The Fenn family has been producing cattle for and working with cattle in the American beef cattle industry in southeast Texas since the late 1800's. In the first few decades of the 1900's, American cattlemen developed a new breed of cattle called the American Brahman by crossing four breeds of Indian (Bos indicus) cattle imported into the United States. The four Indian breeds used were Guzerat, Gyr, Krishna Valley, and Nelore. Later importations brought Indian cattle from Brazil that are referred to as Indu-Brazil cattle. They featured larger frames and longer ears with a twist to the shape of the ear.
The American Brahman was the first beef breed developed in the United States. Brahmans are also used for crossbreeding with other breeds of cattle. Braford, Brangus, Beefmaster, and Santa Gertrudis are a few of the American Breeds that originated from Brahman crossbreeding. During the early 1900's, my grandfather, J.J. "Button" Fenn Jr., owned large herds of commercial beef cattle on the Gulf Coast of southeast Texas. In the 1940's and 50's, Button Fenn purchased several Brahman bulls to use on his commercial cattle herds. One of the bulls was named Battler. Battler (20/0-1018) was a son of Martin (H2-231) one of the foundation sires of the American Brahman breed imported in 1924-25.
In 1950, Button Fenn purchased a bull named "Bank Roll" #29 (ABBA#26332) from Joe D. Hughes of Houston, Texas.
Old style ABBA pedigree of a Brahman bull "Bank Roll" owned by my grandfather.
The Brahman bulls crossed with the Longhorn and British -influenced cattle improved the quality of the cattle that my grandfather was producing. The Brahman-influence produced more durable cattle for the harsh conditions of the Texas Gulf Coast. The Brahman-influenced cattle lived and produced offspring longer and were able to withstand the heat and insects better than other breeds of cattle that my grandfather bred in his herds. Outbreaks of fever ticks were killing the other cattle while the Brahmans could withstand them better. Button Fenn also owned Brahman females. He never became an active breeder in the American Brahman Breeders Association because his pastures were so big that he had to run multiple sires in the same herd. You cannot register calves from such herds. Button Fenn's commercial cattle herds produced grass-fed steers for the American beef industry. He raised the steers until they were two to three years old and shipped them on the railroad from Hitchcock, Texas to Kansas until 1969. Some of the steers produced magnificent sets of horns. Several of the Brahman cross steer's heads were mounted for heirlooms after they were slaughtered. One head was last seen hanging in the office of a feedlot in Amarillo,TX that my dad supervised as part of a large cattle operation that had multiple ranches that he also supervised in the early 1980s.
One of the Brahman-cross steers that my grandfather raised.
My father, Joe Fenn, got one of his first jobs as a kid working for F.W. Neuhaus. Mr. Neuhaus, of Houston, was a founding member and later a President of the ABBA. He had a herd of registered Brahmans in a pasture across the fence from my grandfather in Arcola, TX. When the calves were born and a few weeks old, the cattle were all brought to the pen and the calves were number branded (plastic ear tags did not exist at that time) and then released back into the pasture. My dad was given a notebook and was responsible for going to the pasture every day and writing down the brand numbers of cows and the brand number of the calf that was nursing the cow for parental identification to be used for registering the calves. That experience also helped start a skill at pairing cattle that I have never seen anyone do better. He can go into a herd of cattle that he has never seen, and pair the cows and calves better than even the owners of the cattle.
In 1966, the legendary American Brahman breeder, Edgar Hudgins of J.D. Hudgins Inc. in Hungerford,TX, talked my dad into purchasing my dad's first herd of registered gray Brahman cattle from Jesse Buffalo. Edgar then sold my dad several bulls through the years. When I was a young boy in the 60's, I met Edgar Hudgins when he came to our ranch in Arcola. I remember him as a nice man. He could have easily ignored me while he did his business with my dad, but he took the time to get to know me too. He also enlisted me to help him with one of his hobbies, collecting antique glass bottles. He knew we had some old homestead sites on our ranch. I searched for the bottles and he would show me what to look for on the glass bottles that made them collectible. Today, I look back on my memories of Edgar and I am amazed that I had gotten the chance to interact with one of the true legends of the American Brahman breed.
By helping my father get started in the breed, Edgar became one of the major influences on my father's philosophy of breeding Brahmans. Even today, you can't be in a conversation about Brahmans with my dad and not hear Edgar's name mentioned. That is an indication of a good person who truly left an impression on a man and a breed.
One of the bulls Edgar sold my dad was JDH Schary De Manso ABBA# B129137.
JDH Schary De Manso ABBA# B129137 sold by Edgar Hudgins to Joe Fenn
My dad worked for another famous American Brahman breeder, J.T. (Jack) Garrett of Danbury, Texas, managing his herds for several years in the early 1970's. Mr. Jack and my dad formed a friendship that lasted decades until Jack's passing in 2006. In his later years, Mr. Jack would often ask my dad to come over and consult with him on his herd because they both shared the same philosophy on Brahmans. He used our bulls HSD Sugaratta 80 and Claire's 301 on his cattle.
Harold Dingle of Jones Creek, Texas was also a good friend of my dad. In 1996, my dad bought six registered gray Brahman females of J.D. Hudgins "Manso"-origin who were all grand daughters of
+JDH ELLERY M MANSO, one of the first ABBA Register of Renown sires. He later went to see Harold for a visit and saw a tremendous bull calf on one of Harold's cows. He purchased the calf when it was weaned. This bull calf eventually became a foundation sire of our current herd known as "Harold". One of the key things my dad was looking for while selecting Harold was offspring production of his dam. The daughters out of Harold that we used to build our herd are some of the most regular calving cows that we own.
Guy Jeans Jr. of Dayton, Tx was a friend of ours for many years. Mr. Guy was a great mentor and partner. He used three of our herd sires on his herds. HSD Sugaratta 80 (who had GLJ cattle in his bloodlines), Claire's 300 (a son of 80), and WEF Zillas Oswald 334 (a son of 300). We used two of his herd sires GLJ Maru Manso 73/2 and GLJ Maru Manso 474/2. This photo is the day that we picked 474/2. Our latest herd was built from long-time Brahman cattlemen via the architect , Joe Fenn. Men who loved the Brahman breed and daily studied their cattle and how they performed.
Guy Jeans Jr. and Joe Fenn talking about Brahman cattle.
About a year later, Mr. Dingle passed away suddenly. His wife called my dad and asked him if he would help her locate someone to purchase Mr. Dingle's herd. After the herd was sold, one last bull, HSD Sugaratta 80, was left in the pen. My dad asked everyone he knew if they would buy the bull. No one was interested. My dad refused to sell the bull for slaughter at the livestock market where he worked because he considered the bull to have too much potential, so he purchased the bull. HSD Sugaratta 80, aka "Buster", became another foundation herd sire for our new generation of Fenn Brahmans. Buster sired two sons in his first year with us, dad kept "Bullzilla" Claire's 300 and I bought "Hugh" Madeleine's 301 to start a herd of my own. Buster then spent several years being used by several Brahman breeders: Bob Massey, Guy Jeans Jr., Jack Garrett, and Johnny Fenn. Buster produced naturally-serviced calves on Brahman cow herds in range conditions until he was retired at 15 years old. Buster still managed to leave behind a crop of calves in the cows when he was retired.
HSD Sugaratta 80, aka "Buster",
In 2005, my dad began considering retiring and selling his herd. I did not want to see the herd dispersed as I had been helping him work with and build his herd. I have been an active member of the ABBA since 1999 with my own small herd. I convinced my dad to sell me his herd and stay on with me as chief advisor. I am proud to have preserved our current herd of Fenn Brahmans and continued the family tradition of raising and utilizing American Brahmans on the Texas Gulf Coast.
Fenn Brahmans have been around for much longer than many people realize. You don't see us in the Brahman cattle show rings, except for the Brazoria County Fair with our kids, or if other 4-H and FFA kids purchase our cattle for show projects. We don't breed our cattle to compete for a fleeting moment in a show ring. We breed them to compete and produce for many years in the pasture. In 2019, we received our first ABBA Maternal Merit Award for one of our cows and anticipate many more in the next few years. Our name in the cattle industry is built on our reputation with our many satisfied and often returning customers. Our customers often tell us that our cattle are their favorite cattle that they have in their herds. Several years ago we did GeneStar DNA analysis on all of our herd bulls and found that our cattle were among the best in the American Brahman breed for Tenderness, Marbling, and Feed Efficiency.
Fenn Brahmans - Where Disposition Makes The Difference