BUFFALO, W.Va. -- Noah Perry has spent a lot of time observing social interactions among cattle.
"There is a really pecking order. There is a boss cow. They rank each other, all the way down to the bottom. Sometimes there is a challenge," Perry sa8id
"Sometimes, two or three cows will gang up on another one and start bullying her. But they usually solve it pretty quickly."
Perry, a local farmer who helped create the Putnam County Livestock Care Advisory Board, cares for 100 Texas longhorns today on his farm near the Kanawha River in Putnam County.
Grown female longhorns routinely care for each other's calves when mothers walk off to eat hay, which Perry buys in 1,250-pound bales. When they return, other mothers leave to enjoy their hay-meals.
"Sometimes, one or two cows will babysit for 10 or 20 calves, while the others graze on grass. There is a good system of communication between them," Perry said.
Perry's farm has about 60 acres of grass, which will soon begin growing and providing a greater portion of his longhorns' daily meals.
"February and March are our two worst months. They are muddy and they are windy," he said.
Perry, a Wayne County native, runs one of the few Texas longhorn farms in West Virginia, but there are several more longhorns being raised in the state today.
"There was a young kid in Mason County who started with longhorns to develop a herd as part of an FFA [Future Farmers of America] project," Perry said. "And Dave Miller markets longhorn beef from his farm in Tunnelton in Putnam County."
"Over the years, cattle production has dropped in West Virginia, because of massive production in the West," said state Agriculture Commissioner Walt Helmick.
"In 1942, our peak year of production, West Virginia had 700,000 beef cows. Now, we have about 360,000 to 370,000 cows in West Virginia and the sheep market has basically disappeared from the charts."
Today, poultry are the main farm products produced in the Mountain State.
"I sell about 40 or 45 calves a year," Perry said. "I have had over 900 calves born since I started this farm.
"Occasionally, I sell a breeding female. They are fertile, gentle and are excellent mothers."
Perry's Buffalo farm has 45 female longhorns and several calves born since early February. He has only two bulls.
Texas longhorns are "ruminants," animals that also include: buffalo, sheep, alpacas, deer, elk and goats. The stomachs of some ruminants, like Texas longhorns, are as big as 55-gallon drums.
"Their stomachs are fermentation vats that enable them to eat large quantities of hay, grass or corn. Bacteria, fungi and yeast help digest this for them. Longhorns often eat for an hour, then lie down and chew it. Sometimes, they burp it back up and chew it more."
Longhorns, Perry said, also like potato skins, brewers' grains, carrots, cucumbers, Vidalia onions and tomatoes. Sometimes, Perry buys old tomato vines from nearby Gritt's Greenhouse to feed his cows.
Perry keeps only two bulls on his farm.