Consider the Alternative
Bryce Chaffee and his family are building a business—and a lifestyle—around longhorn cattle and versatile equipment.
By Jamie Cole | Photos By Jamie Cole and Sullivan Cole
There’s nothing wrong with a corn-fed Angus steak, a night in a fancy hotel, or a leisurely boat ride.
But meet Dr. Bryce Chaffee, who’d like to introduce you to grass-fed longhorn, a night’s stay in a show barn, and something called “hillbilly tubing.”
Chaffee, who splits his time between CF Ranch and Cattle Company in Burbank, Ohio, and a chiropractic practice just down the road in Wooster, grew up on a dairy in western New York, so he was no stranger to farming or cattle. But the life of a chiropractor is busy enough. He and his family made the move to their acreage in the countryside near Burbank 17 years ago, but it took a while to find the right breed to compliment his health standards and his lifestyle.
Enter the Texas longhorn, which requires very little hands-on care and produces a lean beef that Chaffee could offer as an alternative for his patients, who were his first market for the product. It was an ideal combination of Chaffee’s idea for cleaner eating and time savings for a busy family. “We chose Texas longhorn because they’re high in HDL,” he says, sometimes called the “good” cholesterol for its ability to lower the risk of heart disease and stroke.
“Once in a while, when we go out, sure, there’s nothing better than a good Angus corn-fed steak; they’re very, very good,” he says. “Longhorn is an alternative to corn-fed beef.”
While his patients appreciate that, Chaffee is happy with the hands-off nature of the breed when it comes to care. “Sometimes, some of our big steers will be in a back pasture and I don’t see them for a couple of weeks,” he says. “They’re a grass-fed browser, so I’m good there.”
He also says the longhorn is known for calving ease thanks to narrower hips; indeed, studies show that bigger isn’t always better when it comes to pelvic measurements and calving. “You get up in the morning, and there’s three or four calves running around the pasture and they just take care of themselves. We never have to worry about pulling calves.”
Not that there aren’t other tasks at the Chaffee place. He and his kids have built some three miles of fencing on the property, including a half-mile long fenced alley that connects all the fields and makes for easier herding and rotational grazing. Bryce says his son Luke has become something of an expert—“You could bounce a truck off his fence,” he says—and that occupies Luke’s summers when he is home from college.
CF Ranch and Cattle Company has been a family affair from the beginning. Even a brief visit to farm gives a glimpse into another way of life, one that the Chaffees clearly believe in. How strongly do they believe? When Bryce found his piece of land, he moved himself, his wife, Tami (also a chiropractor), his three daughters, and his son onto the property, and they practically camped there for a decade, developing what is now a multi-faceted business that is much more than a cattle ranch.
Consider the show barn. Its upper floor is a 3-bedroom lodge available for rent on Airbnb; the property is complete with a common area and even a Crossfit gym. Bryce and his family now live in the main house they built on the property, where he hosts dinners with guests. A new guest house opened in 2020 and booked up months in advance immediately. Guests can experience as much of the farm lifestyle as they prefer, including the aforementioned “hillbilly tubing.” And yep, being pulled around a farm pond behind a personal water craft is every bit as fun as it sounds.
A Different Breed
The property is quite a showplace, but its centerpiece is the longhorn herd. It may seem unusual to find Texas longhorn in Ohio, but one of the largest longhorn ranches in the United States is some 100 miles south of Chaffee’s place, in Barnesville, Ohio. The world-famous Dickinson Cattle Co. is where Chaffee picked up his first longhorns. “I got a few little steers and built a corral and a fence on about 15 acres to start,” he says, and then put up a website about selling the beef. That led to a call from Texas.
“A 95-year-old guy calls me from Texas and says, ‘I’ve got some longhorn you might want to buy,’” says Chaffee. At the time, it was 10 degrees in Ohio, with two feet of snow on the ground. “But I went down there,” he says, to a little town called Thorndale just outside of Austin, and wound up shipping a small herd of 17 more longhorn that became the basis of his current herd. “I was enthralled with them,” he says. “They were so tame… this herd was somebody’s pets.”
That was seven years ago, and Chaffee’s herd of roughly 70 animals is still remarkably gentle. “These animals are so docile because we treat them well,” he says.
Guests are treated to views of the animals on pasture from just about any spot on the main farmstead, and Chaffee says at any given time there are as many as 20 guests on the property besides his family.
As easy-going as the herd can be, life on the ranch is still time-consuming. “I work 12 hours a day at the clinic,” says Chaffee, who then comes home and spends several more hours tending to 250 acres and other aspects of the CF Ranch and Cattle business. He describes long nights mowing under portable stadium lights, and how he’s always hoping the weather is right on Fridays and weekends. “When I come home, I want to be able to jump in my tractor, hook up whatever I need, and just go.”
That kind of time constraint means the right kind of equipment is crucial. “How I normally think is, ‘Let’s go right to the top and get the best thing I can possibly get.’”