Owning Cattle - The Basics

This information is provided for first time livestock owners as a starting point only. Basically, cattle need pasture, shade, fresh water, ongoing care including annual vaccinations and monthly pour-one treatments for ticks and parasites. If you want them to show or to keep as pets, they also need contact with their owner. 

Talk to People: Stay in touch with the people you purchased your cattle from. If you are a first time livestock owner, get to know other people in your area with cattle. Most people find that 'cattle people' are generally really helpful people. They usually don‘t mind being asked what you might feel are ‘silly questions’. If you can team up with a couple of other people who also have cattle it can help immensely. You get the opportunity to share information, ideas, costs and worries. You also get to share all the enjoyment of owning these little cattle with people who know what you are experiencing.

Pasture: Pasture is the mixture of different grasses, legumes etc that are in your paddock. The greater the variety of grasses and legumes in your paddock the better the nutritional value the pasture has for your cattle. It is probably wise to seek local knowledge on the type of weeds you may have on your property that are poisonous to cattle. Talk to your vet or a farmer who lives near you about these things.

You need at least three paddocks so that the pasture can be rested and the cattle get a fresh paddock regularly. Alternatively, if you only have one large paddock you can divide it into three. You can easily use inexpensive electric fencing to divide up one paddock. A small battery or solar powered transformer and PVC tread in posts with a strand of poly wire is all you need.  Most transformers are no bigger than a 1 litre milk container and can be run on D cell or 12 volt batteries. Battery powered transformers can be purchased for under $200 and the white tread in PVC posts under $6.

Boundary fences need to be well maintained and strong enough to contain your biggest, most adventurous animal. Four or five strands of wire, barbed or plain, with star pickets and timber corner posts and stays, should be sufficient. Most cattle won’t test fences if all their needs are being met on 'their' side of the fence.

Shade: Every paddock should have mature trees that the cattle can’t wreck or at least a solid shade structure where cattle can get out of the sun. Make sure the shade is always available in the middle of the day in every paddock. If your cattle  have a double coat and don’t usually need shelter from the cold, but they do need shade. Cattle will suffer in the heat until they shed their Winter coat. Shade is a must.

Fresh Water: Cattle need a water container or trough in the paddock that is monitored and topped up regularly or an automatic trough. Even automatic troughs need to be checked occasionally to see that they fill properly. Ideally the container needs to be deep enough for the water to stay cool or to be shaded in the heat of the day. If the cattle have access to a dam or pond that is fine - as long as you don’t mind the water being fouled and the edges of the dam/pond being eroded.

Contact and Care: At least once a week, look carefully at your cattle and even run your hands all over them if you have time. By doing this you will remain familiar to your cattle and you will be able to notice when things change. You will be able to take note of the condition of the animal and their coat. You will also notice things like too many ticks, flies, cows preparing to calve and odd behaviour. 

Regular contact also means that you will know when young heifers are coming 'into season' and when bull calves need to be separated from cows. If heifers are too young to join with the bull you can make arrangements before unwanted pregnancies occur. Regular contact also makes checking cattle closely when they do have problems much easier.

If you notice your cattle are losing condition (getting skinny) you need to add extra hay or other feed to supplement their pasture. If they are getting too fat you might want to cut back on the extras or

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