This article is a primer for raising cattle (cows). It’s meant to serve as an introduction and is in no way a definitive resource on the subject. However, a free comprehensive and detailed ebook on this topic is available at the end of this post.
Cows are large animals that require lots of space, but once you get started they require less maintenance than a lot of other animals. There are two reasons to breed cattle- to produce meat, or to produce milk. A combination of these two can work as well.
Cattle can be used simply to supply food for your household or to create a larger operation to sell to others for a profit.
Before we begin, here are some important terms to know regarding raising cattle.
- Bovine: the subfamily cattle are included in.
- Bull: A male bovine.
- Steer: A castrated bull.
- Calf: A baby cow.
It’s best to choose a breed of cattle that is adapted to your area. Cross-bred calves combine traits, and are often the most robust (a phenomenon known as hybrid vigor), so consider those. Go with the healthiest ones you find, as they will end up being the most productive and giving you the most value, even if you pay more for them upfront. Look for good muscle development, balance, alertness and the breed characteristics you desire in your calves.
Choosing a high-quality bull is the secret to producing good calves. If your area of land is small, having a bull on hand is probably more trouble than it is worth, so going the artificial insemination route may be best.
The three major beef cattle breeds are Beef Short Horns, Angus and Hereford.
The major dairy cattle breeds are Ayrshire, Brown Swiss, Guernsey, Holstein-Friesian, Jersey and Milking Short Horn.
Location and Housing for Cattle
Cows need to live in an area with good pasture (more on this later). They also need a lot of land, so they can move around and not over-raze on a certain area. You need to make sure you have enough land for the cows you have (this differs for each breed) and that you have neighbors who won’t have an issue with your animals.
Beef calves do not need much shelters, but you should have an open shed for the cold winter months, or when cows are calving (giving birth).
Cow chutes (mini cages) can be used for things like dehorning, worming, or vaccinating your cows.
Cattle need a steady supply of roughage (high-fibre, low-nutrient foods such as grass, hay, straw, alfalfa, etc.) and concentrates (highly digestible, high-energy, nutrient-rich foods such as grains, cottonseed meal and wheat bran).
Dairy cattle, fattening cattle and cattle that are pregnant or nursing will need a larger amount of concentrates. Feed your best roughages to calves and nursing cows.
You will need feeding troughs when feeding animals concentrates. Keep these in the shade.
You’ll also want clean water available to your cows at all times. Keep it in a trough next to the food.
It’s important to keep your cattle as healthy as possible, to maximize production. The times when cattle are most susceptible to the disease are when new cattle are added to the herd, so take extra caution here. Cattle that spend a lot of time confined indoors, or who eat a lot of grain, will also be more prone to illness.
Make sure to keep your cattle vaccinated, de-wormed and delouse. Do what you can to prevent illness, keeping them well fed, supplied with proper vitamins and minerals, and quarantining cows that show signs of sickness. Also, keep an emergency kit on hand with relevant equipment and medication for your cows.
Be prepared that you may need to euthanize sick cows, and dispose of dead ones. Know your local livestock disposal laws ahead of time.
Marketing and Selling
If you’re looking to turn your cattle rearing adventure into a profitable enterprise, you’ll want to have a plan for marketing and selling ahead of time. The two most popular routes for selling cattle are sale barns and auction marts. The emphasis here is placed on cattle ready for slaughter.
Private treaties, direct sales, purebred sales and dispersal sales are other common ways cattle are bought and sold.
Free Cattle Farming Ebook
To get the free cattle farming ebook, click the download button below.