You’ve probably heard of the "Clear Blue Sky," "Mr. Blue Bird" or even "Blue Eye’s Crying in the Rain." But, have you ever heard of blue horses? Those who know Claude Lipscomb probably have. And not only have they heard about his prized "blue horses," they’ve probably heard about his unusual cattle, too.
Lipscomb Farms is located in the Baldwin County Community of Vernant Park, not far from the shopping malls and tourist-type restaurants becoming so commonplace along beach-bound Highway 59. But just one turn off that busy highway and you’ll find livestock that are far from commonplace, even in the agricultural industry.
While Lipscomb’s interest in unique horses and cattle didn’t develop until later in life, farming was an interest he was born into. In fact, his family has been farming in Baldwin County for 10 generations. While most little boys were busy buying toy trucks, baseball cards or sling shots, Lipscomb bought his first heifer at four years old. By the ripe, old age of eight, he had purchased his first horse.
With the purchase of his first horse, Lipscomb was hooked and he’s had horses ever since. With an interest in agriculture and raising horses fueling his day-to-day activities, he spent his early childhood through high school years tending to the family farm. In high school, Lipscomb found time for one other interest—a love interest, that is. Lipscomb began dating a young lady named Carole from the near-by community of Bon Secour during their senior year of school at Foley High. A farm girl with an affinity for animals, Claude and Carole were a perfect match.
The happy couple soon "tied the knot," and after six months of marriage they moved from the sandy, fertile plains of Baldwin County to the Loveliest Village on the Plains–Auburn University. While at Auburn, Claude earned a degree in Agriculture Engineering and said he received his diploma on a "cold day in June." All the while, Carole worked at Auburn National Bank until that "cold June day" rolled around and Claude took a job with Alabama Power Company. This job required the couple to move twice, once to Montgomery and once to Mobile County, where they lived until 1992, when Claude and Carole were able to move back home to Vernant Park.
Throughout his entire career, Lipscomb and Carole never lost their passion for farming and kept a herd of cattle even through their years in Auburn. It should come as no surprise that after Claude retired from Alabama Power in 2008, the couple began spending their new-found free time focusing on their farm. But they also enjoyed traveling. They drove countless miles across the U.S. to states like Nebraska, New Mexico, Arizona, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Missouri. During their road trips, their passion for traveling and for agriculture began to intertwine as they made friends who raised, as Claude phrased it, "excellent horses." This was an added motivation for Claude to take a different route on his equine production.
He named the operation Black and Blue Quarter Horses and while he admitted he’s partial to black and blue roan horses, his top priority is to breed "smart and gentle horses." He said the color is just a bonus, and a well-earned bonus at that since producing true blue roan horses presents a real challenge.
"Only about one percent of the [Quarter Horse] breed is registered as a blue roan," he said, "and probably only about one-fourth of those are actually true blue roan."
In order to prove authenticity of the horses’ "blue" genetics, owners must send in hair samples from the horses to be DNA tested to see if it is actually a true blue roan.
Since it’s a difficult color to achieve, most people have never heard of a blue roan, so what exactly does it mean?
The blue roan color occurs when a horse has a black base coat combined with white hairs interspersed throughout giving the illusion of blue-appearing coloring. To produce a blue roan horse, the sire and dam must produce a colt with genetics for black legs, a black body and the roaning gene. Claude said that in most foals, you can’t see the roan coloring easily, but as the first coat begins to shed, the roan coloring will become more apparent.
With daily farm work and pleasure competition in mind, the Lipscombs aim to produce the highest quality breeding stock to produce excellent working Quarter Horses. With bloodlines from superior horses like Joe Hancock, Buck Hancock, Happy Hancock, Eddie, Eddie 40, Eddie Eighty, King Fritz, Blue Valentine, King P-234, Poco Bueno, Leo, Colonel Freckles, Pat Star Jr., Doc Bar, Docs Budha, Drifts Chip, Figure Four Fritz, Snickelfritz Flake, Blue Apache Warrior and Leo Hancock Hayes, it’s easy to see why the Lipscombs are excelling in their equine production program.
The Lipscombs’ operation doesn’t stop at breeding quality horses though. Claude has about 50 of your typical brood cows. But with their fetish for the atypical, those aren’t the only cows grazing their pastures.
The Lipscombs have about 50 of the finest Texas Longhorn Cattle you’ll find in Alabama. Perhaps their most eye-catching bovine is a steer named Goal Post for obvious reasons. At 15 years old, Claude and Carole believe he may have the biggest horns ever recorded —taking the length and circumference into consideration.
Carole has a particular interest in the Longhorn cattle, and Claude said it was her interest that led them to start registering them. While they admit it’s tough to work cattle with such massive horns because they don’t fit through most working chutes, the Lipscombs enjoy the spontaneity and curiosity the cattle provide, and they’ve worked hard to produce a docile herd.
"Our cattle are easy to handle, but they’re tough to work though," Claude said. "The horns are really kind of a novelty. People have a natural curiosity about those horns.
"With Longhorn cattle you never know what color calf you’ll get. To go out there and find a new spotted baby—we like that."
Claude and Carole enjoy shopping at Elberta Farmers Co-op because, for them, it’s one-stop shopping.
"We’ve been happy so far," Claude said. "They’re always glad to answer your questions and if they can’t, they’ll find someone to answer them. They’re interested in helping me as well as selling their products—that’s a win-win for both of us."
Providing quality products like feed, mineral supplements, rye grass seed, posts, fertilizer, boots and tractor tires, Elberta Farmers Co-op is doing its part to keep Black and Blue Quarter Horses in business. And while Claude said they’re still in their beginning stages of operation, business seems to be doing well, since they have sold horses all over the U.S. and even overseas to customers in Slavonia and Wales.
Learn more about the Lipscombs and their operation at www.blackandbluequarterhorses.com. You’ll find all the information you need, and be sure to note that while "good dispositions, intelligence, big hips and pretty heads" are the Lipscombs’ top priority, they haven’t lost their fancy for the color blue.
Grace Smith is an associate editor for AFC Cooperative Farming News.