how to raise cattle

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How to Raise Cattle


  • How to Raise Cattle

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    There is more than one way to raise cattle, that is something that everyone, beginner and veteran cattlemen alike. How cattle

    are raised not only depends on the individual raising them, but the breed, class and type of cattle in concern. For instance, beef

    cows are raised differently from dairy cows: beef cows are raised to live with minimal management and raise a calf that, in 95%

    of all cases are sold for beef, and dairy cows are raised to give milk, but not raise a calf. As far as beef cattle are concerned,

    there are far more variations as how these type of cattle are raised than with dairy cattle.

    As such, this article will only focus on the general aspects of raising cattle, only briefly touching base with both beef and dairy

    production practices. Thus please do not take this article as a specific how-to, but as a means to understand what is

    expected and involved in raising cattle.

  • Steps



    Purchase and start up your cattle herd. You will have needed to have chosen your cattle before you purchase them in order

    to start up the operation you're managing.

  • 1.


    From the business plan you created before starting your cattle operation, carry through with the various operational and strategic plans you had set out as best as possible. You may find out soon enough that some of your plans may not

    work out like you expected and you may have to make some compromises whenever and however necessary.

    However, usually very few plans, if any would require any major changes or rethinking if you have done your research as thoroughly as possible before purchasing your animals.

    The main things that you need to follow through from your business plan include the following (a few are mentioned in the proceeding steps):

    Breeding (dairy and beef cow-calf only) Calving (dairy and beef cow-calf only) Weaning (beef cow-calf primarily, dairy as well if calves also raised on-farm) Marketing and selling livestock of various classes (all sectors: dairy, beef cow-calf, backgrounding/stocker and feedlot)

  • Replacement heifers selection criteria and management (dairy and beef cow-calf only) Cull cow/bull/heifer criteria and management (dairy and beef cow-calf only) Herd bull management (primarily beef cow-calf, some dairy) Milk production (dairy only) Care of bottle calves (dairy only) or orphaned calves (beef cow-calf) Herd health management including vaccination/deworming schedules (all sectors) Feeds, feeding and pasture management (all sectors) Handling and disposal of deadstock (all sectors) Crop and/or hay production (all sectors) Human resource management (primarily dairy and feedlot, some beef cow-calf especially with cattle ranches) Capital and assets including fences, machinery, equipment and buildings in terms of maintenance, repairing and building new

    (all sectors) Goals and objectives for future improvements (all sectors) Succession and dispersal of herd and/or farm (all sectors)

  • 1.

    3 Keep up with feeding and/or pasture management. You cannot raise cattle if you have nothing to feed them or no pasture for them to graze on. Make sure you have the feed available before you have purchased your animals or adequate pasture.

    Cattle eat grass, hay, silage and grain, and tend to be raised best on the first two or three.

    What type of feeds you wish to feed your animals depends on what type of cattle you're raising, your goals and your location. For instance, you can easily raise a beef cow-calf herd on just grass and hay or raise some backgrounder/stocker calves on grass for the summer. Fattening cattle the conventional way primarily requires silage and grain, and feeding dairy cattle requires that plus moist hay in the form of haylage.

    Some dairy cattle may also be allowed to graze for part of the year or most of the year as well, depending on whether the operation is an organic grass-fed dairy or not.

    For pasture, make sure you have an adequate stocking rate or stocking density so you avoid overgrazing. Ideally you should try to rotationally or manage-intensive graze your pastures as much as you can.

  • 1.

    4. Maintain a good herd health program. This especially so if it's needed. A herd health program is especially imperative if you are purchasing cattle and bringing them into your herd, because these new cattle could be carriers of disease that may affect your current herd. It's also important if you are raising them in an area where disease and illness tends to be prevalent, such as confined in a barn or out on a dirt lot, or feeding them feed, like grain, that tends to cause problems.

    A herd health program is not just about what products are available to use to vaccinate, deworm/delice or treat animals, it's all about prevention as well, and what you can do to prevent illnesses and diseases from occurring. Prevention steps include and are not unlimited to vaccinations, quarantine periods, avoiding doing activities with cattle during certain times, ensuring adequate feed and minerals are available, and maintaining a good strict culling program.

    You must also know and have certain items on hand in case of an emergency. Items such as calving chains, calf puller, epinephrine, dexamethazone, trocar and canola, mineral oil, esophageal tube with frick tube, rope (lariat and/or cotton or poly rope), latex gloves, shoulder-length gloves, extra needles and syringes, Dettol (or a similar disinfectant), 70% alcohol solution, among many others should be in an emergency kit (items ultimately depend on what type of cattle you have) in case anything goes wrong and a veterinarian is not able to arrive on time.

    You may eventually have to face the hard truth that some animals cannot be cured, and you may have to euthanize it yourself. Most producers use a gun to put an animal down, simply by putting a bullet in the middle of the forehead just above the eyes. It is the quickest and most humane way to put a suffering animal out of its misery instead of simply letting it die a slow and painful death on its own.

  • 1.


    Know how to deal with deadstock. With raising livestock it's entirely expected that you may end up having a dead animal (or

    more) on your hands to deal with. Research your local livestock disposal laws to determine what is best to dispose of a dead

    animal's carcass.

  • 1.


    Know when, where and how to market or sell your animals. There are five main routes of selling cattle: sale barn/auction

    mart, private-treaty, direct sales, purebred sales and dispersal sales.

    The majority of cattle are sold through the sale barn or auction mart. Emphasis is placed on cull cattle, weaned calves, and fats

    (cattle ready for slaughter). Usually it is hear where "problem cattle" get dropped off to go to the kill pen or be sold for slaughter,

    and weaned calves change hands from the ranch where they were born to a feedlot or farm that backgrounds them and readies

    them for slaughter. Usually replacement stock are not purchased here, unless the prices are very good and producers are

    willing to get rid of more than their fair share of cattle, no matter if they have problems or not. Cattle can be sold through live

  • internet auction or simply hauling them in the trailer to the nearest auction mart to you. Both beef and dairy cattle are sold this


    Private treaty is where you negotiate sales or purchases of livestock between the buyer or seller, which ever you and the other

    person happen to be. You can sell cattle in an advertisement posted in the local newspaper, magazine or an Internet classified

    site such as Craigslist or Kijiji. People who read your ad may want to contact you for information or out of interest in the cattle

    you have up for sale. Private treaty sales may also come about from word-of-mouth, and not from reading newspaper or

    Internet advertisements at all.

    Direct sales would also work in the same way as private-treaty, except you are mostly selling beef, not live cattle, directly to a

    consumer interested in your product. Direct sales happen through word-of-mouth, an advertisement posted on your website

    marketing your product as "nothing but the best," or a little ad in a local newspaper. It also occurs when selling your product at a

    stand at a farmer's market.

    Purebred sales are only for those with purebred seedstock or cow-calf herds and are marketing live, purebred cattle for other

    producers, purebred or commercial themselves, to purchase. Yearling bulls and heifers are primarily sold this way, either

    through auction on-farm, or through advertisements to encourage private-treaty sales.

    Dispersal sales are sales where you can sell a whole herd or most of your herd of cattle to other interested buyers, be they

    meat packers or other producers. Dispersal sales are only for the purpose of selling almost your whole cow-calf herd, not if you

    were selling you're years worth of stocker cattle you purchased several months ago.

  • 1.

    7 Manage other enterprises such as crops, hay and silage. If you are a producer that prefers to make their own feed rather

    than purchase it, this is one of the most important enterprises for your operation. You may be an operation that focuses on all three, just one, or any of the two. That all depends on what kind