Cattle

Have you ever thought about owning a house cow but don’t know where to start? Do you dream of unlimited raw milk, manure and beef to complement your small farm activities? Or maybe you’ve never given it a thought. Here’s why I think you need a house cow on your farm.

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If you only have a few dairy or beef cows on your farm, it is possible to keep your cows in calf using artificial insemination (AI) and not own a bull at all. A bull can be extra work and an extra mouth to feed, but there are some advantages to keeping a bull, even on a small farm.

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 With summer fast approaching, now is the time to start thinking about summer drenching of cattle as part of your strategic roundworm control program. In  south-eastern Australia, Ostertagia ostertagi (small brown stomach worm) is the major cause of production losses from worm infections in cattle.

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Purchasing bulls can be one of the highest costs associated with cattle breeding and running a small beef herd.

Owning a bull 
Bulls are the most cost effective when they are mated with the largest number of cows possible, as the cost of the bull can be spread out over a larger number of calves. Bulls can safely be mated with between 40-60 cows. However, for the majority of small landholders this number of cows is out of reach.

Purchasing and mating a single bull is risky as this animal could easily suffer injury, infection or disease and become infertile. Single sire herds also require a replacement bull when the bull’s daughters return to the herd. Owning more than one bull can create cattle management problems. For example, when bulls fight they can injure each other and damage farm infrastructure.

Owners of small beef herds should consider bull/herd sharing, bull hiring and artificial insemination as worthy alternatives to bull ownership.  

Bull sharing involves two cattle farmers buying two bulls together.

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This is one of the most common questions I get asked by clients who are either looking to set up a new farm or deciding which bull to use this season. It is a tricky one to answer and one that can incite a riot due to the amount of passion breeders often have for their chosen breed.

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There are over 50 recognised breeds of small or miniature cattle throughout the world. To be classified as a small breed means that the breed is governed by a height regulation although every breed has different interpretations of how these restrictions are applied. The two largest breed societies, in terms of financial members, are the Australian Lowline and Dexter. 

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An understanding of animal behaviour is very important as the greater your knowledge the better your ability to predict an animals response. Whilst some handlers have a natural ability for many the skills are gained from observation and practice. Over time you will also learn to be instinctive and sense when they are ill, distressed or hungry and know what their signs are. Remember that cattle are also clever and can learn to be very cunning.

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Some basic infrastructure will be required if you intend to run livestock. The quality and cost will depend on the number of head, production goals and the docility of your animals.

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For small or new farmers, purchasing and transporting livestock is not as simple as turning up at the saleyards, buying your animals, putting them in the back of your trailer and taking them home.

 

There are a number of legal requirements, which can incur hefty penalties if not observed, when it comes to owning, transporting and selling livestock. Some are state imposed and will vary depending on where you reside whilst others are mandatory national regulations.

 

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 The prosecution of a grazier for cruelty and failing in the duty of care to transport only animals fit to travel has recently received widespread media attention, highlighting the obligations of all involved in transporting stock.

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