Many homesteaders today are interested in raising cows for milk or meat. The first point in several guides about cattle farming for beginners is to select the right breed. There are dozens of beef and dairy breeds as well as minor breeds that are attractive to a small farm.
Some of the older breeds are less popular today and small in number, but this does not make them less suitable for beef production on a homestead (or for dairy purposes on a small scale). You may find one of these breeds may fit your goals better than a more popular breed. When choosing cattle consider your interests, resources and ability to care for the animals as well as the environmental impact of the breed. Some examples of breeds for smaller farms include the Dexter cattle, Highland cattle and Akaushi cattle. Akaushi is a Wagyu cattle breed. Many homesteaders enjoy raising Dexters because these small animals need less feed than other breeds and thrive in a variety of climates.
Beef breeds can stand very cold weather, snow and hot weather. Wet, cold rains are hard on livestock. Research in Tennessee suggests that herds left out on pasture all winter made better gains than those housed in barns. In the North, and under harsher conditions, low-priced sheds will adequately protect your herd.
Raising your herds on pasture is the best way to conserve your soil. Plan your pastures by obtaining a soil a map and test soils to determine the minerals and trace elements which may be lacking; apply sufficient fertilizer, other minerals and elements to get the desired results and seed the pasture to the appropriate forages for the type of soil and climate to prepare it for your herd.
The best time of the year to buy a commercial herd is in the fall. Most herds raised on pasture are marketed then and thus bred cows for sale are cheaper at that time than in the spring.
Most cattle owners can start out with either commercial or purebred cattle. Most should start out with grade cows (and breed up through high-quality bulls). Grades take less capital, more animals are available, mistakes are less costly, less experience and training are needed. After all, if you are just learning how to start a cattle farm, there are bound to be a few missteps along the way.
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