6 Books About Keeping Cattle For Beef, Milk & More

These six books offer invaluable advice for anyone curious about starting with cattle, from keeping a beef herd to milking cows to butchering and more.

by Ashleigh Krispense
PHOTO: Jonatan Rundblad/Adobe Stock

Over the years, my home library has grown extensively on a variety of homesteading-related topics, from gardening and seed saving to raising cattle, horses, goats and poultry. I enjoy having a wide range of books close by to refer back to when needed. 

Whether you’re just mulling over the idea of buying a couple of bucket calves or you’re already neck-deep in raising and caring for your own herd of cattle, these books cover a variety of bovine-related topics. While they’re not in order by my particular preference, I do consider them to be more advanced the further down the list you read. 

cattle cows beef milk books
Ashleigh Krispense

Storey’s Guide to Raising Beef Cattle by Heather Smith Thomas

Ever wished for someone to tag along behind you and answer all of your bovine-related questions? If yes, then you need this book!

The extensive tome covers a wealth of topics in its more than 300 pages, including:

  • choosing and caring for your calf
  • basic nutrition requirements
  • appropriate pastures and fencing
  • understanding how to keep your herd healthy
  • breeding timing
  • care for pregnant cows and the calving process

This book offers a great start for anyone looking for a solid overview of raising beef cattle. 

Getting Started with Beef & Dairy Cattle by Heather Smith Thomas

Now if the idea of homegrown beef is just as intriguing to you as fresh milk every day and you’re not sure which direction to head, this book will give you a look into raising both beef and dairy cattle. It includes a brief overview of a variety of beef cattle breeds, the basics of cattle nutrition and a look at the breeding and calving processes. 

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In the next section, Thomas dives into dairy cattle as she shares about selection and care of dairy breeds, as well as the breeding and calving processes. 

The book then concludes with an eye-opening discussion on owning your own dairy, covering such topics as:

  • developing a business plan
  • ways to diversify
  • pasture needs
  • milking schedules, milk flavors
  • differences between raw and pasteurized milk

In the back, you’ll find 16 pages of glossy color photographs of a variety of cattle breeds, too. 

Read more: Considering cattle? Here are 7 reasons to start your own herd!

Essential Guide to Calving by Heather Smith Thomas

While the thought of your own heifers giving birth might seem daunting, this book will help prepare you to navigate the various stages of the calving experience. You’ll learn about everything from caring for both the cow and calf, to identifying and treating illnesses such as scours, pneumonia and bloat.

With over 300 pages of information, black and white photographs, and pencil-drawn illustrations, this book will be a great resource to help familiarize yourself with the calving process.

The Cattle Health Handbook by Heather Smith Thomas

An essential guide for any cattle-keeper serious about raising and caring for a herd, this book holds a wealth of information and personal stories on a wide variety of topics. It’s the kind of book you’ll want to spend the evening curled up with, just soaking in the personal stories and information. 

In the beginning, you’ll learn about the basics of good herd management, including immunity, vaccinations, stress minimization, illness and treatments, and proper seasonal herd management. 

Thomas dives into everything from bacterial and viral diseases to bloat, hardware disease, pinkeye, warts, shipping fever, foot rot, lump jaw and a variety of udder ailments. 

Within these 370 some pages, you will find helpful suggestions, explanations and preventive measures to take in the future, along with black-and-white photos and pencil illustrations. This is a great resource to keep in your barn office or homesteading library. 

The Art and Science of Grazing by Sarah Flack

A more in-depth look into the specific topic of grazing, Flack provides a compact book with over 200 pages of beautiful color photographs and chapter after chapter of information on such topics as:

  • good pasture management
  • plant varieties
  • nutritional needs
  • health problems to watch for
  • how to set up  good grazing systems

In the back of the book, you’ll find a chart of different pasture problems you might run into, both livestock- and plant-related. 

Butchering Beef by Adam Danforth

Eventually, the time will come when your cattle have reached butchering weight. Then it’s time to either haul them to the meat locker or butcher them yourself.

If you’ve toyed with the idea of harvesting beef at home, this book is a great guide to familiarize yourself with the process beforehand. It also serves as a guide for humanely slaughtering animals, methods of butchering, cutting and processing the harvested meat into various cuts of steaks and roasts, and more.You’ll even learn how to properly package and freeze your meat.

Chock full of photographs, Danforth presents an informative guide for anyone considering butchering their own beef. 

Hopefully you found a book on this list that can answer the questions you might be facing, whether related to starting a new herd or tackling new approaches to caring for your current cattle. It’s good to keep in mind that, while books can be a great resource or starting place, at times the best bet is talking to a trusted rancher or local vet for practical solutions and advice. So make the most of all opportunities around you and keep your phone book handy alongside your reference books!

Please note: A book’s inclusion on this list does not indicate an endorsement of all content or advice it contains.

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