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Armen Vorobyov
Armen Vorobyov

Where To Buy Beef Calves

Raising beef cattle for profit can be a satisfying enterprise. However, there are a number of management skills that each beef producer should have to be successful. Each livestock enterprise has different resources: land, labor, capital, feed, and management. To raise beef cattle sustainably, you must manage these resources.

where to buy beef calves


In addition to managing resources, new producers must ask themselves, What do I need to get started? This question involves considerations for the type of animals a producer wishes to raise as well as where to find these animals, how to select them, and what equipment will be needed for the operation. Producers also need to consider how they will feed their animals and what health care practices they will use to keep the animals healthy. Savvy producers will let markets identify the type of animals they should raise in order to generate a profit. This fact sheet may be used as a guide for beef cattle producers just getting started in the industry to learn:

The first thing to decide when starting a new beef cattle enterprise is what type of animals to raise. This decision should directly reflect the markets a producer has available to sell beef cattle and consider the resources available on the farm and the producer's individual goals.

Beef cattle may be used to produce meat or generate seedstock (breeding animals). The intended markets may dictate what breed or breeds are best suited for the operation. Some producers choose to breed females to produce calves to sell for breeding stock or market animals. Other producers may prefer to purchase weaned animals, also known as feeders, to raise to market weight.

Each livestock breed has different traits for which they are recognized. Breed associations can provide information on those traits and help you narrow your decision regarding what breed or breeds fit best with your operation. Beef cattle breeds are often divided into maternal (cow) and terminal (sire) breeds. Maternal breeds are typically moderately sized and recognized for their ability to raise healthy calves. Terminal breeds are generally a bit larger in their size and commonly used for meat production. In addition to these two classifications, composite breeds of cattle also exist.

There are two methods to select livestock: animal performance and visual appraisal. Animals should first be selected on performance (e.g., how well calves grow or how much calves weigh at weaning), and then the higher-performing animals should be evaluated visually.

After the appropriate animals are chosen for the operation, the equipment necessary to maintain those animals must be gathered. Beef cattle operations can be low input but still need a variety of equipment. Basic equipment includes feeders, water tubs or watering systems, and health care equipment. Because safety is a concern when managing these large animals, beef cattle operations should also have equipment for handling cattle.

Feeders should be used to prevent animals from eating off the ground. Well-designed feeders will also prevent animals from wasting feed by spilling it onto the ground. There are potential health concerns when cattle eat off the ground, including parasite infections; however, feed costs represent the primary input cost on any beef cattle operation and as such, feed waste is a driving factor for feeders.

Many different sizes and styles of feeders are available for beef cattle. Some feeders can accommodate feeding both hay and grain, while others may be designed to feed just hay or just grain. Producers should be sure that all animals have access to the feeder if feeding at specified time frames. If animals have free-choice access to the feeders throughout the day, smaller feeders can be used.

Beef cattle of all classes should always have access to a good-quality mineral mix formulated for their production needs. Most producers provide beef cows and grazing cattle free-choice minerals when on pasture, while others limit-feed minerals daily in a grain mix.

Larger operations often feed hay in the form of large round or square bales. Many styles of hay feeders exist, but the inverted-cone-style feeders are often recommended for beef cattle as they usually waste the least amount feed waste.

Many beef cattle, particularly mature cows and bulls, graze pastures throughout the spring, summer, and fall. Producers should pay close attention to pasture height in an attempt to maximize forage utilization. Pastures should be subdivided to provide an adequate amount of forage for the grazing time, often four to five days. Animals should be moved to a new section of pasture by the time forage has been grazed down to 4 inches in height. Rotating pastures ensures the nutrients from manure are spread out and that cattle utilize available resources efficiently. Continuous grazing can cause forage stand damage in overused or high-traffic areas and encourages weed growth in other less-desirable areas of the pasture.

A good-quality perimeter fence contains livestock inside the pasture and keeps predators out. Many producers prefer high-tensile fencing with some wires electrified. Subdivision fencing divides larger fields into smaller areas to better manage forage growth. Subdivision fencing for beef cattle can often be a single strand of polywire with step-in posts to reduce input costs. Most cattle will respect one strand if it is electrified.

Hoof trimming is another health care equipment item. Hoof trimming is not considered routinely necessary in most beef cattle operations. In addition, most beef cattle must be put in a tilt table in order to have their hooves trimmed for the safety of both the trimmer and the animal. Therefore, many beginning cattle producers will contact a professional should hoof care be necessary.

Larger equipment may be used by beef cattle operations to allow producers to handle or manage animals more efficiently. Producers can use a scale to monitor animal growth performance at weaning and other times throughout the year. A scale should also be used to weigh animals to calculate the correct dosage for medication treatments. Three types of scales are often used by livestock producers: beam, dial, and digital.

Most feeder calves and finished cattle are bought and sold on a weight basis. Therefore, because the economics in beef systems are based on pounds of calf to sell or weight of finished cattle, scales are an important part of cattle operations. Scales can also help monitor weights at critical times throughout the year, such as breeding, weaning, and so on. All scales should be tested to ensure accuracy. Simple scales can be placed in line in a handling system.

Handling system equipment allows producers to more efficiently handle animals. It functions by gathering animals into a group pen and then funneling them into the chute. Animals walk single file down the chute, where they are held for routine health care or sorting. Gates at both ends of the system contain the animals while producers perform tasks. Gates can function by sliding back and forth or up and down like a guillotine.

If the beef cattle operation intends to use implants to increase growth performance of market animals, a handling system should be used. In addition, if the operation desires to breed using artificial insemination, a handling system is a must.

Cattle will cycle throughout the year. However, managing a defined breeding season will help improve the efficiency of the cow herd and marketability of the calves. Most productive cattle operations maintain a single breeding season. While many operations breed animals to calve in the spring when weather is warming up, some may choose to calve in the fall to take advantage of a less saturated calf market. Purebred cattle used for seedstock are often bred to calve early in the year, January or February, so that those animals can enter the breeding herd at heavier weights.

In most instances, cattle give birth outdoors and, thus, calving season is timed to start when weather warms up and grass is available on pasture. However, some producers prefer to breed earlier in the breeding season in order to market at specific times in the summer or fall. In other situations, producers may breed earlier so that calves are older and heavier while on pasture.

As a cow nears her time to give birth, she exhibits several signs that the birthing process will begin. Shortly before calving, the udder will begin to tighten. This tightening is the udder filling with colostrum. Colostrum is the first milk and it contains antibodies that help protect newborn calves from disease.

Typically, most beef cows calve on pasture and require little assistance. If assistance is required, inexperienced producers should consult a veterinarian or an experienced producer for assistance. Assistance may be required if a calf has not been delivered within six hours of the water bag appearing or if the cow is found straining and the water bag appears to have already been ruptured. Always use caution when trying to work with or around laboring cows or cows that have recently delivered. Dams will defend their young well against predators but may turn this aggression on an unsuspecting human trying to tag or examine a new calf as well.

Pay close attention to newborns for the first couple days after birth. Mothers should be attentive to newborns and willing to stand for newborns to nurse. Newborns should stretch when they stand and appear alert. Newborns that cry for their mother or rush to nurse as soon as they get up likely are not receiving enough milk. Weak calves may require feeding with a tube. Consult a veterinarian or an experienced producer for assistance.

Grain supplements are most often used for growing cattle or in times of pasture shortage. Feeding grain to growing cattle increases weight gain. One common grain feeding practice is creep feeding, the practice of supplying good-quality grain and/or hay to young calves while they are nursing. This boosts weight gains and body condition, or level of fatness. 041b061a72


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