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Pasture raised beef, Breed suggestions

 
Randy Alexander
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Hi all,

Looking for some suggestions. We are looking to add around 10 cows to our farm. We live in N Mississippi so we have hot humid summers and mild winters. Our farm has great pastures and I am tired of paying to have them bush hogged, I am tired of buying beef from other farmers and it is time soon to add beef to our veggie, chicken, egg CSA. We just started our pasture raised hog herd so looking to move forward with cows too.

So we need a breed that 1)does well on pasture, 2)that produces quality tasty beef, 3)breeds/parents well, and 4)is easy to manage. Small breeds like Dexters are on the table .

What are you thoughts? Pros/cons of your breed?
 
Adam Klaus
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Location: 6200' westen slope of colorado, zone 6
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Good question, not a simple answer. For starts I would say Dexters are not going to be your best bet, being a dual purpose breed. If you only want beef then you would really be better suited with a beef breed. Your most specific need will be climactic adaptation.

Have you checked out the publication Stockman Grass Farmer? Excellent info there, the publisher Alan Nation is in Mississippi so would have good insight into your situation.

There are specific breeds that thrive in the heat and humidity of the Deep South, otherwise most cattle breeds are going to be stressed by your climate. Your situation is really regionally specific, as the breeds that will thrive in the Deep South are going to be different that what works for the rest of the country. Of course, I cant remember any breed names off hand. Stockman Grass Farmer would be a really good source of both info, and potential breeders.

good luck!
 
R Scott
Posts: 3305
Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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Look into Mashona, they are adapted to hot conditions. But not very common and not sure of the price.

I love my Highlands, they meet all your requirements but they will not handle that much heat.

A good webinar stressing the issues of grazing cattle in hot humid regions and pastures:

 
Andy Metten
Posts: 14
Location: Fort Collins, Colorado
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Pharo Cattle company out of Colorado has an amazing breeding program, check them out. They ship cattle all over the country because of their well known breeding program. The main philosophy is "less inputs, more profits". Which means no antibiotics, hormones, grain, or hay. Only grass for these cows.

Pharocattle.com
 
Wes Hunter
Posts: 105
Location: Seymour, MO
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Contrary to Adam's suggestion, I think Dexters would certainly be a good choice. They are touted as being "dual-purpose," but in reality there's very little being done on the milk side in terms of breeding. For that matter, there seems to be fairly little being done in terms of selective breeding for anything, except perhaps to try to get polled animals of whatever color might bring the most money (right now, that seems to be red), and they are largely a hobbyist's breed. That said, they still make good beef animals, in large part due to their small stature. As a smaller breed they need less feed to maintain body condition and as such can put more of that feed into producing muscle and fat. I raise Dexters, and I really like them, but it's probably worth noting that I don't think I'm exceptionally partial to them--they just happen to be the breed I raise.

The South Poll breed was developed in Alabama, I believe (and, in fact, by a member of the country music group Alabama), and is a fairly popular choice for folks raising grass-fed beef. This is what Greg Judy raises, if I'm not mistaken.

There's also no reason to limit yourself to one breed, unless your goal is purebred seedstock. You might look into crossing a Brahma bull on some beefier cows (Angus, Hereford, Shorthorn, etc.), and start a breeding program from there. The Brahma should give you good heat tolerance, while whatever else you choose will keep you firmly on the beef side of things.

In general you want something on the smaller side, for the sake of efficient use of forage, and some of the low-line and miniature versions of common beef breeds might also be worth a shot. I'm sure there are many, but the only I know exist for certain are Low-line Angus and Miniature Hereford.

Hope that helps.
 
J D Horn
Posts: 155
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The South Poll breed was developed in Alabama, I believe (and, in fact, by a member of the country music group Alabama).
Yep, Teddy Gentry (the bassist from Alabama) developed the South Poll breed. http://www.southpoll.com/

In my research and talking to folks in the business in the AL, Brangus seems to be the most favored commercial line. If you go that route, I'd suggest looking to somebody that has a grassfed operation that sells breeding stock so that you get animals that are selected to flesh out on grass. I think the same goes for red angus.

The landrace breed for the Southeast is the pineywoods. http://www.pcrba.org/
They are descendants of the cattle left by the conquistadors along the Gulf coast. They were the homestead breed in the deep South up until about WWII - triple purpose beasts that were used like oxen, for meat, and milked. Florida Crackers are in this group too.

You might reach out to the American Livestock Breed Conservancy. Other breeds, such as the Ancient White Park Cattle, might be ok in the MS heat. Plus, there's the warm fuzzies you get from helping preserve a breed that endangered. http://www.livestockconservancy.org/index.php/heritage/internal/ancient-white-park
 
Richard Serr
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I live in the Pacific NW. I breed Galloways that can take the cold. But if I lived in the South, I would be looking at these breeds: Red Devons, British Whites and perhaps Murray Greys.
http://www.bakewellrepro.com/index.html
http://www.jwest.biz/
 
Bob Blackmer
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Location: East Greenwich, Rhode Island
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We have Belted Galloways here in Kentucky. They do great in the winter and good in the summer. I think they have a little too much black on them for the summers here. They are great foragers. Galloways over all tend to have great mild temperaments, especially for those new to cattle. They are also a few hundred pounds smaller than say a standard Angus, so they are a little less intimidating. They would be great for year round grazing in Mississippi if you found some light colored ones. They can be white, red, and dun colored.
 
Richard Serr
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Galloways are great foragers. I swear mine were crossed with goats. Seems they will eat just about anything. I've seen them eat knapp weed, thistles, wild roses, even pine trees! But my Blacks are quite a bit bigger than your Belties. I've got a cow that's a frame 7 and must weigh 1600-1700 pounds. Harley Blegan, president of the AGBA, had a black bull that was a frame 7, 2600 pound bull. The genetic influence on these big animals is coming from Canada. They like them big in Canada. And size is one of the easiest genetic qualities to alter. More typical for solid color Galloways would be beeves with frames 3 to 5. Mature bull weights range from 1700 to 2300 pounds with the average being about 1800 pounds. The mature cow generally weighs from 1000 to 1500 pounds with the average being around 1200. Calf birth weights typically range from 65-80 pounds. I do love my Galloways though. Super smart. Great temperaments. Wonderful mothers. Very easy keeping. I wanted no maintenance cattle and I definitely got that. And they protect each other very well as a herd. Quite aggressive with predators. That comes in real handy since I've got coyotes, bear, cougar, even wolves in my area of NE Washington State.
 
Ken Peavey
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I've got a Lowline Black Angus bull in the back field. He's 8 years old, fully grown, and is lower than my belt at the shoulder, tipping the scales at about 1000#. There small size means less tearing of the sod. He's as gentle as a kitten, the breed being bred for docility. Lowlines will put on marbled beef on pasture alone, with a carcass yield of 75%. The back field is about 2.5 acres with some woods in there. I offer him hay, about 4 round bales will get him through the cold season in northern Florida. Their small size means a small area is all that is needed for each animal. The result is more meat per acre than most other breeds. Calves come in around 45 pounds, so calving is much easier on the ladies. Bred with a normal sized cow for the first calf presents a high survival rate for the cow and the calf. They can be an expensive breed, Bull, pictured below would command $1200-1500, while a cow of breeding age can draw $1800-2500 and up. A calf will run you a grand. I picked up this handsome fellow for $600 with delivery as the owner had to find a home for him or install fence which he could not afford at the time. He was cheaper than a lawn mower and can keep up with the back field most of the time.

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Amedean Messan
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Location: Melbourne FL, USA - Pine and Palmetto Flatland, Sandy and Acidic
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Ken, awesome pictures! I myself am looking to stick with miniature cattle. Primarily, I want to be able to sustain a herd of cattle with healthy genetic variation by incorporating more natural breeding practices. Essentially, the smaller framed cattle require less vegetation per head additionally allowing me to commit the same amount of land. I want higher populations to sustain genetic diversity so naturally I want more bulls.

 
Renate Howard
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We did the whole pick-the-best-breed thing, and what I'm starting to think now is to just get yourself some good stocker calves of mixed breed (for hybrid vigor) from the local sources, being sure you're not getting culls (here the auction cattle are graded and most farmers buy stockers from them, and they're mostly good quality).

It's far cheaper to get an unpopular colored calf for $250 or $300 and raise it on pasture for 2 summers/1 winter then convert it to beef than to keep a bull and cow and raise your own and deal with losses to coyotes, etc. Plus, having full-grown livestock means you'll need a way to provide medical care or restrain it for artificial insemination - so TAME is a biggie unless you can afford $2000 for a chute and headgate (most vets around here won't treat animals that aren't restrained in one - they have this silly self-preservation thing going on that they don't want to be killed on the job by an angry bovine!)

The cheapest and possibly best option may be to get beef crossed dairy calves - either bull calves (ask them to band them for you) or freemartins (female twin to a male calf - almost always sterile).

The guy we bought our farm from would get stocker calves in the spring, keep them until the grass went dormant in fall then take them all to auction. He made around a thousand $ a year doing that.

For your own herd, you could ask around family and friends if people wanted to buy some and pick up directly from the butcher. If you paid $200 for the calf and fed it free grass all year the price per lb you could charge would be pretty low, enough that they probably wouldn't care if it was a bonier (dairy) breed mix. Tho I've seen on several sources that *any* cow raised on grass will be the best beef you've ever eaten - if you notice, whatever breed people are talking about, they all say it's the best beef, LOL! And the "black angus" sold in many restaurants isn't so much angus the breed as it is percentage black color - could be Holstein, because "black angus" has been defined at slaughterhouses as a certain % of black color on the hide.

As for the heat, if there is a "wallow' where they can soak their feet, they'll do a lot better. Our pond seeps water through cracks in the rock under it so there's always a wet area below the dam and the cows stand in the mud there whenever they're hot. Shade in your pasture helps a lot too. Most cattle do fine in the heat, tho, from what I remember of the summers in Arkansas. Even black ones.
 
Paul Ewing
Posts: 127
Location: Boyd, Texas
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Ken Peavey wrote: They can be an expensive breed, Bull, pictured below would command $1200-1500, while a cow of breeding age can draw $1800-2500 and up. A calf will run you a grand. I picked up this handsome fellow for $600 with delivery as the owner had to find a home for him or install fence which he could not afford at the time.


This is one of the most important things people picking nonstandard breeds need to understand. They are only worth what another hobbyist is willing to pay. In most cases they have little commercial value if you have to get rid of them quickly. A couple years ago I almost picked up a beautiful herd of Belted Galloways. There was a bull and five or six cows that ran through our local auction barn. This barn usually sells 1200-3000 head every Monday and there are a couple dozen order buyers (buying for feedlots and other producers looking for cattle) there plus us normal small cattle people. This was in the cheaper days when good 500-700 pound commercial steers were bringing 80-90 cents a pound (prices are double that now). These Belted Galloways went through at 30-33 cents a pound. Even than scrawny 10+ year old cull cows and long horns went for 40-55 cents a pound. Last fall the same thing happened with a herd of Scottish Highlanders. Cow and calf pairs were going for less than $400.

If you are going to raise the odd breeds you need to be prepared to market all your meat direct to consumers and sell the uniqueness factor. The other option if you buy into a highly promoted breed is selling everything as breeding stock until the bubble bursts. This is good if you get in early, but I have talked to a lot of people burned by different livestock bubbles to know it is very risky and by the time most people see it is a hot thing, it is about to go down.
 
Cj Sloane
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I have mini Belted Galloways but they're more like 45" at full height. A 2-3 yr old bull will be about 750 lbs and you get back about 250 lbs of meat. I've got 2 heifers if anyone is interested.

2013 calf></a>

Not sure how they'd do with the humidity in Mississippi but they are popular in Australia.

Amedean Messan wrote:Ken, awesome pictures! I myself am looking to stick with miniature cattle. Primarily, I want to be able to sustain a herd of cattle with healthy genetic variation by incorporating more natural breeding practices. Essentially, the smaller framed cattle require less vegetation per head additionally allowing me to commit the same amount of land. I want higher populations to sustain genetic diversity so naturally I want more bulls.

 
Dan Verniero
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Location: Colorado/New Mexico border, 6200'
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I would consider getting healthy crossbred stocker-type cattle and learning how to fatten them on grass before purchasing purebred stock. Pasture management is a lot more important than breed IMO. Once you've learned what it takes to raise fat cattle on grass, then maybe focus on purebreds. Any breed or color other than black angus-type will get sold cheap at the sales, order buyers want them large framed, black, and polled. So buy some small red cattle at the discount, and market them directly. Breeds that incorporate much brahma blood will have tougher meat, generally, even if they do better in hot climates, you might have trouble getting direct sale repeat customers, and dairy crosses usually don't dress out well. Read the Stockman Grass Farmer, Salad Bar Beef by Joel Salatin, and Greg Judy's books. I think a bull with only ten cows to breed might start looking around the neighborhood, too; maybe you could find a local, suitable, cow-calf producer to cooperate with to get feeders from.
 
Bev Huth
Posts: 36
Location: AR, USA
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A good friend and neighbor of mine has an nice pasture raised Angus (red and black mixed) herd. He sells calve (1 or 2 year old animals) These cattle do fine in the southern heat (located in southwest Arkansas) and, tolerate cold well too. None of them have ever had anything except the pasture they live in.

I don't know if you want cattle that big or, can trailer them that far but, if you do want some and can trailer them, I can ask him about prices. (I know he mentioned that his 2 yr old bull calf would go for around 3.50/lb on the hoof if he sold it but, he wants to keep that bull.) He is a calving operation so, he sells by the pound, on hoof so, with beef prices up, they may be a bit high for you.
 
Tom Scialla
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Location: The great state of Georgia
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If you are looking to raise the animals for possible sale then I would suggest Murray Greys. They are a great animal to work with, calm, easy calving, moderate sized, and generally aren't a trouble breed. Their combination or light hair and dark skin makes them suited particularly well for hot places.

If you are looking to just put some beef in your freezer I would buy whatever crossbred weaned calves you can. As long as they are healthy they will eat grass, put on weight, and taste okay between the top and bottom of a bun.

Another cheap option for freezer beef are dairy bulls. You can usually get them for a song and a dance and they will go in the freezer just like anything else.
 
David E Green
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We have Pineywoods and I recommend them. Smaller, easy to care for, and great tasting beef. If you're in the South, and direct marketing, they are a great choice. You can typically find for less than the price of commercial cattle, and if you have any questions, please contact. We have a herd of about 60 with about 20 Mommas (we keep the calves over winter), and have been raising them since 2007.
 
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