Cattle Quick Start

Interested in getting started with cattle? There’s a lot to learn about caring for these large but productive animals!

Whether your interest is raising meat and milk for your family, putting oxen to work in your fields, raising commercial steers for the sale barn, or starting your own grassfed beef business, you’ve come to the right place. Below you will find links to numerous resources to get you started off right.

Contents

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A Step-by-Step Guide to Getting Started with Cattle

Step 1: Determine Your Objectives

There are many reasons people raise their own cattle. Some people want to raise their own milk and meat. Others are interested in the possibilities of a grassfed beef business. Still others enjoy preserving rare breeds. Whatever your interest, it’s important to set your expectations up front, because this will determine what type of cattle you will need, how many, and what type of management system you will need. Write your objectives down so that you can refer to them later.

Read more: Building a Sustainable Business »

Step 2: Develop a Sales and Marketing Plan

How will you sell your cattle or cattle products, assuming you are not raising cattle strictly for your own use? You have numerous options, so be sure to spend some time researching this. Beef and dairy products can be sold on-farm, at farmers’ markets, to restaurants, and even online in some cases. Cattle can be sold directly, at organized auctions, or at sale barns. Find out what is required for each sales venue to determine how good of a fit it will be for you. Also spend some time considering advertising, setting up a website, and other marketing possibilities. Be sure to keep notes on your findings and decisions.

Read more: Farm Fresh »

Step 3: Plan Your Management System

Are you planning on raising cattle strictly on forage, or perhaps with some grain? What type of health program do you expect to implement? How many times a day do you want to milk your cows? For breeding stock, what genetic defects do you plan to test for and select against? You will definitely be learning as you go, but it doesn’t hurt to have some details ironed out in the beginning, as it will help you in selecting cattle and in preparing your facilities. Just some rough guidelines will do. Again, be sure to do your research and take copious notes.

Read more: Grazing Systems Planning Guide »

Step 4: Choose a Breed

Once you have a clear picture of your purpose, scale, environment, marketing plan, and personal preferences, you’re ready to choose a breed or combination of breeds that will best fit your needs. First consider whether purebred or crossbred cattle are right for you—purebred cattle excel in genetic consistency, while crossbred cattle win out in hybrid vigor. Then research the various breeds available to you. Different breeds have different purposes, temperaments, climate preferences, health issues, production characteristics, and more. Even if you are considering crossbred cattle, you will still want to do this research to choose a breed combination that will work well in your operation.

Read more: Choosing a Breed of Cattle »

Step 5: Set Up a Water System

Now it’s time to get outside and get to work! Before you bring your cattle home, you will need to have a water system in place. Giving cattle direct access to creeks and ponds is convenient, but unsanitary, so you may want to install a pump to deliver water from these sources to a stock tank. Watering from wells and springs may also be options, depending on where you live. Be sure to give some thought to how you will keep water fresh in the summer and unfrozen in the winter.

Read more: Waterers and Watering Systems »

Step 6: Set Up Fences and Handling Facilities

The next step in your preparation is to set up permanent fencing, purchase temporary fencing, and prepare your handling facilities. Keep the permanent fencing to a minimum in the beginning—fencing the perimeter of your property should be sufficient until you have a handle on how grazing management works. Make sure you have polytape, line posts, a fence charger, and a fence tester on hand so that you can get your grazing program off to a good start. To safely handle your cattle and train them to respect electric fencing, you will also need a sturdy corral with a squeeze chute. For dairy cattle, you may want some type of milking parlor, even if it is very simple.

Read more: Free LSU Building Plans »

Step 7: Purchase Your First Cattle

You’re ready to buy some cattle and bring them home! If you intend to buy cattle from a breeder, do some homework first and make sure that his philosophy aligns with yours. If you’re making a trip to the local sale barn, make arrangements for payment and transport. Either way, be sure to choose cattle that are healthy and have a good disposition. It is often better in the long run to spend a little more for fewer quality cattle than to pick up culls for cheap.

Read more: Beef Cattle Talk: A Glossary »

Step 8: Introduce Your Cattle to Your Property

So you’ve got your new cattle. Don’t just dump them out in the pasture. Put them in a sturdy pen for a few days to observe them and give them a chance to get used to you. Transition them from whatever feed they were previously eating to their new diet. Worm them, either with a conventional wormer or a natural solution. Put up a short length of temporary fencing at nose height and electrify it so that they learn to respect it in a safe and controlled way. If any cattle show signs of illness, take immediate action as required.

Read more: Natural Cattle Care »

Step 9: Practice Grazing Management

Grazing management is an art, and it will take some practice to acquire this skill. You don’t want your pastures to be grazed down to the soil, but you want your cattle to stay healthy and productive, as well. Furthermore, every environment is slightly different. Rainfall, terrain, and forage species all have to be taken into consideration. However, the best way to learn is by doing. Give your cattle a fresh paddock every day to start and see how closely you can estimate what they eat in a day. As you learn, you can adjust paddock sizes, rest periods, and rotation frequency as needed.

Read more: Intensive Grazing: An Introductory Homestudy Course »

Step 10: Keep Records

What records you need will vary depending on what you are doing. At a bare minimum, you will want to keep track of your income and expenses. Keeping records on pasture condition and forage production can help you improve your grazing management skills. Basic notes on what vaccines, wormers, and other treatments your cattle have received are also handy. Those who raise seedstock will need to keep extensive records on pedigrees and animal performance. The key is to find a record-keeping system that meets your individual needs.

Read more: The Farm Journal: Complete Series »

Choosing a Breed of Cattle: 5 Needs and 40 Breeds for Selecting Cattle That Fit Your Purpose

Choosing a Breed of Cattle

by Michelle Lindsey

Ready to take the confusion out of selecting the right cattle breed for your family? This book will walk you through the process of defining your expectations and then arm you with key information on 40 common cattle breeds. Paperback or Kindle. Read more »

Online Guides

Cattle Breeds

Cattle Breeds

When choosing a breed of cattle, there are many factors to consider. Each breed has its own advantages and disadvantages, and what works well for one family probably won’t suit another.

With this in mind, it is wise to learn about the history, uses, temperament, health, and pros and cons of each breed before making a selection. This guide will answer your questions.

Read more »

Vitamins

Vitamins

Although no one fully understands vitamins and their functions at present, scientists continue to make breakthrough discoveries in this important area of study. In this guide, we will summarize the findings to date. We will examine the known functions of each vitamin and its natural sources. We will examine the causes and signs of deficiency, as well as the symptoms of toxicity (overdose). To wrap things up, we will briefly discuss some of the medicinal uses people have found for each vitamin.

Read more »

Grasses of Kansas

Grasses of Kansas

This guide contains key information on the many diverse grasses of Kansas, whether they come from the tallgrass prairie, the sandsage prairie, or just the average roadside ditch. For each plant, you will learn characteristics, distribution, life cycle, ecology, uses, hazards, and similar species.

Whether your interest is as a nature buff, an ornamental gardener, or a dedicated grazier, we hope you’ll find the information you need to identify and properly manage the grasses on your property.

Read more »

FAQs

  • What are homestead cattle?
    Homestead cattle are cattle from low-inupt genetics that can do well on smaller acreages. They are either miniature breeds or smaller-framed individuals from standard-sized breeds. They also have good dispositions. Homestead cattle may produce beef, dairy, or a combination of both.
  • Where is the Black Baldy raised the most?
    The Black Baldy is quite popular all across the United States, anywhere beef cattle are raised, although Brahman-influenced crosses become increasingly prevalent in the Deep South.
  • What is the British Blue, a Continental or a native (British) breed?
    “British Blue” is the current name for the portion of the Belgian Blue breed residing in Great Britain, where it became popular for breeding with dairy cows to produce beef calves. The name was changed in the UK to British Blue in 2007 for promotional purposes. Thus, the British Blue, despite its name, is actually a Continental breed, not a native British breed.
  • What is TDN?
    TDN is short for “total digestible nutrients.” It is a measure of the energy contained in any given feed.
  • What type of wood is used to make ox yokes?
    Many different woods are suitable for making yokes. Traditionally, the sturdiest wood available locally was the wood of choice for the beam, or the horizontal part of the yoke. Common choices included ash, cherry, elm, maple, and oak. The bows, or the part that goes underneath the neck of the ox, are typically make of something extra durable, usually hickory.

Essential Information

Breeds

Fencing & Facilities

Feed, Forage & Pasture Management

Health

Beef

Dairy

Draft Work

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