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
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.

     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. 

     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 encountering.

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 corn-based diets.

     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.

Selling, marketing
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 taste!

Keeping Cows Cool 


 Red Beef Cattle Barn