How much land do you have? Do you want to actually raise cattle or do you just want a steer for the freezer? Most commercial beef cattle in the US are actually crossbreds, despite what the Angus people would have you believe. What part of the country are you in? Some breeds do better in warm climates, others do better in cool climates.
As far as chickens go, do you want birds for meat, eggs or both? I have a couple of Red sex linked hens that lay more than enough eggs for our family of 4. There is also an aesthetic aspect to chickens. Some are prettier than others. I would suggest going to a hatchery web site like Murray McMurray and checking out some of the breeds listed there. They have a lot of pictures and information about the various chicken breeds. They carry a lot of heritage breeds too.
The chickens are going to be a whole lot easier than the cows; like different planets.
Black Angus is a ubiquitous breed. IME they can be excitable, fence-crawlers, and they make a lot of noise when they aren't happy. They're very big and strong, you'll need good fences and a good way to contain them if/when they need any vet work, and you'll need a way to get them bred so a trailer that you don't mind hauling cows in.
You might look at Dexters, they're somewhat of a fad right now with the whole homestead crowd, but they're good eating, they're small, and they have pretty laid back personalities. You could cross one with a BA and get a good beef steer or replacement heifer. A lot of people like Highlanders but we don't need low fat beef. I would say stay away from breeds with horns, they just complicate matters.
We butchered ours at about a year and a half; there are variations of that. It takes a couple years to get ahead of the curve on cows.
I would start with chickens. Chickens don't require that much work or expense and are very satisfying animals to raise. My only caveat: everything eats chicken. Be prepared. We basically built the equivalent of Fort Knox for our chickens. So think of snakes, chicken hawks, racoon, coyote, neighbors dogs, fox, etc. So small animals. Animals that can crawl. Animals that can open things, animals that can fly. Everything eats chicken!
We started with dairy goats and when we bought the farm got chickens and then followed with a small jersey steer (Traded an unregistered buckling for him). This year we are hoping to do pigs with the goat's milk! For chickens we have Delaware, Barred Rock and Australorp, with two Americaunas and two Rhode Island Reds. We have 27 hens, 2 roosters, a duck and 11 guineas and they are SO SO easy. The guineas roost on the house and the duck goes in the coop with the chickens. We made the old smoke house into a coop.
Maria Hayes-Frosty Oak Stables
Home to All Eyez On Me, 1998 16.2 Cleveland Bay Sporthorse Stallion
& FrostyOak Hampton 2008 Pure Cleveland Bay Colt www.frostyoaks.com
There are MANY breeds/strains of chickens. Dual-purpose, which are excellent for both their eggs and meat, egglayers, meat birds, and ornamental. Large and small. Heat tolerant, cold tolerant. More information about what exactly you are looking for can help you in which birds to pursue.
When I was 10 we moved to grandpas dairy farm. Oh how I miss the cattle. I used to bring them in everyday to be milked. (my job) Anyways, I have always wanted to have cattle again. DH says NO! So I have been eyeballing the mini cattle that are available now, because I would have to do everything all by myself if I get them. Due to their size they would not be as hard on fence as regular sized cattle. They eat less and require less space. So this may be a feasable way to start with cattle.
My neighbors have belted galloways (they are smaller than average) and one cow feeds their family of 6 for a year. they also get 2 pigs each year but I think they sell one at slaughtering.
We are getting sliver laced wyandottes next month for our first foray into chickens. They are pretty birds and dual purpose so if the rooster turns out to be a turd, we can eat him. We already have ducks for eggs and geese for pleasure, but we could eat one of them if we wanted. We plan on getting a pig or two at some point and my husband wants to get a turkey.
My favorite chickens are Delawares...mainly used as layers today but can double quite well for meat also. Roosters get nice and big and I had a 3.5 lb carcass at 4.5 months. Tasty too. They are bright, friendly, calm and bold...a little too bold maybe but very funny.
We have Black Baldies...Hereford/Angus crosses. They seem a bit easier to manage than full Angus and they respect my fences (horseguard electric). Quite good eating also. I have been told that Angus are the "jumpers" of the cattle world...the one I had ended up eaten because she was also a mean sucker who nearly took my head off with a double barrelled kick. My Black Baldie girls are calm and gentle and they gave me three lovely heifer calves this December.
I'd love to have a heritage type breed like Highlands but cattle are very expensive right now and it takes time to build a herd. The standard beef cattle breeds and crosses are productive useful animals and a lot easier to acquire.
Chickens are fun. I've had a lot of different breeds now..Buff Orps (lovely timid quiet birds), White Rocks (opinionated), Barred Rocks (bullies to the other chickens) Silver Laced Wyandottes (nice birds), Golden Laced Wyandottes (flighty and nervous) and Welsummers (quiet and laid back but quit laying frequently). I have some Americanas too for the green/blue eggs and they are pretty but timid and flighty. I have one young Americana rooster that tonight attacked a hen viciously and he may find himself a roaster if he keeps that crap up. That's the first aggressive behavior I've seen from those birds..typically they are pretty nice to have around.
I wondered how the Hereford personality was; we always have had Angus and now have Brown Swiss and a Brown Swiss/Jersey cross. And I can't believe I'm admitting this in public but they're bred to a Highlander! So we will have soup bone steers or possibly good milking heifers; they say the Highlander has a high butterfat in the milk. All I'm counting on for sure is HORNS! LOL They're due in a month; should be cute little farts.
I think for chicken newbies it's the most fun to just do a grab bag-that way you can tell them all apart and you get a mix and can see what you like and what you don't... you can't really go wrong with any domestic chicken and if you raise your standards you can always get just the right kind next year! The Around The Farm board has a ton of chicken info for you.
Raising your own eggs and meat is definetly worth it, you soon realise that grocery store food is tasteless.
For chickens go with a heritage or hobby breed, cornish rocks finish bigger but lack the hardiness to deal with the inevitable novice oops. I have free range bantys of random breeding living in the horse barn to despook the youngsters, they are smart, fly well (critical for surviving the aforementioned everything that eats chickens), you just have to double up your eggs.
Start with pasturing some steers for a summer before you decide to commit to breeding stock. I like cross bred steers with white faces - that way when they are at the far side of the field and you try to call them up you can see what way they are facing.
I felt a little squeamish the first time I dropped off anything at the butchers, but when you get the meat back knowing that the animals had a good life and are not full of who knows what, it is all good.
Windward Farm, Washougal, WA- our work in progress, our money pit, our home!
I usually keep around 10 laying hens, and my preferred breed is the Buff Orpington--big girls, able to handle cold easily, steady layers, calm and easy to handle. If all you want are layers, I prefer to keep them confined (not free-range) to protect my investment and collect eggs in a timely fashion. I have an indoor coop, 10 x 25 fenced pen and a larger 40 x 60 paddock that doubles as a "chicken pasture" with 8' no-climb fencing.
My best friend had a large farm growing up and they raised Black Angus--mean, loud, pushy and required hefty fencing. Go to your local farm store and talk with some ranchers/farmers who raise beef. Remember, they take a year and half before they're ready for butcher, or thereabouts.
Proud member of the "Don't rush to kill wildlife" clique!
Thank you for all the responses! To answer a few questions, we have 130 acres, about 40 fenced for horses, most of the rest is crops (wheat, hay, soybeans, etc). I have an nice field I am eyeballing for cows. Water sourse could be an issue, we have a 3 acre pond but it's toward the front of the property, and I'd like to keep the cows more towards the rear.
I'm not looking to breed anything!!!! And it sounds like the Angus are the TB's of the cow world, have enough of them on the farm already!
A small confession, I'm pretty terrified of cows (was chased by a bull as a child), so smaller ones sound right up my alley. Our neighbor has about 10 cows of the smaller variety, and one bull that is a Hereford I believe. He has managed to end up in our field, with no signs of exit of his, or entry to ours, maybe they can jump too? I would just like to raise a few for beef each year, figured two would be a good number as they would have company.
Fencing shouldnt be a problem, when we figure out what's best we will put it up. We have all wood fencing for the horses.
Chickens sound pretty easy, not looking to eat them yet, just interested in fresh eggs. Is a Rooster necessary? And I do know they are easy pickins for the predators, so will really look into building them a safe coop. I love the idea above for a chicken pasture, plenty of space to do that! Thanks for the timeline on the cows, it gives us a little more to think about. I want to be ready for "whatever" and have the option of eating food that we know what's gone into it.
One last question (well probably not), do cows need shelter? I hate to think of anything out in the weather 24/7, would a run in suffice? We have pretty mild winters, the coldest lately has been in the 20's a few nights. I do not want to be blanketing cows!!
Roosters are not at all necessary if you want eggs to eat. You just need one if you want eggs to hatch into chicks.
Cows are both hardy and messy compared to horses. They drink a lot of water and pee accordingly, and their poop is very wet and sticky. So plan on that. We get down to 0F, here, and at most beef cow farmers have a run-in shed. Many just have a naturally sheltered spot in the field and plenty of hay. If anything, summer heat is worse for them.
We have a pair of polled Herefords who were orphans and raised on a bottle. They love to snuggle and have their jaws scratched. The others are Belted Galloway, also pretty chill and darn adorable. We made sure to get ours from a small operation where they'd been handled a lot and we spend time with them to keep them tame. I also wanted hornless cattle. Cows love horse cookies, though hand-feeding is a bit tricky with their hard lips and we had to work on manners.
One thing we learned the hard way is that young cows in general (up to growing a brain at around a year and a half) tend to have a fair bit of energy and athleticism and want to test boundaries. In other words, it's like having a 2 yr old mostly-unhandled horse hopping around in the pasture and trying to see if he can bully you. Cows push harder into pressure, so get someone to show you how to install manners.
Also, cows with white hair around their eyes are more sensitive to bright sunlight, which can lead to pinkeye and other problems. Recommended practice is to keep grass short enough not to rub their eyes and make sure they have plenty of shade.
We always had luck with Black Baldies (Polled Hereford x Angus). Buy weaned steers and feed out until they are approx. 18 mo old. Good to have set of panels to make a pen and feed them in there daily so if you need to catch them they are used to going into a secure, confined area. Will occasionally need to confine them for shots, medical treatment, etc. Fencing-They are hard on a fence....will just push it over if not tight and solid.
The guy that works for us raised chickens, who knew? So definetely a huge help from him...Mr. A and I are going to have to think long and hard about the cows. It might be easier to buy half a cow a year from the local fair, LOL.