• Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
permaculture forums growies critters building homesteading energy monies kitchen purity ungarbage community wilderness fiber arts art permaculture artisans regional education experiences global resources the cider press projects digital market permies.com private forums all forums
this forum made possible by our volunteer staff, including ...
master stewards:
  • Nicole Alderman
  • r ranson
  • Anne Miller
  • paul wheaton
stewards:
  • Jocelyn Campbell
  • Mike Jay Haasl
  • Burra Maluca
garden masters:
  • James Freyr
  • Joylynn Hardesty
  • Steve Thorn
  • Greg Martin
gardeners:
  • Carla Burke
  • Dave Burton
  • Pearl Sutton

Why cattle over other animals?

 
pollinator
Posts: 148
Location: Monticello Florida
28
homeschooling forest garden foraging chicken wofati food preservation wood heat homestead
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Why should someone keep cows? What are they good for? Why cows over other animals? Any opinions are great, Huxley.
 
pollinator
Posts: 2283
Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
179
books composting toilet bee rocket stoves wood heat homestead
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
The fixation on cows is a very American thing. I read fairly recently that the early settlers viewed them as a sign of wealth, when compared to other animals and as something to generally aspire to.  Here in the UK sheep are common, and personally I much prefer the flavour of good lamb over beef anyway.
 
Posts: 291
Location: Carbon Hill, AL
23
  • Likes 5
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Here in the southeast US it boils down to what sells.

Beef sells period.  There is always a buyer.

Unlike goats, sheep, and hogs.

Minimal upkeep, minimal infrastructure, minimal predators compared with other 4 legged meat animals.

Start to finish on grass.

I could sell five cows worth $5,000 on the hoof.

How many sheep, goats, hogs would it take to cover that same $5,000?  25-40?

The downside to beef is it’s weight.  
Harder to home butcher, more space is required to store one once you butcher it.

The upside to that is one cow a year will feed a family or two all year.

281628EB-029A-4390-BB47-8512252393CA.jpeg
[Thumbnail for 281628EB-029A-4390-BB47-8512252393CA.jpeg]
 
gardener
Posts: 2694
Location: Central Texas zone 8a
495
cattle chicken bee sheep
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Taste and versatility in cooking (for me, an American) would be the reason. We do have sheep and it has been our staple once we decided to no longer buy meat. Sheep was an obvious choice from the viewpoint of a lot of quick harvests to meet our immediate needs.

But once the first cow goes to slaughter this September, i will question the need for even having the sheep. One cow will be 600+ pounds of meat. Our sheep is like deer. 20 to 30 pounds of meat.

Once the fencing is up so that sheep can go behind the cows, the sheep will provide a great service of eating the things the cows dont eat. Without this, i have to mow.

I harvest/process sheep on the homestead. Nothing leaves. The cows will have to be trucked offsite.

 
Posts: 1978
Location: Zone 5 Wyoming
157
kids duck forest garden chicken pig bee greening the desert homestead
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Ease of getting them for me I suppose. We have a lot of ranches around here. They sell bottle babies for very cheap. So they're super easy to come by certified black angus (which sells very well because they've marketed the crap out of it.) Plus in my area people eat beef more than even chicken, just because of availability.
 
steward
Posts: 3153
Location: Moved from south central WI to Portland, OR
616
hugelkultur urban chicken food preservation bike bee
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
In our area, cattle are less likely to be lost to predators than sheep or goats.  Also, cattle seem more resistant to parasites, although I could be wrong about that.
 
pollinator
Posts: 546
Location: Denmark 57N
120
fungi foraging trees cooking food preservation
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
For us we are considering a pair of cows (yearlings or bottle babies) for a few reasons
1. He grew up on a dairy farm so knows one end of a cow from another
2. They are easy to get hold of
3. We don't want to keep them over winter and a yearling can be ready for slaughter after 9 months or a baby for resale or veal. Getting lambs would be very hard.
4. neither of us like horse meat
5. Our farm was a dairy farm, it still has all the equipment for cows.
6. he doesn't like lamb
7. I don't want to shear anything and hair sheep are not known.
8. We know nothing about goats!

We are thinking to get two yearlings grow them out for a year, sell one on and slaughter the other, then the next year do 3 or so pigs then back to cows etc etc. we are only two we cannot eat an entire cow in a year, even a small one.
 
pollinator
Posts: 670
Location: Ontario, Canada
144
homestead
  • Likes 10
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I've tried to get beef from many different animals, but the only one I could get it from reliably was a cow.
 
master pollinator
Posts: 8740
Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
716
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I think cattle are less prone to escape and if they do get away, it's a big enough chunk of meat to go looking for it. Cattle are a bit harder to steal than the other two. We had goats when my children were little. They would have never tolerated me killing one. I've met many cattle that I wanted to kill.
 
Timothy Markus
pollinator
Posts: 670
Location: Ontario, Canada
144
homestead
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I milked for a guy that 'grew up' on a 'farm'.  He made some money and then decided he wanted to farm, so he build a barn and bought some cows.  He told me that he unloaded a dozen cows and that they promptly walked right off the farm.  It took several weeks for him to get them all back.

A few months later I was hired, and he told me that.  The cows were all kept in the small paddock by the barn when I was there.  One day I went and looked at the fences.  The posts were 60-70 feet apart and he hadn't stretched the 5' pagewire fence.  I could just walk it right down, so the cows wouldn't have had any issues.  I left shortly after that.
 
gardener
Posts: 495
Location: Wheaton Labs
237
foraging books wofati food preservation cooking fiber arts building writing rocket stoves wood heat woodworking
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
We have cows. We probably average a hundred cow-calf pairs depending on year. They’re all right I guess. Some are mean and ornery and they are all large. Wouldn’t personally mess with them on a homestead for personal use. But they are good for relatively low maintenance income. Don’t die easily. Do escape occasionally, but they’re not too bad about it. Easy to sell at auction and easy to buy locally. I prefer beef in terms of taste but I have to confess that I don’t bother butchering any of ours. Too big and I would rather eat a nice fatty grain finished ribeye when I want one than a couple dozen different cuts of lean grassfed. I feel like a permie traitor saying this, but it’s true. Also if you butcher one and you’re unlucky enough for it to be tough or strong tasting (it happens) you have to eat it for the rest of eternity. Only consider dairy if you’re really into it and never have to be away (or have reliable help).
 
Posts: 29
Location: Portland, OR
5
dog bike woodworking
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I operate on a small scale, so I'm aware of the social aspect of animals.  Hogs can be friendly if raised carefully, but otherwise they just see you as potential food, one trip and stumble away from being realized food.  Goats and sheep can be friendly and the young'uns are tremendously cute.  My cows have been selected for human sociability - so they enjoy just being around people.  They have personalities, enjoy a good scratch and might even know their names.  I also get tremendous satisfaction from watching them eat grass - they just radiate contentment when munching down and I like to just watch them and soak that up.

Eliot
 
Julia Winter
steward
Posts: 3153
Location: Moved from south central WI to Portland, OR
616
hugelkultur urban chicken food preservation bike bee
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Friendly cows:
IMG_5852.jpg
[Thumbnail for IMG_5852.jpg]
 
pollinator
Posts: 3124
Location: Toronto, Ontario
383
hugelkultur dog forest garden fungi trees rabbit urban wofati cooking bee homestead
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Timothy Markus wrote:I've tried to get beef from many different animals, but the only one I could get it from reliably was a cow.



I suppose the bull wasn't accomodating?

-CK
 
Posts: 105
Location: Eastern Ontario
22
cattle trees tiny house composting toilet wood heat greening the desert
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
18-30 month steers are better eating. Cows and bulls are often too tough for anything but hamburger.  I raise beef to mow my fields, and fill freezer and a bit of extra cash.  They produce loads of fertilizer for my garden every winter.  I find beef respect one or two strands of hot electric wire. I believe sheep would too.  But I have too many coyotes to keep sheep. They leave my beef alone.  Coyotees also like goats and goats are often hard to keep where you want them. I ve raised pigs on pasture but they do more damage than good.  I have successfully raised meat chicken in Salatin style tractors but if I want to sell them it costs me $5 to have them commercially butchered and another $2 for each chick from the hatchery. So thats $7 right there and I have nt feed them yet.  You can buy a nice roasted chicken at Costco for $7! So for me selling pastured chicken is pretty marginal.  I will from time to time raise a batch of chickens for myself and butcher them at home but butchering chickens is not my favorite thing.  

Another plus for beef is they dont need a barn. Mine are outside all Canadian winter long.  But these are BEEF cattle.  Jerseys and Holstein may need more shelter.
 
pollinator
Posts: 872
Location: Pac Northwest, east of the Cascades
227
hugelkultur forest garden trees chicken wofati earthworks building solar rocket stoves woodworking homestead
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Cattle, are just one of many options. There is no single best livestock option.

A lot of if cattle is right for you is what is your purpose for raising livestock? Is it for commercial gain? Is it to feed your family? Is it for using the animals to mob graze the land? What animals you choose depend not only on the answers to these but also dependent upon the land itself, the climate, the skill level you possess, and so much more.

Not to mention, there is no reason to limit yourself to just one livestock, since it is pretty well proven by folks like Joel Salatin that you can use the same pastures for multiple different livestock.

That said,

Most homesteads opt first for chickens. Move toward goats,sheep, pigs as they expand their livestock. Then if they are able to handle those, look at cattle. A lot of homesteads opt for a milk cow or two, but not the full herd of beef cattle.

For more commercial enterprises. Folks often opt immediately for a single animal but as mentioned Joel Salatin has shown you can use the same pastures for multiple animals. It should also be noted, that Joel suggests that rather than think of yourself as a cattle/chicken/turkey/etc farmer rather consider yourself a grass farmer. The heath of the grass translates to the livestock you graze in the pasture. If going for commercial enterprise, I would investigate your local markets before choosing a livestock to start with. Areas can be saturated with certain livestock, which makes breaking in as a new person a lot more difficult. So looking for what is less available can be helpful, though also look at why it is less available. Doesn't help to raise animals that no one in your area wants. Emu and ostrich ranches discovered that in the early 2000's. When they found the demand for emu and ostrich just wasn't high enough to support the many ranches that sprung up thinking to get rich with them. Finally if going for commercial enterprise, I would highly suggest trying to market direct rather than going through the typical markets. Either by finding restaurants/stores who will pay for a better raised meat, or even individuals who will buy direct. My part of Eastern Wa has a lot of cattle ranches, and I hear the ranches complain how little they make on their animals while the middle men make a bundle. So when possible look for ways to cut out the middle man.
 
Timothy Markus
pollinator
Posts: 670
Location: Ontario, Canada
144
homestead
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Jeff Marchand wrote:18-30 month steers are better eating. Cows and bulls are often too tough for anything but hamburger.  I raise beef to mow my fields, and fill freezer and a bit of extra cash.  They produce loads of fertilizer for my garden every winter.  I find beef respect one or two strands of hot electric wire. I believe sheep would too.  But I have too many coyotes to keep sheep. They leave my beef alone.  Coyotees also like goats and goats are often hard to keep where you want them. I ve raised pigs on pasture but they do more damage than good.  I have successfully raised meat chicken in Salatin style tractors but if I want to sell them it costs me $5 to have them commercially butchered and another $2 for each chick from the hatchery. So thats $7 right there and I have nt feed them yet.  You can buy a nice roasted chicken at Costco for $7! So for me selling pastured chicken is pretty marginal.  I will from time to time raise a batch of chickens for myself and butcher them at home but butchering chickens is not my favorite thing.  

Another plus for beef is they dont need a barn. Mine are outside all Canadian winter long.  But these are BEEF cattle.  Jerseys and Holstein may need more shelter.



I grew up in dairy country and cow was the catchall word.  You had calves, young bulls, steers, yearling heifers, heifers, 2nd calf cows, cows, bulls and, I guess, oxen, though I don't think I've ever seen one except in Cuba.  Extra lean ground is from culled cows, lean is often culled cow with fat added, and regular ground was usually the cheap cuts from steers.  Sure, they're properly called bovines but, if that's what you called them, you'd be thought of as a dick.

I've milked Holstein, Jersey, Devon, South Polled, and one Guernsey.  The Guernsey was my least favourite because she almost killed me, Holsteins are my next least favourite because they're high-strung, but you can get asshole cows in any breed.  Jerseys seem to do fine outside all winter long but the Holsteins don't have much fat, so they'll eat more feed.  Most barns I've milked in aren't any warmer than outside, but you don't have the wind.
 
Posts: 525
Location: Australia, New South Wales. Köppen: Cfa (Humid Subtropical), USDA: 10/11
143
transportation hugelkultur cat forest garden fish trees urban chicken cooking woodworking homestead
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Notwithstanding the differences in shed/feedlot versus range reared animals; the prevailing climate and market demands  determine which animals are best to raise economically.

Most of our herd animals are range reared and usually finished off in feedlots prior to slaughter.

The mainstays are the several different breeds of lamb and cattle, bred for the prevailing climate e.g. Angus/Herefords/Wagyu in the cooler ranges, Brahman/Droughtmaster for the desert and tropics.

Most of the big Stations (ranches) here >1,500sqmiles have got rid of sheep in preference for cattle - less damage to the land, less care and maintenance, and more heat tolerant.

A relatively recent law states that land owners are responsible for all animals on their property - domestic and feral. This has worked advantageously for smart farmers e.g. In the regular droughts when grazing land is heavily stressed and de-stocking becomes necessary, farmers get an excellent return from herding up feral goats - cutting out does and kids and keeping the bucks and nannies for the market. Same with buffalo in northern Australia.

They're either used domestically or sent O/S where they fetch big prices.

Because we're a multicultural/multiethnic country, just about all types of meat are available in most places, often despatched to meet the various religious needs.

Traditionally; lamb, beef and pork were the mainstays, chicken has gained popularity beyond the occasional Sunday roast because of commercial processing. Country people also consumed the more 'exotic' birds like wild and domestic ducks, and geese. Some hunt out wild boar, kanga's, and deer too.

Personally, I favour goat over oily and overpriced lamb - to me it tastes like a cross between beef and lamb, best of both worlds without the grease! Although beef is always a good all rounder, it's rather heavy in a hot climate, consequently we've reduced consumption with more healthy alternatives like fish and more chicken.

So, there's a lot to consider when deciding the best meaty four legged friend.

P.s. Some people prefer goat and sheep milk to cow too. The former also receives higher prices = more income per square metre/yard of grazing property. Ditto with value added products like cheese, yogurt, etc.

 
Huxley Harter
pollinator
Posts: 148
Location: Monticello Florida
28
homeschooling forest garden foraging chicken wofati food preservation wood heat homestead
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Thanks guys!😀
 
Posts: 13
3
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Look at the poop. A cow with its 4 stomachs utilizes grass and other feed better than any other animal I know. And beef tastes better than any other meat I know. If the gods didn't want you to eat beef, they would have made it taste like vegetables.
Cows are durable. Much more than sheep. Beef cows calf on their own. Sheep often need help or die in the process. I've never raised sheep, but I've seen more dead sheep in fields than cows. I had a neighbor with sheep and during lambing I often had to help (when the vet was busy elsewhere) lamb his sheep because he was too prissy to reach inside and sort out the legs to keep birthing on track. And I hate mutton.
 
master pollinator
Posts: 4004
916
transportation cat duck trees rabbit books chicken woodworking
  • Likes 4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
When people think of America back in the early 1800's, they think of people on horse back, or using horses, but that was not the case. They used oxen.

An oxen had more strength then a horse, was less finicky for feed, was more gentle then a horse, required less tack, and if need be...could be eaten. A team of oxen was just versatile.

I think sheep make better animals for homesteaders because thy are more forgiving in size, produce more home-use products like wool, meat and milk, and you get more meat per acre with sheep than any other animal. But I am a little biased. I have raised a few cows here for meat, but it never worked out.

(In New England the term cows are used: out west they use the term cattle.)
 
Posts: 21
2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Basically the reason for cows, pigs, sheep, and most domestic mammals raised for food is they have more body fat, which means they taste better than bison, deer, elk, etc.  They are easier to control than wild animals.  They don't shear the grass down to the roots like sheep, which is problematic in the dry West, where it takes a while for grass to regrow.  They don't require special care, e.g. water and shelter, like pigs.  If it were up to me, I'd knock down all the fences, let the bison run free, and make people work for their meat.
 
pollinator
Posts: 702
Location: Southern Oregon
120
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I'm not a big beef person, but I do want some dairy cows, and think the culled males could be used for veal, not the kind one typically gets in the market, but mild and tasty anyway. My biggest preference for meat animals is pigs, incredibly versatile, not so picky on food, or terrain as cattle, and much milder in taste than beef. The advantage of dairy cows over other dairy animals is the volume and the way the cream naturally separates. I do plan on having goats first, but I would really like a few dairy cows in the future.
 
Posts: 228
Location: Northern Puget Sound, Zone 8A
27
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Lepke Buchalter wrote:Look at the poop. A cow with its 4 stomachs utilizes grass and other feed better than any other animal I know. And beef tastes better than any other meat I know. If the gods didn't want you to eat beef, they would have made it taste like vegetables.
Cows are durable. Much more than sheep. Beef cows calf on their own. Sheep often need help or die in the process. I've never raised sheep, but I've seen more dead sheep in fields than cows. I had a neighbor with sheep and during lambing I often had to help (when the vet was busy elsewhere) lamb his sheep because he was too prissy to reach inside and sort out the legs to keep birthing on track. And I hate mutton.



I haven't raised my own sheep (I do have 3 lambs right now, but I bought them a few months ago and won't be breeding them - they go to freezer camp over the next couple weeks), but I did stay on a sheep farm for a week when I lived in New Zealand.  It was during lambing season.  Out of probably a couple thousand or more ewes I think maybe less than 10 needed assistance lambing (I actually got to do that).  There was one ewe that died in the field, but apparently that one was known to be in poor health.  It just wasn't worth the time and money to catch and treat it as I recall.  The only significant work they had to do around that time was tailing and castrating (which I also helped with).  So, I think sheep are quite a bit more durable than you assume from your exposure.  Breed can make a big difference, and of course, ruthless culling will too as you can eliminate individuals that are too high maintenance.  Sounds like your neighbor needs to consider a different breed, and/or get more ruthless in culling ewes that require assistance lambing.
 
I've got no option but to sell you all for scientific experiments. Or a tiny ad:
A rocket mass heater heats your home with one tenth the wood of a conventional wood stove
http://woodheat.net
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
Boost this thread!