When someone thinks about raising their own livestock, they might picture the physical benefits that the animal will offer them such as fresh milk, cream and meat. But what you might have overlooked are the slightly-less tangible things a family can benefit from. These include a chance to grow a greater work ethic, the patience learned while working with an animal, and knowledge to not only care for animals but also deal with any emergencies that might arise in the herd.
Here are just some of the lessons raising cattle can teach you and enhance your family’s homesteading experience.
Grow Your Knowledge
It’s amazing how much better you learn something once you’ve done it for yourself, whether it’s locating milk replacer and mixing a bottle for the first time or researching what a proper feed ration looks like for your steer.
Raising cattle will throw you into plenty of situations where you learn important lessons and (hopefully) come out knowing a little more than you did before. As your animal grows, you’ll get a chance to learn more about mixing a proper ration of roughage, energy and protein, as well as where you want to source your ingredients all from.
If an emergency situation arises, you might need to either pull out something you learned about treating a particular ailment or contact a local vet for further direction. While books can be helpful resources, so can local ranchers or veterinarians. But once you’ve dealt with a situation, you’ll be more prepared should it arise a second time.
Expand Your Skill Set
Have you ever had to build a fence? What about a shelter? Or a feeder? Sometimes a person has to get creative when they’re starting out with a new endeavor (especially if they’re not looking to break the bank).
Eventually, you might learn other lessons and pick up important skills such as roping a steer, fixing a broken wire, sorting and moving cattle, pulling and backing a stock trailer or managing grassland.
Strong Work Ethic
Even if you don’t have a dairy cow that needs regular milking day in and day out, cattle need a regularly scheduled feeding (which can help to avoid bloat) and access to clean water.
Caring for your animals doesn’t quit on Christmas Day or pause when you want to go on vacation, so it’s important to really think through what you’re signing up for before you bring them home. Once they’ve arrived, though, you might find their company enjoyable and come to appreciate the little bit of routine and structure animal care adds to your day.
Teach Patience & Gentle Handling Practices
Sometimes the animal just doesn’t want to go where you want it to. Period.
While you may feel the temptation to get angry and loud, a gentle approach can be effective to eventually coax the animal into place. Working with and moving around cattle can be rather daunting, as they’re generally much larger and heavier than us, and this can give one an uneasy feeling if they can’t read animal behavior or predict movements before they happen.
As you work with and around large animals, though, you’ll learn where their flight zones are and where to stand, as well as when to back off and stop pushing them forward.
My husband and I recently started a new project, and it’s interesting how we’re gaining connections and going places we never needed to go before. We’re learning things as we go and beginning to make different (and hopefully better) decisions based on what we learn from others.
As you continue into the world of cattle—whether it’s at sale barns, veterinarian offices, local extension offices, coops, feed mills or farm supply stores—you’ll get opportunities to visit with folks and make connections you might find helpful in future scenarios.
So whether you decide to dive right in for those tangible benefits like fresh milk or beef, or you’re looking forward to exciting life experiences ahead, now might be your time to jump into the world of raising cattle!