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Get The Facts About Raising Cows


The urge to enter the world of raisin cattle is one that drives many small-scale farmers and homesteaders. However, they face significant challenges before they even have hooves on the ground. There are a number of factors that must be considered before any cattle investment takes place. Here are some of those considerations.

Cows are big. Bigger than many other types of livestock. Although this may seem an obvious observation, it influences the type of infrastructure and sheer space that is required to host them. firstly they require extensive space - much more than other types of popular ruminants such as goats or sheep. Cows also represent a significant financial investment as far as purchase and maintenance are concerned (even mini-cows are pricey).

1. Decide the end goal.

Cows can be raised to supply milk, meat or as a source of offspring for sale (although this can also be a byproduct of other focus areas - and generate additional income). Each of these paths requires a different approach.

The investment in cows is more than the upfront cost. A cost/benefit analysis must include the time spent managing and caring for the animals and the ongoing resource costs.

Colt Knight, a state livestock specialist at the University of Maine emphasises the point that deciding 'why' a cow is being raised is pivotal to the success of the enterprise when he says “It makes a huge difference in the type of land and infrastructure you need.” Ashley Robbins, livestock and field crops agent for Chatham County at the North Carolina Cooperative Extension echos this statement “They (the farmer or homesteader) need to decide what their goal is going to be,”

2. Small-scale farming for milk is expensive.

Cows only begin to produce milk at around two years old. That means the sunken cost of raising milk cows is significant. It is only after giving the first milk (colostrum) to a calf that the cow will be ready for commercial production of milk.

However, it is worth noting a comment by Ashley Robbins who states that a cow will continue to give milk for up to two years with calving again, as long as they are milked regularly. So it is possible to recoup those sunken expenses. However, deep pockets may be required to bring the cow into the production process.

However, selling milk is also a complex business due to stringent controls and government regulations governing production.

Selling milk, however, can be difficult because of the rules and regulations governing dairy production. Knight cations that small-scale dairy farming is very rarely profitable.

Profits and sustainability can too a large extent depend on the regulations in specific states. For instance, 13 states, including Maine, Pennsylvania and California allow farmers to sell raw milk in retail outlets. 17 other states allow for sale on the premises of the farm. Eight other states only allow the sale of raw milk when 'cow share' agreements (farmers are paid to house, feed and milk) are in place. If you would like to learn about rotary milking parlour then see here.

3. Beef farming.

Farming for beef also comes with some challenges, including just where the meat is going to be processed. there is an increasing demand for homegrown (and in some cases organically raised) beef. However, butchering is a specialised business - in all probability, it is a process that will have to be outsourced. Agreements with licensed processing operations are at the bedrock of profitability.

Grass-fed cows will be ready for market at around 28 to 30 months old. Again, there are sunken costs in raising that cattle that must be taken into account. The sunken costs of grain-fed cattle are slightly lower due to the fact that they are ready for slaughter at between 15 to 16 months.

Home consumption of beef is a different issue. Buying a stocker or heifer that weighs between 600and 700 pounds is recommended. Keep it over the summer and it will put on significant weight. In the fall a processor will provide you with the cuts that you require. Knight emphasises that the requirements for processing for home use are a lot less stringent than those where the meat is destined for market. In that case, the facility must be inspected by state or federal licensing authorities - and each processor is evaluated according to whether the meat is for in-state use or will be travelling across state borders.

The key to raising cows successfully is research and a laser-like focus on the end result. Without due diligence, small-scale farmers can quickly find themselves out of their depth.

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