Question about raising cows for meat - Mothering Forums

Forum Jump: 
 
Thread Tools
#1 of 12 Old 06-16-2010, 02:55 AM - Thread Starter
 
suzukiaustin's Avatar
 
Join Date: Sep 2006
Posts: 330
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Hi Everyone,

This is my first post to Country Living/Off the Grid and I feel truly honored to be here.

We have purchased 5 acres in Northern California and we would like to get a few cows for meat. We first need a serious education on how to raise cattle for meat...does anyone have any good book recommendations, websites or advice for some former city folk on how to keep cattle? Also, where do I get cows??

Thanks!!
suzukiaustin is offline  
Sponsored Links
Advertisement
 
#2 of 12 Old 06-16-2010, 10:03 AM
 
sapientia's Avatar
 
Join Date: Apr 2007
Location: TN
Posts: 2,170
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
My family is a cattle family-generations now-so it has been a big part of my life.

I don't have any book recommendations, I just know what I've been taught-always access to clean and fresh water, let them graze on good grass (meaning greena nd abundant) put some mineral blocks out a few times a year...supplement with hay when the grass isn't as plentiful. Keep an eye out for worms.

Hope it helps!

Wife, mom to 6 great kids!...avid crafter, music lover,  reader, gardener!

 

homeschool.gif h20homebirth.gif novaxnocirc.gif homebirth.jpg

 

sapientia is offline  
#3 of 12 Old 06-16-2010, 11:20 AM
 
hildare's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jul 2009
Location: in-the-sticks-off-a-dirt-road, GA
Posts: 2,680
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
the storey's guide to raising beef cattle is a good basic intro.

we are only doing 3 cows atm, to not overstress our pasture.
it takes some planning, but honestly, we're spending MUCH more time planning our chicken coop and set up than it took for cows.
what you want to do totally depends. how much pasture do you have?
do you have grass year-round?

where to get the cows: again, depends on what breed you want. Check and see if there is an extension agent where you are/ not sure about your area. The extension agents can really help you with what works in your area.
we have belted galloways, which we chose b/c they calve easily, are good foragers, have great meat- they put on hair rather than fat for the cold weather, and they're smallish but dress out well.
lots of people their first time out will get holstein steers (or bulls & castrate) from local dairy farms b/c the meat is ok but they are very cheap-- dairy farms don't want them at all.
there is possibly a sale barn/ livestock auction in your area, too.. which is what many people do. here in GA, we have a farmer's market bulletin, which ROCKS.. people list what they have there.
there are often livestock posts on craigslist too. you might check there.
GL! we LOVE our beefs!

Is it getting lonely in the echo chamber yet?

hildare is offline  
#4 of 12 Old 06-16-2010, 11:55 AM
 
Alyantavid's Avatar
 
Join Date: Sep 2004
Posts: 7,595
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
I don't have any book recommendations. Like a pp, I was taught everything I know and we've been raising cows forever.

You need a good fence to start with. There's always 1 cow that's a leaner and will push the fence to eat a weed when there's tons of good grass inside the fence. 5 acres should be enough to feed 3-4 cows for quite awhile. We live in a place with long winters, so we supplement with organic hay and some mineral block. In the summer, they need lots of water and as much grass as they can eat.

Right now we have a 1/2 Angus 1/2 Holstein cow that we've had since she was a baby. It's actually a really good mix, she can make tons of milk but without having to drag a giant udder around. We bred her with an Angus bull (AI'd so we would know what we were getting) and she's been the best mama. We also have her baby that we're raising to eat.

I'd check craigslist for people selling cows (or steers however you want to do it). I live in a very agricultural area so there are livestock sales everywhere, but you never really know what you're going to get. Holstein bulls from dairies are super cheap, but not the greatest quality for meat either.
Alyantavid is offline  
#5 of 12 Old 06-17-2010, 02:55 AM - Thread Starter
 
suzukiaustin's Avatar
 
Join Date: Sep 2006
Posts: 330
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Thanks for the replies!

I love belted galloway beef!! I used to get bg beef at a farmer's market when I lived in Australia. I bought so much at one time (each visit) the farmer thought I was crazy!!

I have a few more questions:

1. Is it hard to care for cattle? Do they need to be brought into a shed at nighttime or do they just need access to a covered area? I do not plan to milk the cows, just raise them for meat.

2. Is it possible to just buy heifers (I think that's the term for female cows) and not get a steer? I would prefer to not deal with mating and birthing until I know how to take care of a cow. I know they need friends...are three cattle at a time enough?

3. We have about 4 acres of fenced pasture with irrigation. Should I irrigate throughout the summer now? At what time of year should I buy cows? And should I look into planting certain grasses for the cows?

That was a lot of questions. Thank you all for your help.
suzukiaustin is offline  
#6 of 12 Old 06-17-2010, 03:17 AM
 
Theia's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2007
Posts: 2,916
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
On our farm we had mostly angus and herefords. We were breeding and raising our own. We always sold the heifers at auction because they generally would get a higher price than a steer or a bull. Since we were a small family farm, we castrated all of our bull calves, picked one that seemed to be more likely to be the meatiest and kept him and sold the rest of the calves shortly after weaning.

Cattle are really low maintenance. Provide them access to covered shelter, water and food and they do the rest.

If you buy a steer and a heifer, you won't have to worry about breeding because the steer is sterile. Baby steers are castrated usually at a young age, once the testicles have dropped from the abdomen down into the "sac". We used an expander device with really thick super strong rubber bands and placed the band around the sac. The rubber band would cut blood flow to the sac and a couple of weeks later the whole thing would fall off. You just have to make sure both testicles have dropped before doing this.

I'm also wondering, do people now raise a couple of cows and butcher them later? Our freezer steers always were about 9mo by the time we had them fattened up and took them to the local butcher shop. The older a cow/steer, the less tender the meat. A spring born calf was usually taken to the butcher shop in the fall weighing around 1000-1100lbs. We also used corn to fatten up the steer, but of course he still had plenty of room to roam and fresh water.

When you check with your extension office, you might also want to ask about noxious weeds in your area. Some weeds/plants that grow in pastures can leave a strong unpleasant taste in the meat. We had a special pasture for our freezer steers that was separate from the rest of the herd and we frequently checked it for unwanted plants.
Theia is offline  
#7 of 12 Old 06-17-2010, 12:20 PM
 
hildare's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jul 2009
Location: in-the-sticks-off-a-dirt-road, GA
Posts: 2,680
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Quote:
Originally Posted by suzukiaustin View Post
Thanks for the replies!

I love belted galloway beef!! I used to get bg beef at a farmer's market when I lived in Australia. I bought so much at one time (each visit) the farmer thought I was crazy!!

I have a few more questions:

1. Is it hard to care for cattle? Do they need to be brought into a shed at nighttime or do they just need access to a covered area? I do not plan to milk the cows, just raise them for meat.

2. Is it possible to just buy heifers (I think that's the term for female cows) and not get a steer? I would prefer to not deal with mating and birthing until I know how to take care of a cow. I know they need friends...are three cattle at a time enough?

3. We have about 4 acres of fenced pasture with irrigation. Should I irrigate throughout the summer now? At what time of year should I buy cows? And should I look into planting certain grasses for the cows?

That was a lot of questions. Thank you all for your help.
the belties are pretty hardy, too. i'm pretty taken with them!

we don't have much shelter for ours, but we're building a corral. you'll want something to pen them in at some point, and some people like barns/shelter, but it's not totally necessary to start with, though it's a gamble if you need to treat them for anything.
you absolutely can get heifers or cows if you want. you can also get a cow/calf pair, (or two) which is good b/c you know the cow can breed & birth fine.. and later that will be good to know!

sounds like you have plenty of pasture for 3 or so.
you might want to have your pasture baled if you can, if it's tall.. depending on when you get the cows. they don't like to eat grass when it's tall, and if you had someone bale it for you - if you don't have lots of weeds- they might do it for half, that's how it works here at any rate.
if you have pasture grass, it's probably good enough. you do want to do some weed control now, such as dig up thistle before it seeds, get rid of any toxic weeds, etc.
there was a really good article in mother earth news this latest issue, too.
cows are pretty easy, i think.

Is it getting lonely in the echo chamber yet?

hildare is offline  
#8 of 12 Old 06-17-2010, 12:27 PM
 
Alyantavid's Avatar
 
Join Date: Sep 2004
Posts: 7,595
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Quote:
Originally Posted by suzukiaustin View Post
Thanks for the replies!

I love belted galloway beef!! I used to get bg beef at a farmer's market when I lived in Australia. I bought so much at one time (each visit) the farmer thought I was crazy!!

I have a few more questions:

1. Is it hard to care for cattle? Do they need to be brought into a shed at nighttime or do they just need access to a covered area? I do not plan to milk the cows, just raise them for meat.

2. Is it possible to just buy heifers (I think that's the term for female cows) and not get a steer? I would prefer to not deal with mating and birthing until I know how to take care of a cow. I know they need friends...are three cattle at a time enough?

3. We have about 4 acres of fenced pasture with irrigation. Should I irrigate throughout the summer now? At what time of year should I buy cows? And should I look into planting certain grasses for the cows?

That was a lot of questions. Thank you all for your help.
As long as they have access to a shelter, they should be fine. We have a shed in our pasture and when it rains, our cow heads straight for it.

You can buy heifers, but at some point, they will come in heat. You don't have to breed them, but they get a little frisky when they're in heat. Steers can get super tame (I used to show steers, they can be very very sweet).

Yes water through the summer to keep the grass nice and green. If you don't buy any cows before summer's over, you might see if a neighbor or someone wants to let their cows eat the grass down so it doesn't get all seedy and tall, your cows may not like it too much then. I personally, would get cows in the spring or summer to start with. Much less work than having to feed hay while you get to know them.

Oh and find a good large animal vet. We found a great guy who will come to us so if someone gets sick, we don't have to stress them by moving them.

ETA: cows know how to give birth and really prefer to do it themselves. Obviously, if they have trouble you or a vet will need to help, but for the most part, they're fine on their own. I would use a breeder or vet who can artificially inseminate and you can look back at the other calves that bull has thrown so you'll have an idea of what you're getting. We bred ours with a bull who consistently threw small birthweight calves in order to make sure she'd have as easy of a time calving as we could.
Alyantavid is offline  
#9 of 12 Old 06-17-2010, 12:29 PM
 
hildare's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jul 2009
Location: in-the-sticks-off-a-dirt-road, GA
Posts: 2,680
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Quote:
Originally Posted by Theia View Post
I'm also wondering, do people now raise a couple of cows and butcher them later? Our freezer steers always were about 9mo by the time we had them fattened up and took them to the local butcher shop.
we're keeping ours later than that, the one we're eating won't be at full growth that early, i'm thinking. i know other people still do it that way, get rid of them before you have to feed them all winter!

Is it getting lonely in the echo chamber yet?

hildare is offline  
#10 of 12 Old 06-17-2010, 12:30 PM
 
Alyantavid's Avatar
 
Join Date: Sep 2004
Posts: 7,595
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Quote:
Originally Posted by Theia View Post
I'm also wondering, do people now raise a couple of cows and butcher them later? Our freezer steers always were about 9mo by the time we had them fattened up and took them to the local butcher shop. The older a cow/steer, the less tender the meat. A spring born calf was usually taken to the butcher shop in the fall weighing around 1000-1100lbs. We also used corn to fatten up the steer, but of course he still had plenty of room to roam and fresh water.
We don't use grain on our animals, so it does take longer. The way you do it, was how we did it growing up. We always had spring calves and they were sold the following spring after spending the winter eating grain. Our current meat animal was born last spring (2009) and we'll butcher later this summer. They don't finish as fast on grass/hay only but we prefer them this way, much healthier for them and us.
Alyantavid is offline  
#11 of 12 Old 06-17-2010, 06:56 PM
 
Theia's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2007
Posts: 2,916
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Quote:
Originally Posted by Alyantavid View Post
We don't use grain on our animals, so it does take longer. The way you do it, was how we did it growing up. We always had spring calves and they were sold the following spring after spending the winter eating grain. Our current meat animal was born last spring (2009) and we'll butcher later this summer. They don't finish as fast on grass/hay only but we prefer them this way, much healthier for them and us.
Interesting. Thanks for the bit of info. I'm all for change. I know the corn we fed our steers wasn't organic (this was something my family did for 30yrs) but I don't live on the farm now. Since my family started this in the 70's organic wasn't really known or common at all. It still meant "life", rather than "life without chemicals".

Good luck to those doing it without pesticide covered (now GMO) corn! Long live grass!
Theia is offline  
#12 of 12 Old 06-17-2010, 09:27 PM - Thread Starter
 
suzukiaustin's Avatar
 
Join Date: Sep 2006
Posts: 330
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
We hope to have ours grass fed/finished. I was told it could be 1.5 - 2.5 years until they reach a good weight for butchering. We don't mind waiting for grass fed/finished beef, though.
suzukiaustin is offline  
Reply

User Tag List

Thread Tools
Show Printable Version Show Printable Version
Email this Page Email this Page


Forum Jump: 

Posting Rules  
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are On
Pingbacks are On
Refbacks are Off