Cicero once related Cato’s thoughts on raising cattle; the Senator held it the noblest of professions.* (Cicero, De Officiis). The intervening centuries have seen cattle ranching ebb and flow in both popularity and technique. Yet the mystique has remained.
In the West cattle ranching is associated with land, money and power. It’s also a necessary facet of our lives. It provides food and employment. Most of it comes from larger farms and fields. However, raising cows on the homestead or the small farm can be profitable and give a sense of increased self-reliance.
Photo by Perrin Lovett.
Vince Tuscano writing at Survival Life offers 10 Tips for Raising Cattle. If this is something you have thought seriously about, then this is a must-read article. Herein I summarize Tuscano’s advice:
One. Be Careful When Choosing Your Calves.
There is a relatively steep learning curve to successful cattle ranching. Starting the herd is the most important aspect of the endeavor. Tuscano recommends buying quality stock from reputable suppliers. He says you must educate yourself and be smart in shopping. Local advertisements, auctions, and the internet are the places to find feeders and calves. Make sure you purchase healthy cows. Seek out help if you need it.
Two. Cows Need Shelter.
Cattle of course need shelter from the elements. However, they have their own unique requirements as well. They need a structure that is ventilated but not drafty. Cows produce copious water vapor. It must dissipate in order to keep them healthy.
Three. Grazing Land.
Cows require proper space and that space must be managed for their needs. You need to research how many cows your land can feasibly support. The land should be divided into areas for grazing and for resting. Those should be rotated at intervals. There is also the matter of adequate fencing.
These are not necessarily the government inspectors who may show up from time to time. Deworming the cattle is critical for their continued success. Consult with veterinary experts and research which options are best for you and your herd.
Cows eat a lot. In addition to the grass in your pasture you will probably need to supplement their diets. Feed is available from better livestock stores. You must make sure you bovine charges get the right nutrition.
Six. Grass is the Best Food.
Cows eat grain and hay and other plant matter. They also need minerals (salt) and nutrition supplements. Grass is always the best option though. Grass feed may be purchased through stores but your field should be or could be the primary source. Make sure you have fertile soil and the right growing conditions.
Large farms use computer programs to mix and automate the feeding process. They involve a lot a science. This may be overkill for the homestead but it illustrates the importance of proper dietary considerations.
This is the birds and the bees for heifers and bulls. Breeding of course produces more calves and perpetuates your herd. Your cattle must be kept healthy in order to reproduce successfully. Tuscano recommends learning about the requirements for breeding. This will strengthen the process and produce healthier offspring.
Eight. Climate Matters.
Cows can adapt to many different environments. Still they need basic consideration for optimal performance. Rainfall and the supply of water are extremely important. In addition to pasture irrigation, one must consider water for the herd itself.
Nine. The Soil.
As I mentioned above, fertile land is critical for proper ranching. If one is buying land specifically for grazing, then the quality of the land is a hard selling point. Tuscano insists that farming without fertilizer does not work. Cows do produce their own manure but to start and continue the process your soil may need enrichment.
Ten. Water, Water, Water.
Just as they eat a lot, cows drink a lot of water. One should consider rainfall, creeks or springs, wells and holes for the herd. Tuscano suggests cows need to drink a minimum of 12 gallons per day. You must make sure they have an adequate supply to keep them healthy and happy. In cooler climates one must also think about heating and ways to keep ice from preventing hydration.
Photo by Perrin Lovett.
Raising cattle is not necessarily a simple undertaking. However it can be highly rewarding. It can provide you with food, income, and exercise all at the same time. It can also better connect you with nature.
If this idea interests you, please give Mr. Tuscano’s article a thorough review. His tips will make your ranching smoother and more productive. If all goes well you will join the ranks of the time-honored ranchers. Raising cattle is still a wise and noble field.
*An uppity young man asked the mighty Cato what was the most noble profession. The Elder replied, “To raise cattle with great success.” When asked the next he said, “To raise cattle with moderate success.” The third: “To raise cattle with slight success.” The young man finally jumped the gun and asked, “How about money lending?” Cato answered, “How about murder?”
Research shows that we should be consuming raw milk, but the government wants to make it illegal! Read more right here.
Perrin Lovett writes about freedom, firearms, and cigars (and everything else) at www.perrinlovett.me. He is none too fond of government meddling.