How to Start and Succeed in Cattle Farming

How to Start and Succeed in Cattle Farming; Cattle Farming is certainly a daunting undertaking, especially for beginners, perhaps the reason why many people opt for dairy farming, which they consider easy as they can readily learn from other farmers. But just as in dairy, beef cattle production requires good knowledge and expertise.
There are various reasons why a person might want to raise cattle. Some raise large herds to sell, others, in the case of dairy, raise them to sell their milk. Many raise cattle to show in fairs and other local events. In today’s economy, many families are deciding to raise cattle for their personal use. Whether you want to have a few head for your family’s needs or raise a herd to sell, there are a few basics about how to raise cattle; from purchasing land to selecting the cattle you want to raise.
If you plan to breed dairy kinds of cattle, when purchasing, pay attention to the following factors: Heavy milking cows are always characterized by the barrel shape mid-body, large belly, weak muscles, thin but strong bones. This indicates well-developed lungs and digestive system. Dairy cows have long light head, small thin horns, not sharp and forked withers. Special attention in examining the body structure should be paid to the udder. Dairy, cows, as a rule, have greater udder, it is mainly covered with fine sparse hairs. After milking it significantly reduces in volume and becomes soft. Whereas in contrast, low-yield cows’ udder is almost unchangeable in volume. Udder shape is also important.
The productivity of cows is considered to be the highest in the first period of lactation and gradually decreases to its termination. With age, the lactation productivity increases to the seventh, and then gradually decreases, so you need to know the age of the animal. It is better to know the exact date of birth, but if this cannot be established, the age is determined by the number of cylinders on the horns, which indicate the number of calving. You must add 2 years to this number.
If you plan to produce beef, you should know the main requirements when choosing breeds: high growth rate of young animals for a long period of time; big live weight; high-quality carcases; great return from the feed;

READ ALSO: How to Start and Succeed in Snail Farming Business


Steps to Consider on How to Start and Succeed in Cattle Farming

1. Make a business plan
2. Your reason for cow farming and the type of operation to embark on
3. Location of the cattle farm, its fertility and availability of market
4. Type of cow and breeding practices
5. Get and prepare the necessary facilities, Machinery and equipment
6. Begin with a handful of cows
7. Feeding programme
8. Animal health
9. Technical support
10. Record keeping
11. Continuous acquisition of knowledge

Steps to Consider on How to Start and Succeed in Cattle Farming


1. Make a business plan

Have a good realistic business plan. Make a list of what you should do, the number of cows you want to have, the type of farm you want to have. Determine how long you want to be in this business. And also remember that you will be starting small.
Am not saying that you can’t start big if you want to but it is wise that you should grow this business in a gradual steady process for great success.
Do a SWOT (Strength, Weakness, Opportunity and Threat) analysis of yourself and the cattle industry you will be entering. Plan what kind of cows you want without looking at any breeds, and what kind of farm you wish to operate.


2. Your reason for cattle farming and the type of operation to embark on

You should give yourself the reason for rearing cows. Are you rearing them for meat, milk, hooves, horns, for their hides & skins? Or do you want to sell to those who are producing these products? If you are really sure of this, then you can proceed to the next step.
There are two main types of beef production enterprises to engage in. First is the production of weaner calves for sale and second, fattening young stock for slaughter.
The choice depends on the resources at your disposal such as land size and amount of financial capital as well as proximity to the market.


3. Location of the cattle farm, its fertility and availability of market

Find a location for your cattle farming. This is you should like and be confident with the location. The location should not be far to the nearest market or it should not be far from the town. This is because of easy transportation of your cows.
It is advisable that you should acquire a land that is big for space purpose (for wandering and farmstead). The land can be purchased or leased. When leasing or buy the land, you should have in mind that the land should have good green pasture because grasses are essential for cows.

ALSO READ: The Secret to Success in Piggery Business


4. Types of cow and breeding practices

A beef farmer can keep either improved local cattle breed or purebred beef cattle of exotic lineage. It is prudent to start with the improved animals and breed up through high-quality bulls.
Local beef animals take less capital, are readily available, mistakes done are less costly, needless experience and training.
As you breed upwards, you gain knowledge and experience on how to better handle your higher potential stock at a time when they require intense management skills.
When grading up, do not be afraid to invest in quality bulls with data on heritable traits of economic importance such as birth weights or weaning weight.
Other important considerations regarding breeds are ease of calving, heat and humidity tolerance, market acceptance, growth rate and carcass quality.
Local breeds to consider are the Boran and Sahiwal, which are well-adapted to most areas, especially the arid and semi-arid regions where beef farming is the main economic activity.
Such breeds can be crossed with Hereford or Charolais.
Producers will need to decide between purebred and crossbred cattle. It is important to note that crossbred cattle have “hybrid vigour”, meaning that they usually perform better than purebreds.
For those entering into dairy production, here are the lists of breeds you can purchase;
Sokoto Gudali
Adamawa Gudali
White Fulani
• Tregian

However, those who are interested in meat production can purchase breeds like;
West African Dwarf Shorthorn (Muturu)
Kuri… etc


5. Get and prepare the necessary facilities, Machinery and equipment

Analyze your operation and your financial situation to see what you need (not what you want) for current facilities, equipment and machinery. Fencing, watering facilities, feed bunks/troughs or bale feeders is priority above all other assets needed. A tractor, haying equipment, trailer, handling facilities and other buildings are also important.
• If you have chosen a dairy operation, you will need multiple buildings and a milking parlour with stanchions to be able to run your operation, in addition to calving facilities, a calf barn, and a barn to hold cows when they’re not being milked.
• When deciding upon the type of stanchion to use for milking, there are several items to consider: first, have the cows been milked before and what are they used to? It is best to keep the same type of stanchion. If you will be raising them yourself, research the different types to determine what would work best in your situation.
• With beef cattle, quite often fencing, some sheds and water sources are all you need, especially if you are wanting to raise a grass-based beef operation, be it finishing beefers on grass or a cow-calf operation. The exceptions are if you are willing to spend extra money on winter feeding costs and supplementing your cows with grain, or if you are wanting to run a feedlot.


6. Begin with a handful of cows

Don’t go whole-hog and buy as many cows as you can stock on the land you bought for a whole year. Buy good cows, ones that have great conformation, temperament, mothering ability and forage convertibility (among other things), and avoid those that look thin and are close to breaking-down. Heifers may be an option if you wish to wait for 2 years until you sell their calves; 3-fers/3-in-1’s or bred cow with calf at side is another option, since you can sell the calf in a month or two, and wait for another few months before the cow calves out. Experienced cows tend to be easier to manage and handle than heifers.
• Avoid buying a bull if you only have 4 or 5 females; buy a bull only if you have at least 10 cows, or do not wish to use AI (artificial insemination) any longer. If you have only 2 or 5 cows, AI is the cheapest and best (but not always the most effective) option for breeding all your cows. If you don’t want to use AI, then rent a bull or find another cattle producer that will agree to keep your cows for a couple months to have his bull breed them for you.


7. Feeding programme

Do not embark on stocking your farm before having a feeding regime. A good feeding regime should be pasture-based but balanced in terms of nutrient provision.
It is cheaper to grow your own pasture. Begin by carrying out a soil analysis of your land to determine the minerals and trace elements, which may be lacking.
This will be followed by improving the existing pasture by reseeding and applying sufficient fertiliser as appropriate.
You may also decide to establish new forage crops or pasture stands ideal for the type of soil and climate in your area.
Don’t try to produce pastures on poor land with poor fertility as it won’t pay off.
A mower is one of the pasture’s best friends as the machine eliminates weeds and bushes while clipping old pasture to keep the grass tender and of desired quality.
If you are using hay, it is important to determine its quality by taking a sample to the lab for analysis and supplement accordingly, but care should be taken to avoid grain overload in the supplementary ration as this will cause nutritional disorders.
It is advisable to buy feeds by the truckload instead of in sacks. Monitor the weight gains of your herd by weighing the animals regularly.
For instance, to end up with a 600kg grass-fed steer in two years, the animals will need to gain about 750g per day to meet the challenge.


8. Animal health

The service of a good veterinarian is required for the effective running of your cattle farming business. Being an expert, they will assist you in managing your cows to reduce or prevent diseases, and reproduction. Unlike the veterinarian, there are some things which you might not understand, watch and learn from them and ask them question if things don’t seem right.
Be truthful with your vet when he or she asks questions about your management practices to get the best health care for your animals.
Vaccinate your cattle as recommended as this is key to prudent disease control. In the long run, it will cost you dearly to treat conditions that might have been avoided through vaccination at low cost.
Observe your cattle frequently and closely to be able to detect ill-health and attend to injuries and disease conditions promptly.
When dealing with death, do not wait until the umpteenth animal is lost to have a post-mortem performed. Track down the cause of death as soon as possible with the help of your vet.
Parasites are thankless thieves, therefore, deworm your cattle regularly and control ticks and other harmful organisms by applying acaricide regularly.
Try to identify plants that are toxic to animals to minimise cases of deaths due to fodder poisoning.


Signs to know if your cow is sick

• High temperature (fever)
• Loss of appetite (less food and water consumption)
• Aborted breathing
• Weight loss
• Deep coughing
• Nasal and eyes discharges
• Bloody diarrhea or feces.
• Depression; cows do have depression you will notice (drooping head and ears, excessively slow movement, lagging behind the rest of the herd, and lack of enthusiasm to get up when approached.)
• Low activities; a sick cow will trim back from the daily activities.
This is why it’s required for you to have the service of a veterinarian who will help in administering them with adequate minerals and medicine for better upkeep.
• Pests and diseases of cows; below are the listed possible pests and diseases that might affect your cows-
• Redwater; it is caused by the blue tick. The Signs of red water are fever, lack of appetite, red urine, pale to yellow gums and eyes, and sometimes nervous signs such as difficulty in walking.
• Heartwater; the Signs of this disease are fever, depression, high-stepping, leading to convulsions and death. Heartwater can be treated with Tetracycline.
• Gall sickness; this diseases can be spread among cattle by blood, for example by biting insects, or injecting the animals with the same needle used with infected cattle. The signs of this disease are depression, lack of appetite, fever, pale to yellow gums and eyes, as well as constipation.
• Tick damage; Ticks can cause severe damage to cattle, particularly around the udder and ears. The wounds will often get infected with microorganisms and might be hit by flies.
To avoid all this cattle diseases or pest from affecting your cattle, the service of a veterinarian is highly recommended.


• Signs that show your cow is in heat

A heating period means when a cow is ready to mate with a male cow. Cows typically show estrus, or signs of heat, approximately every 21 days. The signs you can notice when a cow is in heat are;
• The cow’s milk production drops.
• It produces a clear discharge from the vulva.
• Mounting other cows and allowing other cows to mount it.
• Pressing its chin on other cows.
• Increased urination.
• Displaying aggressive behavior like butting.
• Alert and restless behavior.
• Dilated and enlarged vulva (the external reproductive organ of the cow)
• Sniffing, licking of the vulva, lip curling.

• Signs that shows a cow is pregnant

• Bulls will not show any interest to any cow that is pregnant.
• The cow’s udder begins to fill out more and reach maturity.
• Forming a seal in the cervix to protect the fetus from foreign bodies (bacteria and soil from entering the uterus.)
• Pregnant cattle will not or should not come into estrus or “heat” for the entire duration of the 9.34-month (285 days) of a gestation period.
• You will notice the fetal or fetus heart beat.


9. Technical support

Every farmer requires good technical support to be successful. Having a qualified veterinary doctor to visit your farm regularly can save you lot of costs amounting from medical expenses. It is also important that a farmer has a nutritionist visit the farm once in a while to advice on the feed to give the cows in the different lactation stages. Soil analysts are also important because if your soil lacks certain nutrients needed for cow development, then the crops grown on it will most likely also lack the same.


10. Record keeping

The most important records are your financial records because these records determine whether your operation is giving you net income or loss. In Canada, it is mandatory that you have records of all the animals on your farm in addition to RFID tag information for each and every animal that is bought, sold or born on your farm.
Other records include breeding/calving, health/vaccinations, purchases/sales, and assets in your operation.


11. Continuous acquisition of knowledge

A good beef farmer is perpetually hungry for knowledge. This hunger is satiated by:
1 Visiting and discussing your problems with successful beef producers.
2 Contacting your county extension livestock specialist or the animal husbandry department of an institution of higher learning near you.
3 Reading livestock publications such as Seeds of Gold. Study all the knowledge sources and select only what can be applied to your farm.


Final Thoughts

On how to start and succeed in cattle farming, adapt your management practices and marketing strategies with the times.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here