozer”) from the State of Florida. They were certified to be pure descendents of the Spanish cattle and registered as “Cracker” cattle by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy. (See the websites www.florida-agriculture.com and The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy.) Other registered Cracker cattle have been added to broaden the genetic base of the Crescent J herd, and the herd now numbers in the hundreds. Some are taken to slaughter for use by the Cypress Restaurant and some are sold to market every year
The Crescent J herd is the largest herd of registered Cracker Cattle in the world. They are more true to the original colonial cattle than other descendents of those cattle such as Texas Longhorns because their reproduction was natural rather than being controlled by people. In Texas, where the terrain is open, cattlemen who liked long, straight horizontal horns selectively bred cattle with that feature. In Florida, our dense woods contributed to a natural selection of horns that curve up and back rather than stretching out to the side.
Steers are cattle that were born bulls, but were castrated at some time. Most are “steered” (or “cut”) when they are weaned, as were the two pictured above. This removes the source of testosterone, the hormone that would normally make them mature into bulls. Testosterone controls many things about the growth and development of normal male animals. It “tells” bulls, at about two years of age, that it’s time to quit putting so much energy into growing and start putting it into reproduction, which includes, in unmanaged breeding such as in the Crescent J Cracker herd, fighting or otherwise asserting dominance over younger or weaker bulls. Therefore bulls’ horns are short and thick. (See Bulldozer’s horns above.) Steers’ horns are shaped more like cows’ horns, only much bigger, as unlike bulls, steers don’t stop growing, and their horns don’t stop growing, either. The largest cattle and the largest horns on the Crescent J Ranch belong to steers.
Oxen are cattle used as draft animals. Sometimes, especially in other countries, cows are used as oxen, but usually, oxen are steers that were allowed to grow as bulls for eighteen months before being castrated. That gives them more muscle, but still makes them more manageable than bulls. They need a lot of training before they can be hitched to a wagon. The Crescent J Ranch has the only pair of working oxen in Florida and the only pair of Cracker oxen in the world! They were picked out as little calves because they looked alike and were already friends – always playing together in the pasture. They were put in little halters connected by a 10’foot rope, so got used to not being totally free even while still calves. They were not fully trained until they were about five years old.