Breeding the Perfect Bull

A Texas cattleman used genetic science to breed his masterpiece – a near-perfect Red Angus bull. Then nature took its course

On the R.A. Brown Ranch, fifth-generation ranger Donnell Brown can't help thinking about the potential he had created through decades' worth of work. (Karen Kasmauski)
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And then one day you find you have created something no cowboy has ever created before. Of course you name it Revelation. And of course, when it gets crippled, you do everything in your power to save it. And of course if you lose the battle and have to send it to slaughter you...clone it. Really? Really?

To date, no more than a thousand cattle have been successfully cloned in the United States, and market reaction has been mixed. People aren’t sure they want to eat cloned beef.

But still. It’s...Revelation! It’s Donnell’s masterpiece. Of course, to clone the bull he would need the approval of all seven ranchers who own shares in the syndicate.

Late one summer night, Donnell sits at his computer, and he types an e-mail to them, and he reads it over to make sure it sounds right. He pauses awhile. Nothing to lose by just putting the question out there, right? Nothing to lose.

And now it is October, and a beautifully wet one at that. Throckmorton averages just 26 inches of rain a year, and so drought is a constant concern; all this precipitation feels like a blessing, greening fields of wheat and refilling water holes. The 2009 R. A. Brown Ranch Bull & Female Sale is just a few weeks away. The leadoff bull is Turbo, son of Destination, great-grandson of Cherokee Canyon, great-nephew of Revelation. He has impressive EPDs—the highest inner-muscular fat score of any bull in the sale.

“Turbo charge your program,” Donnell wrote on Page 67 of the sale catalog. “Thrust your program to the forefront of the fastest-growing breed in America with Turbo.” He expects $20,000 for the bull, plus an average of about $3,000 apiece for the 500 others.

And if all that isn’t enough good news, the Throckmorton Greyhounds are undefeated through seven games with Tucker Brown as quarterback.

Plus Jeff has a new girlfriend. Actually, two. The eight-day relationship did not work out, but now there is Hannah and there is Fatima. Hannah is pretty much perfect in every way but, Jeff says, she’s busy as a tick. The Fatima situation makes no sense whatsoever. She lives off in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, goes to happy hours and movies. She’d never even met a cowboy before Jeff. Makes no sense at all! How is it that they talk forever on the phone? Forever. He’s honest with her. He says: “There is Hannah.” He says: “I’m Christian and you’re Muslim. How would that deal work out? What would we do with our kids?” He says: “I’m not moving to no metroplex.” He says: “I’m a cowboy.”

Fatima drove all the way up from Dallas the night before—150 miles—to bring Jeff a present.

“What does a city girl know about a cowboy shirt?” Jeff is saying about the gift the next morning at the saddle house.


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