A Beginner’s Guide to Cattle Farming

What is Cattle Farming?

Cattle farming involves keeping bulls and cows for meat (beef) or milk (dairy) purposes. Cattle feed on grasses, legumes, roughage, etc. That is why they are called herbivores and they are also known as ruminants (because they have one stomach with four compartments). In Nigeria (West Africa), commercial beef cattle farming is very common, especially in the Northern part of the country.

Terminologies in Cattle Production

Some common terms in relation to cattle are:

  • Bull: Adult male cattle
  • Cow: Adult female cattle
  • Calf: Newly born
  • Bull calf: Young male
  • Heifer: Young female
  • Bullock: Castrated male
  • Spayed: Castrated female
  • Calving: Act of parturition or giving birth
  • Serving or service: Act of mating
  • Gestation: Pregnancy and it is 279 to 287 days

Is Commercial Cattle Farming Profitable?

Yes, cattle farming is profitable. However, profitability depends on knowledge and proper management. This enterprise can be lucrative, based on the fact that management principles and fundamental knowledge have been known.

White fulani cattle
White Fulani Cattle

Cattle farming is the management of bulls and cows for beef and/or milk production purposes. In commercial cattle farming, the goal of production is to make money by selling live cattle or animal products (meat, milk, etc.). This enterprise is divided into three sub-production types, based on the purpose of production.

  • Beef cattle farming – for meat (beef) production only.
  • Dairy cattle farming – for milk production only
  • Dual-purpose farming – for both milk and meat production.

Just like any other farming business enterprise, you need to carry out a feasibility study before going into the cattle farming business. Before anyone can start a cattle business, he or she must be sure that feeds and herbage are sufficiently available for the cattle. Cattle are herbivores, i.e., they eat vegetables. Another thing about this business is that location and climate have a great influence on the performance of both bull (male cattle) and cow (female cattle). For example, cattle that have their native home in a temperate region may not survive or perform well in a tropical region. Therefore, before starting a cattle farming business, the following points must be noted.

Facts About Cattle Farming

  • Cattle farming is highly profitable
  • It requires patience and could be a long-term business if well-managed
  • It is a capital-intensive farming business
  • It is a labor-intensive business
  • Cattle farming can be done under different systems which include feedlot system, cow-calf system, grass-fed system, grass-fed and grain-finished system
  • It requires a vast land size, property and adequate, clean water and water resources. This is because cattle drink a lot of water every day
  • A well-established and rich pasture is required
  • The farmer needs to have a good knowledge of genetics and breeding
  • Proper management is required in order to get the best out of the animals
  • Sheds and barns are very important. Trees should be on the farm as they will serve as shade when the ambient temperature is high
  • Fencing of the farm is very necessary
  • The services of experts such as veterinarians, nutritionists and breeders are vital

How to Start Cattle Farming

If you are considering entering the beef cattle business, there are various things that you have to take into consideration before doing so. Let’s face it, the current economy has people looking in various directions as a way to earn a better living, and if you have the advantage of having an ample space of land, this may be something that you would consider as your own business. This is something, that if done right, can be very profitable, but you need to figure out exactly what niche of the industry you are going into and also factor in some things that you may not at first have considered.

The first step you will want to take is deciding on the exact market you are going to enter. Your choices are:

  • Beef (cattle meat)
  • Dairy (cattle milk)
  • Cow calf (young cattle sale)

Each of the markets above has its own characteristics, and the resources that you have available will also narrow this down. You may find that what you have available will significantly reduce the selections available to you in the beef cattle business.

Your location is the first resource that you must consider. Is your property zoned for large animal breeding and how will your neighbors react to the new business that you are undertaking? The last thing you want to do is get all setup and then realize that you are not zoned or have your neighbors filing petitions with the local health boards trying to block you.

Next, you must take a serious look at the land that you can dedicate to your business. Things like irrigation and the ability to have a separate area to coral your animals are essential. Having the ability to produce your own cattle feed is also something that you will need to look into.

Based on the kind of market you are targeting, you must select the most suitable cattle breeds for maximum profitability and efficiency. For beef production, you should be looking at breeds like Ndama, Angus, etc. while for milk production, cattle breeds like Holstein Friesian and White Fulani (Bunaji) are recommended.

The human factor is a huge concern when you are considering running a beef cattle business. This is not an absentee business, and you or your family and staff are going to have to be present to monitor the cattle at all times. They are going to need to be observed to ensure that they are all receiving the proper nourishment. Cattle are a significant investment, and losing just one animal can affect the profitability of a small operation dramatically.

The actual purchasing of your animals could be considered a specialty in its own right. Purchasing the correct animals is very critical to the success of your cattle business. For example, you will not want to purchase an animal that is too fat. The characteristics that you are looking for are a lean, but well-maintained animal. This will give you your best shot at raising healthy cattle. Another consideration is the frame size of the cattle. When breeding, you will want all of your cattle to have a like frame, mixing and matching large frames with small frames can be a disaster as the different frames will dictate different styles of care.

Now, of course, there is much more to having a successful cattle business than these few details, but it will give you a general idea of the complexities that are involved. It is a very detail-oriented business that you are going to have to stay on top of at all times.

Getting slack at any time can result in your cattle not being adequately cared for and, of course, reducing your profits or the actual condition of your cattle. Learning how to care for them and get the most out of your cattle is going to take significant education. Like most new business ventures, you will want to learn as much as you possibly can before diving in.

There is a lot of information available on the internet on beef cattle farming. However, I have added a link to a free comprehensive eBook on cattle production. This ebook covers every aspect of the cattle-raising business that you can imagine.

Please, read the ebook well and note every important information in it. Before you know it, you can have a very successful beef cattle operation that is providing a good living for you and your family.

The table of content is as follows:

  • 1.  Introduction
  • 1.1 Meat production
  • 1.2 Beef production
  • 1.3 Production systems
  • 2. Production constraints
  • 2.1 Post-weaning stress
  • 2.2 Late puberty onset in heifers
  • 2.3 Long calving interval
  • 3. Production strategy
  • 3.1 Nutrition of the cow
  • 3.2 Effect of suckling and weaning
  • 3.3 Late(r) calving
  • 3.4 Other considerations
  • 4. Cow Management
  • 4.1 Calving
  • 4.2 Culling
  • 5 Bull Management
  • 5.1 Selection of bulls
  • 5.2 Courtship behavior
  • 5.3 Shy breeders
  • 5.4 Single sire system
  • 5.5 Multiple sire system
  • 6. Breeding and selection
  • 6.1 Selection
  • 6.2 Crossbreeding
  • 7. Nutrition and grazing
  • 7.1 Green grass loss
  • 7.2 Compensatory growth
  • 7.3 Young animals
  • 7.4 Fattening stock
  • 7.5 Breeding stock
  • 7.6 A full ranch
  • 7.7 Minerals  
  • 7.8 Water
  • 8. Grassland and grazing
  • 8.1 Management practices
  • 8.2 Burning
  • 8.3 Permanent or rotational grazing
  • 8.4 Drought management
  • 8.5 Supplementary feeding
  • 8.6 Feed trial
  • 9. Health
  • 10. Handling
  • 11. Record keeping

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Akinbobola A.

I'm a livestock farmer, certified animal scientist and agro consultant. You can follow Livestocking on Facebook and Twitter. Click here to send me an email
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2 thoughts on “A Beginner’s Guide to Cattle Farming”

  1. Good morning sir.
    My name is Olabamiji Afeez, a strong follower of your content write up.
    I am unable to download the ebook attached to cattle farming. Kindly assist by sending it to my email.
    Thanks God bless


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