A Few Cattle Ranching Basics
Cattle ranching can be a successful business for the smaller operations, but profits in
this business aren’t necessarily measured in fattened wallets, fancy cars or huge homes. Instead, a
successful operation can mean you earn enough to pay your property taxes and sustain your herd and your operations
year after year. Once you’ve made the decision to get into the business, for whatever reason, you need to do a few
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First, you need to find out where you are going to get the cattle in the first place. Some
recommend buying weaned calves or feeder cattle that are somewhat older. Local newspapers, the internet or local
farming organizations and extensions can be great resources for finding a few head or advertising that you are
looking to buy. They also can tell you what type of cattle you should explore based on your particular situation
and the lay of your land. Local auctions are, of course, a perfect place to start. Not only do these provide the
opportunity to purchase, but allow you to learn the ropes of the auction process, network within your local and the
national community. Make sure you know what you’re doing, though, before heading out to auction, as often sick
animals are sold here as well.
When eyeing your pasture remember even though the pasture
looks green and healthy in the springtime, it will get drier in the late summer. Don’t think your land is bigger
than your herd.
Make sure to understand the types of grasses and plan life on your land, and, depending
on the cattle you buy, know what types they prefer and if your land is suitable for their operation. Local
veterinarians and extension personnel are great resources for understanding what types of pastures work in your
Pastures can be the key to a successful operation, as they provide a more economical
source of feed.
While you may think you need fancy barns and the latest
hi-tech equipment, getting started really only requires a small shelter to protect the cattle, as most of them will
be perfectly content to spend the majority of their lives roaming on the land you provide.
Know your land as well and make sure to prep it prior to welcoming any cattle on to the
land. Trees provide great sources of shade when the temperature climbs and can often be adequate shelter from winds
Also, make sure your fences are in good working order, nothing elaborate is necessary,
but sturdy wired fencing is a must to keep the cattle from roaming out of bounds and into the neighbor’s yard.
Many agree that Legume hay will produce good beef; plan for
roughly ½ to ¾ ton of hay in fattening out a steer or heifer. When it comes to hay, one expert said alfalfa is tops
for beef cattle but it is also the most expensive. For feeding, corn is widely touted for its fattening effects and
make sure to have salt blocks or salt around at all times. Salt is crucial to cattle.
While water consumption will vary among breed and season,
your typical cow requires roughly 12 gallons of good, nutrient rich water per day. Water is one of the main sources
of nutrients for cattle, so it is important your water supply is tested for pollutants, bacteria and algae growth
before the cattle start drinking it. Troughs are a good way to go, especially for small herds, but invest in a
heating system for the winter and make sure to practice regular cleaning to avoid algae growth or foul odor.
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