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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul. 30, 2005
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    England
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    Default Tell me about cows...

    The various threads on raising cows has made me curious if I could maitain a small herd on my land. I'm thinking of two to four cows. I have eleven acres of pasture, four of which the horses use on a rotation. The fencing is a mostly post and rail, with some thick, old hedges.

    I like Jersey cows- the ones I've met are smaller and seem gentle. I know they're good milkers, but do they make good meat cows? If not, what other smaller breeds of cow do make good beef cows?

    Does anyone know anything about Shetland cattle? They sound like they might be a good choice for me.

    I've worked cows before and I'm quite comfortable with them, but I've never directly managed them on my own. What do I need to know?

    Thanks!
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  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan. 4, 2007
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    TX
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    Default

    Since you seem to be in England, I expect what we do in the USA would be different.
    Don't you have someone around there raising cattle you could ask?

    In the USA, most raise calves with herds of cows and bulls, some buy calves at weaning and raise them to bigger/fatter.
    Don't know if that second would be an option for you.
    That would depend on your markets there, who you will be selling what you produce.

    Jersey and other dairy cows are not generally used to raise beef calves, although calves do go for veal.
    One problem with them if not milked is that they produce more milk than their one calf can use and that may spoil their bags.
    If you go cows, you will need bulls and those can be hard to handle in any breed.

    Not knowing your beef industry there, hard to say from here what you could raise that would complement your horses and/or produce some income.

    As far as breeds, that depends on what will thrive in your area.



  3. #3
    Join Date
    May. 15, 2009
    Location
    Eastern Ontario, CND
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    Default

    If you're going to have milk cows & take their calves off and milk them you've got to think that you are going to have to milk those cows every day, twice a day, rain or shine, whether or not you want to go on vacation (or you need to find a farm-sitter that will do it for you).

    Cows also produce quite a bit of milk, so if you're not consuming it all yourself your either pasteurizing (to make it legal) and selling or you're dumping it down the drain (or feeding it to pigs, yadda, yadda, yadda).

    There is also the option of leaving the calves on & milk off the extra, but I don't know enough about doing this to have any suggestions for yah.

    Post & rail will keep them in, especially if you've also got a good strong electric on it. Hedges will not (I spent 3 hours chasing cattle yesterday because of hedges...).

    Smaller breeds don't really make good beef cows because even though they produce more meat/lb/acre they take so much longer to mature to a good weight. However, breeds like Dexters are well known for being very friendly. You can send off a meat-bred calf as soon as 11 months, if you're keeping a Shetland around for 30 months, that is a LOT of extra time you're feeding them.

    You are also going to need to look at the availability of these cattle in your area. We did look at getting some Dexters but I wasn't able to find any for sale for a good price or that I wanted to buy.

    On 11 acres (or 7) you're not going to have any problems with a few full-sized cattle.

    We're new to raising our own as well, but live on property with them for almost 4 years. Nice animals, although I really dislike the smell of them (not like the sweet smell you get from horses). They are really pretty easy to keep!

    We have short-horns which have a nice disposition, they're great moms & easy calvers, very hardy and they are delicious. ESPECIALLY SINCE THEY ARE GRASS FED AND I LIKE GRASS FED BEEF ().

    The taste of dairy bred cows is apparently quite different from meat bred, but you can pick up little bulls for very inexpensive. Lots of people do that instead of keeping heifers every year.

    If you do decide to keep a dairy herd, you do not need a bull if you AI. Ask me how it goes next year when we do ours
    "For some people it's not enough to just be a horse's bum, you have to be sea biscuit's bum" -anon.
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  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jun. 24, 2005
    Location
    Alabama
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    10,405

    Default

    My dad's cousins had a Jersey herd for years and she said the females are very nice, but the bulls are dangerously mean (of course the fact that their only jobs was breeding probably didn't help their attitude). Most breeding now is artificial insemination, so you don't have to keep bulls if you don't want to (and you really don't want to after I heard her stories). They are dairy cows and don't gain the muscle mass that a good meat animal does.

    I wonder if there are different strains of Jerseys? It's funny that people's experiences are so different with the same breed and their temperament.

    If you want beef cattle then unless you want to breed your own you get steers (castrated males), and finish them with grain right before slaughter, unless you want to sell them as grass fed only.
    Last edited by JanM; Jul. 8, 2011 at 08:26 PM.
    You can't fix stupid-Ron White



  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan. 4, 2007
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    TX
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    Default

    You can also AI beef cattle, but your conception rate may not be very good and missing a breeding or two when you only have three or four cows, carrying an open cow or three, starts to cut into your profit in a hurry.

    Big beef herds that AI, generally registered operations do, or for first time heifers, those have clean-up bulls they turn out after AI.

    At one time we used jersey bulls on our beef heifers and ours were very gentle ones, Pete and Repeat especially would follow you around like dogs.
    Generally, most adult bulls can be very unpredictable, live in their own little world and if you are in their way, they may not even remember it is you and run you over without a second thought.



  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct. 18, 2000
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    Default

    Someone told me, or I read it somewhere, that Dexter cattle were bred in... Ireland for milk and meat production on small holdings. They are a small breed, and seem to be popular with some people.

    If the breed was developed in Ireland, it would probably do better in your climate than parts of the US - but I really don't know for sure.

    I put my foot down about milking - I'm a slave to this place as it is.


    ETA - Here is the Dexter Cattle Society Website in the UK. http://www.dextercattle.co.uk/Home.htm

    Huh - that's interesting. Dual purpose breed, bred to finish on grass at about 20-24 months. Good yield.
    Brothers and sisters, I bid you beware
    Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.
    -Rudyard Kipling



  7. #7
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    Jan. 4, 2007
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    TX
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    Default

    There is someone South of us about 70 miles that raises a few Dexter cattle, I see their ads on Craiglist.
    They seem to raise them for the pet market, for yard ornaments.

    You may want to check that market where you are.



  8. #8
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    Jul. 20, 2010
    Location
    Texarkana, AR
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    1,968

    Default

    We had Jersey cows when I was a kid because my dad liked the high butterfat content of their milk. We had the best home made peach ice cream. It was the color of gold. That said, our Jerseys were the milk cows from Hell. They are very tempermental and high strung and if they get used to one person milking them, if someone different milks them they can be very uncooperative. We had a couple that you either had to hobble or tie one leg up to milk them of they would kick the fire out of you. Another one, you had to let her go from the stanchion then hit the fence or she would try to get you. My dad was a good milker and they always cooperated with him but on the days when he was working late in the fields and I milked, OMG. As others have said most dairy cows will produce much more milk than one family can use. Since we had a beef herd, we bred our dairy cows to beef bulls. The calves were much better meat calves than pure dairy calves. Dad would milk out what we needed and then the calf got the rest. Sometimes we'd have a cow that could nurse 2 calves as well as provide enough milk for the family. I have to say that those milk fed calves finished on GRAIN, produced some quality beef. They also provided the "bucking bulls" when we kids decided to put on a "rodeo".

    If you just want a few cows to produce milk for your family, I'd look for a breeder that specialized in producing family milk cows not commercial dairy cows. They will have heifers that have been handled from birth and will not have the enormous milk production that commercial dairy cows have. You might also look for a dual purpose cow such as Shorthorns or Devons. If you only have a few cows you can AI or find a neighboring farmer with a bull that will let you put your cows to his bull for a stud fee. My sister does this. She has a couple of cows and puts them in with her neighbor's herd when they need to be bred.

    FWIW, I have always heard that the 3 most dangerous domesticated animals were stud horses, boar hogs and dairy bulls.



  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jul. 20, 2010
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    Texarkana, AR
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Bluey View Post
    There is someone South of us about 70 miles that raises a few Dexter cattle, I see their ads on Craiglist.
    They seem to raise them for the pet market, for yard ornaments.

    You may want to check that market where you are.
    There's a woman who posts on another horse board I belong to that raises Dexter cattle. I think her intent is to eventually market the calves in the organic, grass fed beef market for consumers that want a smaller amount of beef. I believe she has butchered some of her steer calves for her own family's consumption.



  10. #10
    Join Date
    Oct. 18, 2000
    Posts
    22,489

    Default

    wireweiners - you raise a good point about the consumers. Many people don't think they can consume 1/2 steer in one year, or don't have enough freezer space for that much meat. Not that a side is gigantic - but many urban dwellers eat out a lot, don't eat a lot of meat, or live in townhouses or apts. I had some people split a side, but then they fought over who got what.

    I have no idea how these things taste, but I could see a smaller (but mature) animal being quite marketable. You can butcher a regular steer that small, but not everyone likes the taste of baby beef.
    Brothers and sisters, I bid you beware
    Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.
    -Rudyard Kipling



  11. #11
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    Jan. 4, 2007
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    TX
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by JSwan View Post
    wireweiners - you raise a good point about the consumers. Many people don't think they can consume 1/2 steer in one year, or don't have enough freezer space for that much meat. Not that a side is gigantic - but many urban dwellers eat out a lot, don't eat a lot of meat, or live in townhouses or apts. I had some people split a side, but then they fought over who got what.

    I have no idea how these things taste, but I could see a smaller (but mature) animal being quite marketable. You can butcher a regular steer that small, but not everyone likes the taste of baby beef.
    That is a good point, small calves are much more tender, but fall into the veal category, the meat is a bit different.

    Calves are born single stomach and live off milk.
    About two months they start developing their stomach into the four compartments and fully become a ruminant by about four months, when they need more than milk to thrive.

    When we are talking beef meat, it is meant ruminant, not calf meat.



  12. #12
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    Jul. 20, 2010
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    Texarkana, AR
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    Default

    I'm not that familiar with Dexter cattle but IIRC, the woman who has them has said that the mature cows are around 500-600#. Again, IIRC, regular beef cattle are weaned around 6-8 mo, backgrounded on grass until they were yearlings, then finished on grain for another 60-90 days. So couldn't you do the same with a Dexter steer, except because of the inherent small size of the breed, you'd wind up with a finished steer at around 300-400#? So you'd get around 200-250# of beef? It wouldn't be baby beef because the steer would be the same age as a regular steer, just "mini" beef. I have no idea how it would taste because I don't know how Dexter cattle finish out. I'm guessing it would be a leaner, less marbled beef.



  13. #13
    Join Date
    Oct. 18, 2000
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    22,489

    Default

    I checked that Dexter website and I think your numbers are about right - have to do a metric conversion to be sure. And I guess you could finish them on grain if you wanted to as well.

    Speaking of small livestock - WTF is up with Kune Kunes? I met some lady who was breeding them, and when I asked her about yield she was horrified.
    Brothers and sisters, I bid you beware
    Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.
    -Rudyard Kipling



  14. #14
    Join Date
    May. 15, 2009
    Location
    Eastern Ontario, CND
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by JSwan View Post
    ...WTF is up with Kune Kunes? I met some lady who was breeding them, and when I asked her about yield she was horrified.
    They certainly are... fuzzy little creatures
    "For some people it's not enough to just be a horse's bum, you have to be sea biscuit's bum" -anon.
    Nes' Farm Blog ~ DesigNes.ca
    Need You Now Equine



  15. #15
    Join Date
    Feb. 16, 2003
    Location
    MI USA
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    7,950

    Default

    Dexters come in two sizes, are very nice as a smaller sized bovine for smaller properties. Less impact on the land with smaller weight and feet sizes. The ones I have seen, owned, did very well on grass, with a little daily grain for easier handling to keep them friendly. New polled lines in the Dexters are popular because you don't have to get horns removed.

    My Dexter gained very well just out grazing, but this was a heifer, not a meat prospect. Guess they hadn't wormed her, because after I wormed her twice, she REALLY packed on the weight fast! If you feed grain additionally for the marbling of the meat, a Dexter beef steer would probably mature a bit faster than one left entirely on grass. I saw a Jersey x Dexter steer who was READY to send in at age 14 months, fed some daily grain and grazed out, looked to be about 600#s. Very well fleshed out, not porky. Looking at only a photo of him, he could have passed for a much larger steer with such nice finish. No Dairy look to him. He stood about 45 inches at the shoulder, very muscular appearing for the better marbling condition of meat.

    I would not be sending in my Dexter steer at only 400#s, unless he was one of the very short-legged type of only 36-38 inches. He would be too small in poundage to go if he was the long-legged type. Well bred Dexters are like ponies, put on weight easily, gain faster to market them younger than the larger breeds.

    Smaller size can be a benefit for folks with smaller families these days, no overflowing freezer after taking them to the butcher shop. You could sell the other half or quarters, if meat quantity was too much for your small family.

    Steers are generally easier to manage than cows and heifers who come in season. The females are VERY smart in any cow breed, and opinionated as well. They may only like their daily handler unless you make special efforts to have them meet other folks to work with them. For long term managing you will need to invest in some panels for a chute system and a headgate for Vetting and AI breeding. Safer for YOU even with little cattle. Steers generally don't care as much about strangers, more friendly. You could purchase weaned calves and grow them up. For just using up my grazing, I would just keep steers to sell off. No breeding issues to deal with.



  16. #16
    Join Date
    Sep. 5, 2005
    Location
    Mass.
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    6,752

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Nes View Post
    They certainly are... fuzzy little creatures

    http://kunekunekune.t35.com/carepig.html

    All that people seem to keep them for are as pets. That is really strange - obviously they started out for eating but evolved into pets?
    I realize that I'm generalizing here, but as is often the case when I generalize, I don't care. ~ Dave Barry



  17. #17
    Join Date
    Jul. 8, 2011
    Location
    Ontario
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    141

    Default

    I'm surprised no one has mentioned them yet, but have you considered Highland Cattle? I raise registered Highlands, and given that you are in England, they would seem like a natural choice, seeing as they orignate from Scotland! Highlands are super easy keepers, and they tend to flourish in tough conditions/ terrains, when other breeds wouldnt.
    Dont let the horns fool you! The breed in general is very docile and gentle, even the bulls. We have a couple bulls, and anyone can walk into the field with them and walk right up to them to pet them.
    So far in my experience, Highlands are easy calvers, and its very rare that I have ever had to pull a calf, and we have 20+ calves a year.
    Also, if you dont want to keep a bull, AI is a very viable option, and top quality semen can be bought for really good prices.
    I really enjoy the Highlands, and we show in Ontario, as well in the Northern U.S. The people are fantastic, and its nice to show and own something different from the `regular old beef cow`

    If you would like more info, feel free to PM me, and I also have a few contacts in Scotland that I could get you in tough with!



  18. #18
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    Apr. 7, 2007
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    Tennessee
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    I don't know if anyone has brought it up yet but you need GOOD fencing. As someone who routinely chases cattle back into the neighbors property you NEED good fences. Let's see, this week I had to get a cow and steer off my hay fields. We lease about 100 acres of our property out to a guy with about 80 head of cattle for about 6-8 months out of the year. The adult cows don't cause me much grief. However, anything under 8 months old seems to LOOK for ways to get into trouble. They climb through 3-4 strand barb wire like it's nothing, then can't figure out how to get back in and will then try to tear down whatever fencing is in their way. One day about 6 of his cows got out, couldn't figure out how to get back in and tore through my wood fencing on one of my horse pastures in order to drain the trough completely dry. I don't own cattle, but I cuss them frequently because I always seem to be the one cleaning up the mess when they bust through fences. I chase the neighbors cows down the driveway AT LEAST once a month. Fortunately he got rid of the last two I had to herd out two days ago and will be moving soon. The only thing I've seen really keep them in is very high charged electric fencing/electrified tensile wire or something with a mesh type panel like livestock fencing. Barbwire or non electrified tensile wire is a joke to cattle.



  19. #19
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    Jan. 4, 2007
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    TX
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    All we have since 1910 is five wire barbwire fence and we don't have any problems keeping them where they need to be.

    I think your neighbors don't have good fences, not that they are barbwire fences.

    We are so dry this year, those that depend on hot fences are having a terrible time keeping cattle put, they just walk right thru the fences without being shocked.

    Here is one of those 100 year old fences, that we added a steel post between old cedar posts to make it last a bit longer.
    I know, those are not cattle, but deer.
    That was the only picture with a fence I had uploaded to photobucket:

    http://i13.photobucket.com/albums/a2...-20-071686.jpg



  20. #20
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    Apr. 7, 2007
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bluey View Post

    I think your neighbors don't have good fences, not that they are barbwire fences.
    Well, I don't know what 'good' fences for cows are but I have sat and watched 3 four to five month old calves climb through 4 strand barbed wire that was good and tight and even new wire I might add. Perhaps your cows are just more respectful of fences. The ones that stay on our property and the neighbors property are snot nosed brats looking to get into trouble. These fences are 3 and 4 strand so perhaps that extra strand is making all the difference.



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