General Introduction to Small Beef Cattle Ranching
General Introduction To Small Beef Cattle Ranching for
anyone wanting to get into the cattle industry as a first timer.
So You Want to Raise Some Cattle?
Anyone looking to raise a few head of cattle, for profit by selling to feedlots,
directly or for home use, needs only a few small acres, the right equipment and, of course, a knowledge of the
business and the methods and science. Before you purchase even a grain of feed, you
should consult with the local resources available, which include county extensions, veterinarians, other ranchers,
neighbors, etc... who can give you a general overview of the work and investment in time and money involved as well
as the business of raising and selling cattle.
For a family, raising a few head of cattle can be a very beneficial and rewarding
experience. It not only can yield fresh milk and delicious cuts of beef, but it can bring a family closer together.
In children, the therapeutic effects of animals and contact with animals is widely known, and working the ranch and
assisting in the day to day activities it requires to raise cattle can instill in them a good work ethic and bring
a family closer together.
First things first Make sure to check your local zoning
regulations, town and state laws regarding livestock, and other area restrictions and rules governing ranching and
farming. The government and states offer tax assistance programs, loans, and other financial and resource
incentives to encourage the preservation of land, farms and agricultural resources, so check with local officials
about the availability of these programs.
The first thing you must consider is your location. Do you have the available
land and other resources to house a few head of cattle? Generally and ideally, one cow needs roughly 2 acres, but
this can vary, and it is possible to raise a few head of cattle on an acre if it is tended to in the right way.
Make sure adequate water is also available.
Your particular climate will determine forage and pasture production for your ranch.
Rainfall, water availability, types of forage available and soil conditions are a few factors you need to become
aware of prior to putting cattle to pasture. Cattle performance is directly related to forage production, so it is
very important the quality of your land not be taken for granted. Different times of the year will also affect the
productivity and gain of your herd, so know how your land reacts seasonally and prepare
accordingly. For a few head of cattle, you will need to have the basic facilities,
including fencing, constraints, trough or feeders, shelter, a corral and a squeeze chute for handling. These can be
purchased commercially or designed and built by you.
The cattle choice
If you plan to put your cattle on pasture, avoid
animals with excess fat. These animals don’t gain good weight in the first month. Buy cattle that look healthy,
make sure they have been vaccinated. Obviously, cattle with small frames finish lighter than larger framed cattle.
They also require different feeding needs. For consistency, the beginning rancher should buy cattle of a uniform
size so the herd can be uniformly managed.
Make sure to study the particular breed you would like to purchase. Rather than
list the more than 50 in America and the hundreds worldwide here, contact your local extension or do an Internet
search for "Cattle Breeds" to determine what breed works best for your goals, available land and climate.
You can buy cattle from a variety of sources, including other ranchers, beef producers,
the local markets, newspaper ads and the internet. Get to know the local market so you know hat prices you will be
Feeding, health and nutrition
Cattle of different weights must be
treated differently. Cattle under and over certain weights (generally under 450 or over 700 lbs.) do not perform
well in pasture, and should instead be placed in confined situations and fed with feed mixtures, including
Vitamins and minerals must also be provided, either through diet or through
supplements. Food will consume a majority of your budget, but it is one of, if not the, top priorities you need to
consider. Talk with a local veterinarian or extension office to determine the best diet for your particular cattle.
They can help you design a program that will be specifically suited to your animals.
Make sure also to vaccinate your cattle to disease. Vaccinations initially should
already be injected upon purchase, or, once purchased, have a local veterinarian administer them for the first time
and show you the process.
Once your cattle achieve their desired weights you can sell them in a variety of
ways. Take them to the local auction market, by private sale, ads in the newspaper, just about any way you can
think of. If you would like to butcher the meat, you can have the animal slaughtered and packaged by a local
butcher and then sell to retail outlets or feed your family and neighbors.
Cattle ranching requires an intense amount of time to learn the ins and outs of the
business and become familiar with all aspects of the industry. It can be extremely rewarding, and can provide an
alternative or primary source of income, or a means to feed your family with some of the best beef you will ever
Keeping Cows Cool