This cattle raising beginners guide to keeping cows for beef will cover how to find a calf and raise it to butchering size. We will look at what types of cattle make the best choice to raise. And we will look at what it takes to raise cattle on a small farm or homestead.

I have raised a couple of steers to maturity on less than an acre. They lived with the rest of the critters in the pen. Not being one who cares what people think, I also staked them out on the trampoline so they could eat the grass. Cows like grass, goats, not so much.

Cattle Raising Beginners Guide – Basics

Raising cattle requires only a few basic things for success. Mainly those things are proper fencing for containment, a source of water and food. Of course  you need the animal or animals too.

Because where we live is dairy country there are always lots of inexpensive calves available. When they are little you can even transport them in a minivan. Their main source of nourishment will be from the bottles you will feed them a couple times a day. If you keep goats too, this is simple. Just give the goat’s milk to the calves. You can purchase cow milk replacer to start your calf out.

The First Three Months

The most crucial part of raising beef cattle by hand has got to be the first three months. Sometimes they get scours (diarrhea). When this happens you may have to tube feed them. And you need to get them electrolytes. While you are feeding them milk, you also need to make sure to offer hay and water and perhaps a bit of grain at all times. The University of Kentucky has put together a good tutorial on raising beef cattle for the first three months.

How To Tube Feed A Calf

Having two people to accomplish this task makes success much more probable. In my experience, you should go ahead and get the electrolyte solution and tube when you pick up your milk replacer. Questioning the people who sell you the calf about colostrum feeding is also important. Don’t purchase calves that have not been given colostrum.

For the first two weeks you need to feed them 1 calf bottle full of milk or replacer 3 times a day. From two weeks to eight weeks you need to feed them twice a day.

This short sweet video will show you how to feed them if you need a holder. Personally I just held the bottle.

Sheltering The Calf

In the beginning your calf will need some shelter. If you have a barn like structure that will work or you can purchase a calf house. If  your plan is to raise cattle regularly then the houses might be a good investment. You can also use them for your goats when  you don’t have baby calves hanging around.

How much space to cows need

How much space cows need is partly dependent on whether you are going to purchase hay to feed them or graze them off your land. In order for them to feed off the land you need about an acre a calf per year. It will take at least two years for the calf to reach maturity. You also need more than one calf if you don’t have sheep or goats to keep it company.

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I raised my cows as singles but had many goats and sheep around for company. We even had a llama for a bit. We also kept them in a smaller pen but staked the cow out to graze around the yard. We only had an acre total. It does increase the cost substantially when you are feeding your livestock from hay you have to purchase.

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What Do Cows Eat

Cows eat mainly grasses and alfalfa. Usually farmers who raise cattle also farm alfalfa fields to winter the cattle over once the snow falls. Of course in our area, the deer also feast on the alfalfa and hay left out for the cattle. This might go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway. Straw and hay are not the same thing.

Straw is the stalks from grain and hay is alfalfa plants. Straw is great for bedding as it has wonderful insulating properties. Just not so much in the nutrition category. Quality hay is important for growing quality beef. You will also supplement with grains.

What Are The Different Types Of Beef Cattle

Around here we focus on two types of cattle. Angus, a bit more pricey but has more in the meat to bone ration than the other type, Holsteins. The Holsteins are the most common cattle found around here for individuals interested in raising beef. You can tell them by looking for the black and white markings. Angus are mostly dark in color. Personally we just raised Holsteins as they are cheap and easy to acquire in these here parts.

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But there are plenty of other cattle breeds out there. Along with Angus and Holstein, there are Herefords, Galloways, Jerseys, and even a few dual-purpose breeds such as Dexters and Shorthorns. Each individual cow will have its own temperament, environment requirements, and needs, so do your research and figure out which breed will be best for you and your family. To learn more about a variety of different cattle breeds, check out this article from

Best Fencing For Raising Cattle

Cattle are pretty satisfied with electric fencing or even woven wire fences. If they are raised in an area where they can test the fence and it gives them negative feed back you don’t have to worry too much about them escaping. However if you have a gate and they can get out, they will find it.  Mine used to escape. Being the barrier of food my cows would RUN at me. Talk about terrifying! I used to have to get my son, who is fearless, to go round them up.

How Long Does It Take To Raise Cattle

Usually it takes at least 2 years to raise a beef to maturity. The last three months or so you want to up the grain ration to make sure you get some good marbling. In the future I plan to work with a friend who also wants home grown beef. We will get 1 calf each year. That way every year we can butcher a steer to split while still having a cow coming up for the next year.  We plan to do this with sheep too.

How Do You Get A Cow Butchered

The last part of our cattle raising beginners guide has to do with getting it to the table. How do you get a cow butchered? You can butcher a cow yourself. Or you can take it to your local butcher and have them do it. I opt for the taking them to a butcher option. If you are hard core you can follow these directions and do it yourself. Personally dressing out a deer is a big project for me. The idea of processing a whole steer is WAY to daunting.

How To Slaughter A Steer Humanly

You need to be signed into youtube in order to watch this video. The taking of any animals life is pretty traumatic. I believe if we all processed our own meat we would eat WAY less of it. Notice at the end that he has a tractor. Once that 1300 pound animal is dead  you aren’t moving it very far without help. The easiest way to butcher an animal is if it is hanging.

Once you have slaughtered your beef this video will show you how to make cuts of meat you recognize.

There you have it! Your cattle raising beginners guide to keep cows for beef.

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