Where to start?
To have a positive experience raising cattle, all you really need to do is:
1) Decide why you want to raise cattle.
2) Buy healthy animals that fit with your goals.
3) Provide a clean, spacious living environment with good fences.
4) Supply wholesome feed and plenty of water.
5) Handle your cattle calmly.
6) Practice preventive health maintenance.
7) Develop and implement a marketing plan.
8) Ask for help if you or your cattle need it.
To get off to a good start with your bovine adventure, you need to supply your cattle with a few basic needs: wholesome feed and water, shelter, and a safe environment. Be sure you can fulfil these minimum requirements before you begin or add onto your herd.
Wholesome feed and water
Your cattle depend on you every day to provide them access to good, clean food and water. The nutrients your cattle need include protein, energy, minerals, and vitamins. The amount of nutrients your animal requires depends on its age, stage of production (growing, reproducing, lactating, or maintaining), performance level, and weight. It also depends on the weather in your region. A quality pasture can provide most of what your animal needs, but you may have to provide a free-choice vitamin/mineral mix as well.
The water source you provide your cattle can be a natural one like a spring, stream, or pond, or it can be a man-made one like a stock tank or automatic waterer. Whatever you use, just make sure the water is clean and fresh at all times. It needs to be cool and plentiful in hot weather. A nursing cow can drink up to 75 liters a day. During the winter, don’t count on the cows consuming enough snow to account for their water needs. Provide them with a temperate supply of water also.
Clean, spacious living and eating areas
Cattle don’t need fancy living accommodations, but their facilities should be tidy and not too crowded. They should protect the animals from winter weather and shade them from the sun in the dog days of summer. Plan to provide up to 3.5 sq.m. of barn per adult animal.
The amount of pasture your cattle need varies depending on your management, the season, the type of grass you grow, and the amount of precipitation you receive. Pastures that are continually grazed usually can’t support as many animals per acre as pastures that are rotationally grazed (animals are in a section of the field for a day or two and then moved to another section). Rotational grazing encourages the cattle to eat a wider variety of forages and gives the pasture time to regrow and recover before being eaten again. You might need up to 1.5 ha per head to provide sufficient feedstuffs both summer and winter. Keep in mind that different types of feedstuffs yield varying per hectare.
A low-stress environment
One of the best things you can do for your cattle’s health and well-being is to provide them with a calm environment. Cattle like predictable, positive routines. Feed and check your cattle at about the same time every day so they know what to expect.
You want your cattle to associate you with good experiences. You can achieve this rapport with your animals by moving them to a new pasture regularly, giving them corn or alfalfa hay treats, or, for very tame animals, giving them a scratch under the chin.
Use a quiet voice or remain silent when working with your cattle. Loud noises and quick movements upset them. Be patient when handling cattle as well.
Planning for the Labor and Financial Commitments
Raising cattle can be a rewarding and profitable experience, but you shouldn’t take the responsibility involved lightly. Do plenty of thinking to make sure you’re ready for the daily care of these living, breathing animals that depend on you for their well-being. You also want to be sure you have the money to maintain your herd, including a financial cushion to handle a large, unexpected vet bill or a big spike in feed prices.
The amount of time you spend with your cattle for routine care can be as little as a few minutes a day to several hours a day. It just depends on your management style and your situation.
Planning for big projects and emergencies
To give your cattle the best of care, be sure to make arrangements for large-scale projects. Some tasks, such as annual healthcare work or barn cleaning, need to be on your to-do list every year and may take half a day or more. Other big projects, such as building or repairing fences, occur less frequently and may involve several days or weeks of work. Also, have a trusted helper on hand in case of emergency. This person can care for your cattle if you’re unavailable.
Figuring the cost of healthcare
Healthcare falls into two main categories: preventive care and emergency care. Depending on the routine needs of your herd, you can spend 10EUR to 40EUR per animal on vaccinations and parasite treatments every year whether you do it yourself or have the vet do it for you. If you hire the vet to do any castration, dehorning, or pregnancy checking, add another 5EUR to 15EUR per animal. Expenses associated with emergencies such as illness, injury, or pregnancy complications can mount up quickly. It’s also important to plan for emergency vet charges. Most vets have a flat fee for visiting your farm, and then they charge an hourly rate in addition to that fee. Inquire about the amount your vet charges for services so you can allocate funds for unexpected healthcare needs.
Budgeting for facilities and land
The main housing costs are for the pasture, shelter, and fencing, and they can vary tremendously depending on what you already have and what you’re looking to have.
Assembling Your Team of Experts
When it comes to giving your cattle the best of care, be proactive about networking and learning from others. Even the most experienced cattle farmer hasn’t encountered every possible bovine problem or had the chance to use all the newest products. Consulting with a mentor, vet, extension agent, or feed salesperson can greatly contribute to your knowledge base and help make you a better herdsman or herds-woman.
Important Safety and Legal Considerations
To properly care for the animals and the people involved in your cattle-raising endeavour, you need to be aware of potential safety and health issues. You also need to plan how you can be a responsible cattle owner and member of your community.
Preventing physical injuries
For the comfort and well-being of yourself, your cattle, and your helpers, you must handle your animals correctly and provide a safe environment for all involved. Here are some ways to prevent human and bovine injuries: Don’t take the good behaviour of your cattle for granted or become complacent when handling them. All animals — including tame, domesticated cattle — are unpredictable, so always be on guard around them. Use extra caution around bulls, cows with calves, or animals that are handled infrequently.
Watching out for zoonotic diseases
Zoonotic diseases are diseases that can be transmitted between humans and animals. They can be spread through the air, by direct contact, by touching a contaminated object, through oral ingestion, or by insect transmission. Some of the zoonotic diseases of concern include brucellosis, campylobacteriosis, leptospirosis, ringworm, and tuberculosis.
Considering your insurance needs
The three types of insurance you should consider when raising cattle include the following: Personal and farm liability insurance: This coverage provides payment for your legal liability for damages due to bodily injury or property damage. For example, farm liability insurance may protect you if your farm causes pollution of nearby properties due to pesticide or animal manure runoff. Additionally, if your cattle escape from their enclosures and injure another person’s body or property, this type of liability insurance may provide coverage. Farm personal property and building insurance: This insurance can be used to protect barns, farm equipment, and livestock. Be sure your coverage provides compensation if your animals are accidentally shot, drowned, attacked by wild animals, or electrocuted. Liability insurance: If you’re selling beef for human consumption, get insurance coverage for product liability issues. This coverage helps protect you against damages due to food quality and safety.
Being a good neighbour
Even though you’re excited about having cattle, your neighbours may not share your enthusiasm. To avoid awkward and tense confrontations with the folks who live near you, take these steps to foster good neighbourly relations: Obtain any needed permits or zoning changes before you build fences or barns or bring cattle to your property. Display any certifications you received that indicate you have taken steps to be a good environmental steward, including recognition for soil and water conservation efforts or certification in humane animal care and handling. Reach out to your neighbours to keep them informed of any activities you may need to do that temporarily cause an increased amount of dust, noise, or smell.
Complying with zoning regulations
Just because you want to raise cattle on your ranchette on the edge of town doesn’t mean you can. Where you farm depends on the zoning laws for your community. Before you even consider starting a cattle farm, visit your local zoning department to find out whether your property is zoned for agricultural use.
Got questions? Get in touch.
Start-a-Herd with House of Angus • www.HouseOfAngus.lt • Start-a-Herd@HouseOfAngus.lt • +370 685 06 501