If you are interested in cattle rearing, you must think of various aspects, from getting a plastic water trough for cattle to choosing the right breeds that can make your enterprise a success, regardless of its size. Cattle rearing deals with all the aspects of raising cows for beef or milk and can involve multiple tasks. In this short guide, you will find out more about what it entails.
Why should you consider cattle for livestock?
Cows are most often reared whether for meat or dairy, as there are breeds that have been improved gradually over the years to offer better production in beef or milk, but not both together. However, if you have a small homestead, you might want to consider cows from traditional breeds that will offer both meat and dairy products in equal measure. We will talk more about this later.
Cattle can be a good idea from another point of view. They produce a lot of manure, and this is an excellent fertilizer that you can use on your property.
However, you must bear in mind that cattle require space for rearing. To give you an idea about how much land you should have at your disposal for cattle, thinking of having at least one acre of pasture for each cow. Since cows graze all the time – in some areas, even year-round – you must have enough land for them to thrive.
How to choose the right breed of cattle
To rear cattle, the first thing you should decide on is what breed you want to rear. You should know that, for instance, the modern Holstein breed has been modified over the years to produce more milk. It is not, by far, the only breed that has undergone genetic manipulation, and while higher milk production is a result – or beef, for other breeds – there are some issues you must know about.
The modified breeds suffer from specific problems. For instance, cattle breeds altered for milk production have lower fertility rates. Those modified to produce more beef encounter other troubles. For example, a cesarean section is required for calves to be born when they are too large to go through the cow’s pelvis.
Therefore, a good idea, if you only run a small homestead, is to opt for traditional breeds. They do not have the same issues as the ones that have been genetically modified through selective breeding, and they are overall healthier.
Make sure to cover your cattle’s basic needs
Cows are not pretentious creatures, but their basic needs must be covered if you want them to thrive and bring added value to your homestead. Usually, they graze on pastures, and grass makes for most of their diet.
Depending on where you live, you might not be able to provide your cows with fresh grass and the possibility to graze on pastures all year round. That is why, in winter, you must supplement or even completely replace their diet with hay. Silage is another option; it is a type of preserved grass that can ensure your cattle’s nutrition.
Another thing that you must be well aware of is that cows must have enough drinking water. Ensure that they have fresh water all the time, regardless of the season.
What kind of shelter do cattle need?
Many traditional breeds can be quite resistant, and that means that not even in winter they will need too much shelter. You can have your cows sheltered in a barn, and it will be enough to go through the winter. While you can let them move freely inside the barn, make sure that they have plenty of straw for bedding.
In winter, perform regular cleaning in the barn, so that the cows do not contract any diseases. In case some cows are more aggressive, make sure to separate them from the rest. That can be done by placing them in an enclosure inside the barn, but do not remove them entirely from the herd, as that will only worsen their behavior.
Another thing you should remember about cattle is to surround their feeding and living grounds with fences. Sturdy fences are a requirement, as often, cows will lean against the fences and even use them to scratch themselves.
What equipment do you need for cattle rearing?
You won’t need much equipment for cattle rearing, but the one required needs to be well made. For instance, any handling gear must be made from durable materials. You will also need some milking equipment. In case you don’t want to invest in a cow milking machine, at least you will need some buckets, as well as a stool.
Purchase some shovels and wheelbarrows to help you clean up and carry the manure. A cattle through is another good idea, and you should also have an area dedicated as storage for the animals’ feed.
Things you need to know about breeding cattle
Young cows that have not yet been bred are named heifers. Usually, around the age of 15 months, all cows should be bread, and the normal pregnancy is 283 days long. You must learn the signs that show that a cow is in heat.
When that happens, it means that the cow is ready to be mated. The fertilization process can occur naturally, by mating the cow with a bull, or by artificial insemination.
Some knowledge on how to assist your cows when giving birth is required. Some clean bedding should be spread on the ground, and anything you need to use should be sterilized. New homestead owners must enlist the help of someone who has helped cows give birth before.
Be aware that cows are very protective of their young. If you separate the calf from its mother, for milking purposes, you will notice that the two will show signs of distress and call for one another during the first stage of the separation.