Farm Location is extremely important for a successful Small beef cattle farming
or ranching operation. You should select your farm location wisely.
Is the enterprise compatible with the community.
Is the property zoned for large animal production?
How many animals can you have?
How will neighbors react to the project?
resource is of utmost importance. Some acreages may or may not be suitable for pasture production.
Is irrigation water available?
When is the water available?
What kind of an irrigation system is in place?
You may need to contact a local irrigation company to find answers to some of these
A corral or dry lot must be available to keep the animals in when irrigating or when the
pasture needs a rest.
Corrals are also essential if finishing cattle on grain rations.
If there is adequate acreage you may consider farming and raising some of your own
feed. Realize that it is expensive to own and maintain equipment. It may not be economically feasible to own
equipment, although custom operators are sometimes an option.
Forage Production and Carrying Capacity:
There are several factors that affect forage production: season, rainfall, availability of
irrigation water, soil conditions, soil fertility, plant varieties, and grazing management.
Pastures are normally grazed from early spring into late fall or usually only about
half the year. During some years grazing may be available for a longer or shorter period and must be planned for.
In most areas the greatest forage production and quality for grass pastures usually occurs from May 15 until July
Cattle performance and carrying capacity are related to and affected by forage
production and quality. Carrying capacity and cattle performance are not simple to predict and will change from
month to month. For example, during the month of June you may be able to graze five, 500 pound calves per acre and
have them gain two pounds per head per day. However, during the month of August you may only be able to graze
three, 500 pound calves per acre and have them gain one pound per head per day. This presents a challenge to your
pasture management but must be planned for if you are to be successful.
The Human Resource:
You and your family may gain a lot of satisfaction from raising a few cattle. Children can
benefit from the added responsibility and families can be strengthened as they work together. However, the project
will require a commitment of time. Even when cattle are on pasture they need to be observed daily to make sure that
they have adequate feed and water and to assure that they are healthy.
In the production of cattle on small acreages it is not necessary to provide more than the
basic facilities. Some necessary facilities would be a means of constraint such as a head gate and alley way,
trough or feeder for supplemental feeds, and proper fencing. There must also be available a clean and continual
source of water to the animal.
Humane care of animals is legislated and must be adhered to so provide facilities that
will accommodate animal welfare. These would include care for the animal in all aspects of its life, such as proper
feed, handling facilities, shelter and the removal of any or all conditions which may inflict stress on the animal.
If unsure of any of these principles consult with your local Extension Agent or Veterinarian.
When cattle need to be treated or handled it is necessary to restrain them for their
safety and the safety of the people handling them. Commercially manufactured squeeze chutes offer excellent
restraint, however, they are expensive. Plans are available from the Extension Service for building homemade chutes
constructed of metal or lumber. These are generally adequate when handling a small number of cattle.
Good fences are important to insure safety and good relationships with neighbors.
Electric fences are useful for pasture management, and perimeter fences should be sufficiently strong, high and
tight to contain the animals. A four and a half foot fence made of woven wire, six strands of barbed wire or a
combination of the two is adequate. Corral fences should be at least five feet high and constructed of wood or
metal. Woven wire and barbed wire are not recommended in areas where cattle are being crowded or handled.
Troughs are necessary if cattle are being fed grain. A feed bunk or commercially
available feeder is necessary to minimize waste when cattle are fed hay in a confined area.
Cattle do well in the cold of winter if they have a wind break and a dry place to bed
down. Corrals tend to get wet and muddy in the winter and spring. Cattle either need some high dry ground or a