From the learning experiences offered by raising playful bucket calves to the pitcher of fresh, whole milk or a juicy, t-bone steak sitting on the kitchen table, there are a multitude of benefits that can come from raising your own cattle. Any homesteader that is looking to become more self-sufficient should take a step into the world of beef or dairy cattle.
There’s nothing quite like doing. No book or magazine will ever teach as much as an afternoon spent working with and handling a group of cattle.
You’ll begin to move a little quicker, understand the pressure points of the animal, and learn from whatever situation arises. From playing vet tech for an injury or illness to watching (and practicing) the proper way to milk a dairy cow—there will always be something to do.
Quickly seared in a hot, cast iron skillet and then baked in the oven until it’s the perfect tenderness, your steak is almost ready. Drizzle a few spoonfuls of melted butter over the top and set it on a loaded plate of mashed potatoes and sweet garden corn. It’s dinner time!
When raising your cattle, you get to decide not only what they’re fed, but how they’re treated, the pastures they graze in, medications given, etc. You can choose whether to feed more grass or grain and, over all, create the meat that you want.
When the time comes to take them to the processing facility, you’ll get to choose whatever cuts of meat you want: t-bone steaks, chuck steaks, arm roasts, rump roasts, ground hamburger, etc.
Fresh Milk & Dairy Products
If the cattle you choose to raise are dairy cattle (Holstein, Jersey, Brown Swiss, etc.) you’ll find you get two benefits—sweet, whole milk and new baby calves!
Cows don’t continually pump out milk without having babies to tell their bodies to produce it. While calves can be an extra challenge to care for, you might also find them helpful if left to nurse on the cow. This can help cut back the amount of milk you have to carry into the house each day.
If you find yourself overrun with an abundance of fresh milk and cream, you can try your hand at making homemade butter, ice cream, cheese or yogurt. What used to be common everyday tasks are now rare, novel ideas.
Why not revive them and start sharing some fresh butter or cheese with your family and friends?
Grassland that has grown overrun with trees and brush is an eyesore and oftentimes a challenge to the owner. (Unless, of course, you mean this land as a wildlife habitat or for a specific use.)
Keeping on top of a pasture by regular grazing and upkeep (cutting out trees, noxious weeds, fixing fences, appropriately-timed pasture burning, etc.) can lead to a beautiful and productive piece of property.
Income from Excess Product
When all the dust settles from your first herd of beef or dairy cattle, your freezers will overflow with fresh beef and your fridge with sweet, whole milk. Instead of tackling the abundance with a feeling of dread, why not make the most of it and start selling or bartering with those in your community?
Homegrown hamburger, steaks, roasts, whole milk, butter, cheeses, etc. could be traded for a variety of things. Just be cautious that you’re not giving the meat away too cheaply. You want to be fair, but meat has become a valuable commodity.
Make the most of it and research before you set a price.
If you decide you just want to barter with someone, look for things you need and would use. For example, seek out a local chicken farmer that would trade fresh eggs for milk or a few laying hens for some beef.
You can look at manure from two different perspectives. It’s either nasty and stinks or is a wonderful resource that can be reused in your garden and flower beds!
Before you decide to cover your garden with it, be sure that you’ve let it dry in the pasture or pen until it’s hard and will break apart easily.
Later in the fall, after your garden is empty from the year’s plantings, use a rototiller (unless your plot is big enough to use a tractor) and work it into the ground. It will take some time for the manure to do its job, with the best results usually being after a year.
Stress Relief & Daily Dose of Cuteness
The last benefit is definitely the most fun. Calm cattle can be relaxing to be around. And new baby calves are just straight up adorable!
Children will love playing with a calf. And a laid-back group of cattle (or a cow) can be enjoyable just to have around the homestead. I love it when the heifers or cows have moved into the pasture behind our house during the winter. I can stand at my kitchen sink washing dishes and watch them peacefully graze their days away.
Whether you decide to pursue beef or dairy cattle, do your research. Read the books and make lists. But most importantly, talk to someone with experience.
Find a local farmer, rancher or homesteader that is willing to take a little time and visit with you. Make notes, ask questions, look at their cattle (if possible) and appreciate the time they give you. They’re all busy with their own work too, so it’s pretty special when someone will take an hour or two and walk you through the steps, give advice, or share their phone number for any future problems you might run into.