I grew up on a small cattle ranch nestled in against the foothills of the North Cascade Mountains. White face Herefords dotted the green pasture like daisies. The sound of my father's old red Ford pickup truck rolling across the dirt track of the long abandoned railroad track called the herd better than any cattle dog.
Every evening from October to May, I drove the truck while Dad tossed out about 35 bales of hay from the back. We've never bought beef from the store. After my husband and I were first married, we ran out of beef (never to be repeated) and had to purchase some meat from the store until butchering time rolled back around.
I had never cooked store bought meat. I had no idea how different it was, and not in a good way. The odor (it wasn't rancid or bad, but it smells different) made my nose curl. I couldn't believe the amount of liquid I had to drain even though I'd purchased lean. And the taste. It was the difference between real sweet cream butter and margarine.
We now have our own herd of natural grass fed beef. I use the term herd generously as we only have 6 cows. Like any homesteading venture, there are pros and cons.
Space-Unlike chickens, cows need more than just a backyard, so you need some acreage to raise cattle. Depending upon your climate, an acre per cow is a good rule of thumb.
Cost of feed-Even with adequate pasture, you'll have to purchase feed for the winter months. Our hay bill is usually around $900 for the year, depending on the season, and going rate.
Fencing-There's the initial cost of fencing. We use barbed wire. It's fairly easy to put up and unlike electric fence where you have to worry about the electrical ground, weeds/brush touching the wire, and a constant power source, barbed wire is good to go. However, cattle can be notorious for getting out of any fence. Be ready to herd them back.
Care-Cattle don't take an extreme amount of care, but they do require some. They need a constant supply of fresh clean water, and during the winter, feeding.
Breeding-If you keep a cow to breed back every year, you either have to purchase a bull, artificially inseminate, or haul your cow to a bull or a bull to your cow every year. Unless, you're lucky enough to have a bull in the neighboring field who hops the fence when it's time, and then goes back home. (This only happened to us one year and was with a bull we didn't mind cross-breeding.) You'll need to know the signs to watch for with an expecting cow.
Taste-You can't beat the taste of naturally grass fed beef. I'd talked about the difference so passionately that a co-worker bought half a beef from us. (This isn't a sales pitch as we can't meet the demand now) After having our beef, his wife refused to ever go back to store bought beef. You can taste the difference!
Price-While the cost of feed can be a lot up front, the cost of natural grass fed beef is much cheaper to raise than to buy in the store. Our local butcher charges a $55 kill fee (divided by how much of the beef you purchase) and $.50 per lb cut and wrap. If you butcher and wrap it yourself, then this cost is eliminated. Beef tastes better when allowed to age and as we don't have the proper hanging facilities, we hire ours out. The average rate in our area is between $2.10 and $2.75 a lb, making every cut of beef around $3.00 a pound, including your expensive cuts of steak.
Plus, you get to decide which cuts of meat you want and how it's packaged.
Peace of mind– I know exactly what goes in to our cows. We buy our hay locally from local fields so I know they haven't been treated. Our own pasture is managed organically, even though we're not certified. (It costs too much for our tiny operation) Our cattle are cared for humanly. I'll never have to worry about my children eating pink slime.
While raising your own grass fed beef isn't for everyone, if you have acreage, it's something to consider. I love that my children grow up knowing where the food comes from. And I suspect they'll be as grateful of that as I am now.
Even if you can't raise your own, you can look for a local ranch, and purchase from them. Or contact your local butcher and ask for referrals.
For more info on raising your own beef, listen to our Pioneering Today Podcast Episode #24 Raising Your Own Grass Fed Beef
Do you raise your own beef? Have you ever tasted homegrown beef?
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I agree that homegrown beef is the only way to go. I don’t have the acreage to raise my own beef but I have a great source (family) for buying it! There is no comparison between homegrown and store-bought. I’m not eating a lot of meat now as I’ve lost my taste for it after adding more whole grains so a quarter weight of beef lasts me a LONG time. It doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg (like the prices charged in health food stores) if you can find a local source to buy your own. Give it a try is what I say!
Kate, a quarter of a beef (depending on the size of the animal to begin with) lasts us about one year. And purchasing it from a local farmer is not only cheaper for you, but supporting a small business, which I try to do as much as possible. 🙂 Thanks for sharing!
I enjoyed reading your article. My husband and I just recently purchased a home with 10 acres in TN. Our home sits back into the woods about 2 acres from the road, then we have about 5 acres open field in the back and then the remainder is wooded. I know it’s not much land, but as I am sure you are aware, if you are not lucky enough to inherit any land it can very expensive to buy acreage. We recently started up our very first garden. Not sure how successful that will be yet, let’s keep our fingers crossed, and we recently began raising our own chickens. I have a few questions for you regarding your personal experience homesteading. Is our acreage too small to raise at least 1 or 2 cows for our own beef supply? And is a dairy cow and beef cow really that different when it comes to the butchering and eating the meat? I may have too big of dreams or aspirations for our small acreage, but if I could have a beef cow in order to provide our family with our own supply of beef and a dairy cow where I could provide our own milk, butter, cream…etc. I would love to do that! Any advice or suggestions? And I have another question for you regarding chickens…we have several hens for egg laying, but I would also like to raise chickens for meat too. Can you recommend a specific breed, number of chickens and an age for butchering?
Hello and congrats on your homestead. We purchased our homestead of 15 acres and I know the joy of owning your own place. Depending upon your growing season, 5 acres of pasture should be more than enough for 2 cows. I’ve never raised dairy cattle, but I have raised different breeds of beef cattle and what the animal eats will determine the taste of the meet. If they’re eating good grass (our cows don’t like the grass under the heaviest wooded area as it tends to be more bitter), clean water, and hay in the winter months, your meat will taste good. Also, making sure it’s aged for at least 10 days preferably 14 days will give you more tender and better flavor meat.
For meat chickens, check out these two articles I did that will answer most your chicken questions. 🙂 https://melissaknorris.com/2014/05/10-tips-raise-chickens-meat-part-1/ and Part 2 https://melissaknorris.com/2014/05/how-to-butcher-chickens-part-2-of-raising-meat-chickens/
I enjoyed your article. We bought the land we did a little over a year ago for the purpose of being able to raise beef cattle. Our pursuit will be much like yours – my husband only plans on keeping 4-6 head of cattle. However, my husband is mainly doing all this as a “hobby” farm and his plan is to get young cattle in early Spring (after tax season b/c he’s a CPA LOL) and to sell them in late fall. He doesn’t want them during tax season. His family has a 320 acre beef cattle farm about 3 hours away that we’ll be getting cattle from to do all this, otherwise it probably wouldn’t be feasible for most. I’m excited about it because while I grew up out in the country with cows all around me, we had only 3.5 acres and didn’t have our own cows. Also, my kids (ages 11 & 12 yrs) are excited about the whole venture. We moved into our house just in Oct so we hope to have all the paddocks fenced in for next Spring. I want to do it “au natural” too b/c for the health reasons but also for the demand – I have several friends already wanting to buy when we raise *if* we do it as grass-fed and no hormones/pesticides, etc. The whole hormone topic is something my husband hasn’t decided 100% on just yet though b/c they do injections in early Spring when they work them and he assures me that in 6 months they have done their job (help the cow grow bigger/beefier) and are out of the system. I haven’t researched it yet.
Leslie, yea for your property and soon to be cattle owner. We don’t use hormones. We butcher our cattle at about 2 years of age. Depending upon your breed, ours are Hereford, they reach a good size by 2 years. Will you be purchasing yearlings then? I look forward to hearing about your ventures with the cattle.
We don’t raise our own but we do purchase beef from someone locally; I enjoy the great taste and it really is a cost savings when you break it down. Things are so strange with store-bought food nowadays, I like knowing my beef is all-natural.
Jen, I’m with you. It’s a win any way you look at it. 🙂
Great post on the pro’s and con’s. These are the kind of questions I always wondered about: how much land is enough; how much does 1 bovine cost to feed; after the cost of hay and any other needed grain, is it REALLY less expensive than store-bought meat? Thanks for all the answers! 🙂
We don’t have any official homestead animals yet (unless you can count dogs and a worm farm), but I’ve dreamed and prayed about getting either goats or cows, and chickens. Assuming I like the taste of goat’s milk, I think that’s the route we’ll be taking.
I’m praying it will happen this year, or even next year. We’ll see what the Lord has in store. I’m REALLY excited about it all.
Holly, we haven’t had goats for milk yet. We did have a pair to eat brush down, but they were males. I’d love to hear about your goat adventures. I’d like to learn how to makes cheese from goat’s milk, so maybe you can teach me!
I know the Lord has great things planned for you. Hope you stay in touch and blessings to you and your homestead.
If we were younger, we would raise grass fed beef on our land(it has been in the family for 150+ years). It is being used to grow organic Alfalfa for a large(100-150) herd in mid-Michigan; milk cows and calfs of various ages. I would like the idea of my calfs being with their mom and all of them living a good life! 🙂
How wonderful to be on family property with that many years of history! We don’t have enough acreage to grow our own feed like you do. Do you get your milk from those cows?
We haven’t tried our own beef yet but Boar goat and Wiltshire Horn sheep – you can’t beat them. We have bought some bobby calves from the slaughter house, AU$450 for 7. Raised them to yearling stage. The milk cost about AU$500 and calf pellets perhaps half that again. We recently sold 4 for AU$3200. Two heifers left and one steer. One heifer has had a calf and raised it, a (now) steer and with the steer from the first purchase that was not sold, we should have our own pasture raised beef for some time to come.
We are on 100 acres and while we have only a few animals it was necessary to buy in hay recently. It has been very dry over the summer so our grass was not sufficient.
However, as can be seen from the numbers above, we can have our own beef/sheep/goat meat and make a little profit as well. Oh, and don’t forget the geese. Great on the table.
Melissa K. Norris
Jeff, that’s awesome. Nothing like home grown!
You can give calvesl goats milk its better than milk replacer and cheaper too.
Thanks for the tip, Natalie! My father used to add a couple of raw eggs to the bottle fed calves as well.
We always raised our own meat so when I learned aobut miniature cattle I thought they would be a great answer to our limited acreage and limited water. Unfortunately no one told me they are smarter than the average old beef cow. my oldest cow (a little black and white long horn look alike) has wrapped the electric fence in a am tangle d figure 8 around her horns, squeezed through, crawled under and jumped over every fence on this place. She leads the herd (of four little cute as buttons cows) into the hay barn on a regular basis. She also leads them to the neighbors to visit their bull when ever one is in season.( Fortunately the neighbor is nice about it and has just accepted a breeding fee!) Last year when she had taken them all walk about. I was trying to turn them back toward the house and she and her henchcows kept darting past me. finally I yelled at her, pointing back toward home and told her to just get on home. You could almost see her shrug as she turned and walked calmly past me back down the road and up our driveway to her own pasture. I have watched her jump a four foot cattle panel and lay down and slither under a barb wire fence. that is the real down side of raising your own grass fed beef!!
Betty, chasing cows has tried my patience many a time, but I’ve never had experience with minis. My brother had a few black Angus, but they were horrible fence crawlers. Your oldest cow sounds like quite the character.
We have a small herd of Red Angus so I have been eating my own beef for about half of my life now. We do corn feed our market animals but also butcher grass fed cows and a bull every now and then. Thanks for this article. Beef are such fun animals. I used to show them in 4-H and I have great memories from it!
Joelle, another 4H girl! I did horses in 4-H and my kids are almost old enough to start. Such an awesome program. We crossed with a Red Angus (the bull who jumped the fence and bred for free) one year with the Herefords. It was a great cross. So glad you enjoyed.
We are small cattle farm …we have cows on grass. Yes we do feed some, use antibiotic, fly tag and worm …. even if you don’t feed w some creep. How do you get around worming them? Grass fed means no vaccines? Would like to know more. What about grass? How is it totally chemically free? Our grass has to have fertilizer to help it grow. REALLY INTERESTED …. Just have gotta questions on process.
We do have worm once year in the spring. We don’t worm through the winter or anytime near butchering. I’ve never had to vaccine. We don’t travel with our cattle and my father never vaccinated either. We spread the manure back into the pasture, but we never use chemical fertilizer. Chicken manure can be another good fertilizer source. The cattle keep the brush down, we did use goats to eat back blackberry vines one year. Hope that helps.
I grew up on a Dairy farm in Arlington Wa. We now have 2 acres and would like to put 2 beef cows on the land. The grass is very tall 3 feet due to neglect. I was wondering if we should plow the land and plant new grass seed specifically for pasture. I’ve purchased grass fed beef before and the meat was ok (didn’t have much flavor) Our second cow from a different person was much better meat. He said it was due the the type of grass he has. What grasses do you have? and should I plow, plant, or mow?
Erik, we’re practically neighbors. 🙂
There are a few things that effect the flavor of grass fed beef. One it the feed. Grass under trees tends to be more bitter, so if it’s forested property, you may consider removing some of the trees. Second is how long the meat was left to age. We always age our beef for at least 10 days if not 14. This will depend on the amount of fat in the meat (ours is considered lean) for the hanging time. But when meat is aged, it is more tender and has much better flavor. Here’s a great article that goes into more depth on the science of aging the beef for taste. http://gizmodo.com/5866754/the-science-of-taste-or-why-dry+aged-meat-is-so-damned-delicious
As for your pasture, I don’t know that I’d go through all the work of plowing under and replanting unless it’s full of weeds, thistles, and not very much grass. But from the sounds of it, it sounds like it has quite a bit of grass. Our pasture is 30 years old, has a mix of grass, clover, and a bit of thistles we’re manually chopping down to keep from spreading. The ground is quite compacted after 30 years of animals, so a plowing under would help with any moss and to loosen up the soil for more grass. We haven’t actually planted grass, but many folks like Orchard or Timothy grass. Mowing will help more grass to come up and allow you to see what else is growing lower to the ground. Keep us updated. Having cattle is an adventure!
You said you give the cows hay for the winter. Can you use a winter grass instead of supplying with hay? We have been considering for sometime getting a cow. We have also been letting nature take over the back 2 acres in hope we will get some trees growing. So the weeds/grass are very high and usually die down in the winter, although we do have a good bit that is cut with the lawnmower. Will the weeds be a problem for the cow. Or I would really need to bush hog it before the cow comes?
Julie, this will depend on your area and climate. During the winter months are grass goes dormant and there’s not enough on our acreage to feed the cows completely. Though they still graze, they couldn’t make it on just the pasture. When it snows, we feed extra hay. Your grass will grow better if you keep it down by grazing. Most weeds aren’t a problem for cows, but you’ll want to identify what types of weeds they are, as some can be invasive and poisonous (tansy ragwort is a noxious weed we deal with here and can be deadly to cattle). Some weeds aren’t harmful, but bitter in taste and the cattle won’t graze as well if there’s a lot. Some weeds aren’t an issue and I don’t pull mine up. We do chop off the thistles before they seed to prevent more and any tansy ragwort we find is uprooted, bagged, and disposed of. If the weeds are inhibiting the grass, you may want to brush hog, but if it’s just tall grass, you probably wouldn’t need too.
Have you ever had Holsteins to eat, many in my area raise them for beef cows? I know a guy in the area who gives his cows, about 1-2 pounds of grain a day, and lets the rest on pasture, and than only gives hay during the winter months. Would you think that small amount of corn would change the taste, and or actually even help them grow quicker. He butchers I think he said about 12-15 months of age and swears the meat is so good.
I haven’t had Holsteins. The small amount of corn helps to add fat, which some fat enhances the flavor of the meat. That small of an amount won’t create a glut of fat. That’s a common age to butcher at and usually creates tender meat, though do ask him to age it for at least a week, two if there’s enough fat for that long of hanging time. Aged meat tastes the best and provides the best texture. You could ask if he had any meat to sample, but it sounds like sound butchering practice. 🙂
Thank you for writing this. My wife and I are moving back to Upstate NY, around Cazenovia, and want to have a small family farm to raise our 2 young boys. This was just the type of info I was looking for. Thanks!
How exciting. My kids are great with the cows, even with the butchering part, we’ve always been very open that we’re raising them for food and beef comes from cows. I’m sure your young sons will enjoy farm life. It’s always an adventure, but one worth having!
Melissa, great article! DRG and I only eat grass fed or free range animals. Sharing this one!
Thanks for the simple list of pros and cons! I have been debating about whether to add a cow to my list of future homestead critters, and this list gave me a lot to think about! Thanks for the great read!
Glad it helped! We definitely think it’s worth it to have the cattle, but it will be up to each individual homesteader and their homestead. Congrats on planning out your critters and livestock. 🙂
Thanks, Todd. I say, once you eat grass fed, you’ll never go back. 🙂
We have started homesteading slowly. We have started raising chickens for eggs. We got a few chickens from my in-laws who have poultry houses and we raise them to egg-laying age. My 5-year old saw me butchering a rooster one day and I explained to him that God gave us animals to eat. He has since seen me butcher more chickens, some catfish, and a deer. Now every time he sees me cooking meat for supper he asks, “Did you skin it?” Haha
We have plans to start raising goats on about 3/4 of an acre. How much land is required for hogs and how many do you have? We live in Alabama if that makes a difference.
Also, for a family of 4, how long would a half a beef cow last us if we eat beef a couple times a week? And what cuts/how much ground beef comes off a half?
Thanks so much!
Sorry, just saw this comment. 🙂 For a family of 4 it will vary on how much beef you eat at a time, say if 2 of you are teenage boys. lol But I’d say close to a year. And you tell the butcher which cuts you want, so say you only want certain steak cuts, a few pot roasts (I don’t like rolled roasts as I’d rather have them as hamburger), and a small amount of stew meat, the rest will be ground into hamburger. It depends on what you request as to how much hamburger you’ll get.
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Thanks for writing this. We just purchased an acre in Florida and are wanting to buy a cow. We recently bought meat from a farm up north, but want to try raising our own. Some say Florida raised cattle tastes dirty due to high highly sandy and dry soil, but I hope they are wrong!! Do you happen to know how long fertilizers stay in the grass? Our grass wasn’t ever farmed so I am not sure what is on it. We aren’t even close to being farmers but…here we go!!!!
Congrats on your property and journey to raising your own beef! For commercial/chemical fertilizers I know it has to have been 3 years in regards to organic certification. So if it’s been three years, you should be good to go. As for putting down your own fertilizer like manure or compost, usually once a year. Though we rake our “manure” the cows poop, across our pasture each spring to naturally fertilize the fields. Does that answer your question?
We have just started a small family farm and put a few cows out on the pasture last fall. A couple are around a year old now and we wonder if we can butcher them. They have been grass fed (hay over winter) and are getting chubby on the spring pasture. Should we give them corn to marble the meat? My husband wants a good steak! Can we leave them in the pasture while we finish them with corn? Everyone around here says to put them in the barn! 2 are hereford steers and also 1 angus heifer. We live near Charlotte, nc. What to do? I can’t screw this up or boy will my husband be disappointed in me!
Congrats on your family farm and cows. You can butcher cows at a year old, but I’d try and wait until fall or until your natural pasture is almost done growing to get the most meat from the animal. We do not corn are cattle. I’d definitely leave them in the pasture. The marbling throughout your meat is done as the cow puts on fat throughout it’s life. When people pen up and corn feed cattle, they’re putting an outer layer of fat on. We never corn feed or pen up our cattle before butchering and they have beautiful marbled steaks. In fact, we’ve had people taste our beef after having beef that was finished on corn, and prefer the flavor of ours. If you decided to do corn, I’d highly recommend only feeding organic certified corn, otherwise, you’re pumping your meat full of GMO feed. We have Herefords and Angus, too. The key to the best flavor is to make sure your butcher lets them hang so they can age for at least 10 days, 14 if time and room allows. Good luck!
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I have a few questions in regards to sustainability and was hoping you could help as you have practical experience. I’ll try my best to articulate my questions nicely:
1. I’m wondering how many cattle (just on average) you would need to sustain two people each year if you were going to eat an average amount of meat weekly? Obviously if you slaughter an animal then reproduction is lost, so how do you determine how many cattle you need to keep on hand just for one family so that it can be sustained indefinitely?
2. I saw you mentioned the 1 acre rule of thumb for food, but I was curious about water requirements and if you need to set up a facility for this. How much water would you need per head of cattle – just on average?
3. Is the reason you need an acre per head of cattle due not only to food requirements but land/ground destruction as well? What would be the absolute smallest amount of land you could raise a cow?
Sorry for all the questions. Thanks in advance for any reply you may offer.
Melissa K. Norris
I’ll do my best to answer. If you’re just two people you’d probably only need half a beef (depending upon the size of the cow at butcher time). We butcher at two years old, so you’d need one cow you breed back, one cow at one year’s old for next year’s butchering, and the cow you’re butchering for the current year.
We fill up an old bath tub with water and for 3 cows, it lasts about 2 to 3 days. Of course, when it’s really hot out, it’s more like 2 days. I don’t know how many gallons it holds, it’s an average size tub.
The reason for an acre is so you don’t have to buy feed all year long. Cows aren’t destructive to the ground like a chicken or pig, other than they’ll eat the grass short (which I don’t consider destructive). If you planned on feeding all year long I suppose you could go on a 1/2 acre, but cows are a grazing animal and will be healthier if they have an area to move around and graze on.
Hope I answered your questions.
Here southeast of Waco Texas, I’ve been told the best ratio is 5 acres per cow. We have temps that easily hit 100 or more and while it’s not constant normally, we had triple digest most of last summer. Ugh! I grew up in the country but for the past 25 years, we’ve lived mostly in town, so ‘farming’ was out of the question. By the grace of God, my daughter and I will be the proud owner of 5 acres in the country in just 3 more days! My fingers are itching like crazy to get started digging and planting and collecting those chickens! I definitely want to get started on raising my own beef. My ‘son-in-law’s family gave us some steaks and hamburger from one of their farm raised cows last summer and I couldn’t believe the difference after living on store-bought for so many years. I did know that beef just didn’t taste as good as I remembered anymore (thought it was just me) and was often tough even if I bought the better steaks but boy was I wow’d over the home grown packages we were given! I was ready to get a calf right then and throw him in the back yard here in town. Hah ha! I don’t know what the Lord has in store for us once we get moved so other than getting chickens as soon as possible, the rest will get done when it’s time. So glad I found this link as you have given some excellent advice and answered many questions I didn’t know I had! Sorry for such a long post!
Lois, how exciting! I can’t wait to hear about your adventures with cattle. There is nothing better than homegrown beef. 🙂
How do you worm.the cattle?
When we worm we pour it on top of their hay.
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Thanks for this article! Kids are raised (in the city as ex-husband insisted), and I am heading back to the country with my high school boyfriend whose kids are also raised. We have been looking at mini-farms, 5-20 acres, and toying with the idea of beef cattle. We both grew up with them, I can’t wait to get started.
Congrats on getting back to your roots! I’d love to hear about your mini-farm once you get it.
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[…] One of the best ways to create frugal meals is to cook a large piece of meat at the beginning of the week. I purchase whole chicken and hams when they’re on sale and freeze them. We raise our own grass fed beef, so I always have a good supply on hand, but you can read my tips for finding a good deal on grass fed beef here. […]
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Great information on grass fed beef. I recently purchased a home (3 months ago) on 20 acres outside of Eugene and would like to raise beef, pigs, and chickens for meat. However, I don’t know where I can buy cows that are born from grass fed cows. I rather not raise cows that may be contaminated by the mother cow eating GMO feed. Any suggestions on how to find someone that sells young cows born from grass fed parents?
Pros and Cons of Raising Your Own Grass Fed Beef
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[…] 6. Beef. I never buy beef from the store. Ever, evah, evah. A half a beef keeps our family stocked for a full year. We generally butcher our beef as two-year-old’s and they generally weigh out around 700 pounds (hanging weight). The amount to keep you in beef for a full year will depend on the size of your family and how much red meat you eat. For more on raising your own beef, check out Pros and Cons of Raising Grass Fed Beef. […]
I appreciate your faith, and am born again as well. Thanks also for the advice, I just retired and want to raise a couple of beef cattle. God Bless
I live in Central Pennsylvania, my grand father always raised steers on our farm. He always brought the steers into the barn after first couple frosts. He said that the grass wasn’t good for beef after the start of winter. He’s not around to ask, but why is this and can I let steers in the pasture during winter month’s?
I’ve never heard that. We pasture our cattle year round. The frost will stop the grass from growing, putting into dormancy, but it’s never been a problem for our cattle or anyone else’s around here. We do start supplementing with hay once it frosts due to the grass not growing anymore. I wouldn’t worry about it, but if you learn more about that I”d love to hear it.
My husband used to raise a few head of cattle on our 5 acres in Eastern Canada years ago. I agree; home-raised beef is second to none! I sure do miss it. It wasn’t mentioned in your article but the amount of manure and a place to pile it may be a requirement in winter….and the winters here can get mighty cold so a solid, draft-free structure (like a barn) is required for the cattle in the winter. That’s when you need a place to shovel all that manure every day. We had four head at the most, but usually only one breeding cow each winter and I was amazed at the amount of waste she produced! My husband also had to carry pails of water, morning and night, in the winter until he got plumbing in the barn. It was a labor of love for him. He truly enjoyed looking after the livestock and I enjoyed cooking it!
We don’t have a barn, so removing the manure isn’t an issue, we drag our fields in the spring and this helps spread the manure over the ground as a fertilizer for new grass. But barns require lots of shoveling out of stalls. 😉
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Clone yourself Milissa………we need more of you!
First time listener! I love you podcast! Two of my favorite things are homesteading and Jesus so it is perfect for me! I have a question. We are adding cattle to our homestead this fall. Brand new to this. We are getting two pregnant red angus cows and the babies will be due in April time frame. We will breed for the future with a bull we will take the cows to. How many years do you rebreed your cows? I wasn’t sure if you rotated out the cows that were bred or used the same ones year after year. We will probably buy a yearlong in the spring so we have a cow to butcher in the fall for this first year. Just curious how you do that? Thanks so much!
I grew up 20 yrs as a ranchhand, but I was in charge or providing the care, safety, movement, tagging, and calving season and calf care. However, I was the skilled labor for a 5th gen rancher, on a ranch with 10,000 head on average, in the southern part of the country.
I now live im northern minnesota, and am looking into raising cattle, pig, sheep, chicken and duck (for eggs and meat.) But to be honest i dont know the herd size needed for yearly self sustainable needs. Breeding calves and raising too full size, slaughter myself, and still replace the yearly number needed to replace our food needs. I know I feel dumb, but I’ve never had small herd knowledge. With levels of females who aren’t successfully pregnated and making sure we have enough to keep our family needs replenished.
Also, pork and sheep for both wool and food. Looking to maintain needs but not over produce even with the land we have could handle more. I want to impact a smaller portion of our land. We have other land use needs. Any advice appreciated.
I like how you mentioned that you can taste the difference between naturally grass-fed beef and store-bought beef. My uncle just bought a farm and was telling me how he wants to raise cattle and sell the beef to local places. I’ll tell him about how he should buy naturally grass-fed cattle and then continue to feed them natural grass. I think that doing it this wat, he can have the best-tasting beef around his town.
Great podcast/article. I know it was a while ago, but just now discovering. Thank you. Like you mentioned in your podcast, we are the rancher that buys weaned calves in spring and sell all of them in the fall. All grass-fed. Because of the short hold-time, the gain isn’t great, but that’s just a low-maintenance way for folks do it in my part of the state (TX) – no birthing issues or winter feeding.
We’d like to transition to marketing the beef, but you made the good point that one-year old cattle don’t produce a great deal of meat (when sold in the fall, to avoid carrying in winter). We have a reputable USDA-inspected processor nearby, who works mainly with craft beef producers. Would it make more sense buy the weaned calves in the spring like we do now, but feed through winter, and take them to the processor the *following* fall, at 18 months? Let the pasture heal during processing and marketing/shipping, and then buy the calves again the following spring? Or maybe stagger out the processing between, say, 14-18 months? Seems buying the calves each year would make for a narrow margin… Or am I overthinking it… I’m only talking about a 15-20 animals. Or would it make more sense to buy five heifers and bring in a bull, and rotate them every two years, like you do? Sorry for all the questions, but you are a great resource. Many thanks!
Hi Melissa! It’s Jemmie-Lynn Winchester here. I love cattle and goats as well as porcupines. I used to have the goats eat my garbage but then they got sick and well, long story short, we dont have goats anymore. (so sad) Also, my cattle are Herefords. I just went to Junior National Hereford Competition to watch. So delightful. Also, my cattle are on 55 acres. Is that enough land? I have about 200 head. I love them. Nice little babies. My favoritie is named Waymire. <3