Celia Revel wrote:A neighbor threw out the idea that it might be cost effective to raise our own beef between our two pastures. Following the basic axiom of celia revel that nothing is ever JUST.... as in we will JUST put a cow out there and let him have at it. My plea is for help by any knowledgeable about cattle to recommend a book that would get us in the right direction and keep the cow as comfortable and happy as possible. Books on doing this naturally and with heritage stock would be more than welcome. I am keenly interested in planting Native grasses and wonder which ones would be good in California. Im also interested in nutritional quality, and I know that some breeds have been tinkered with over the years and have lost various qualities in the process. Oh, and also, would the cow get lonely if it were the only one? Dumb questions, but maybe I need some information about that. I know goats will die of loneliness if left day on end by themselves. Thank You in advance.
The basics of what beef cattle need everyday:
Water, this is the most important nutrient, they need constant access to large amounts of water.
Salt and mineral. Cattle need salt, calcium, phosporus, and several other minerals in certain quantites. Most of these will be labelled as 1:1 or 2:1, this is the calcium phosporus ratio. A local feed store should have something formulated for beef cattle, this will probably be good enough if you follow the directions.
Feed, green growing pasture should meet the needs of any class of beef cattle. When the pasture is not growing you will need hay. Growing animals will need higher quality, look for lots of leaf, nice green colour, and legumes in it. A mature cow can handle lower quality. They will eat between 2-3% of their body weight in dry matter per day, plan for 3% of body weight.
When I worked with cattle, they would come right up to me while the herd was nearby. If one accidently got outside of the fence and away from the herd it would not let anyone within 50 meters. It would be terrified of anything and everything and likely to break fences. Those cattle needed to be in a group of at least 5 to be comfortable. Cattle who were not raised in a large herd would probably not be so herd bound, but that is my experience. Figure on at least 2 animals.
Non daily things cattle need:
Vaccinate, cattle need a clostridial vaccine. Clostridial diseases such as tetanus, botulism, and blackleg have spores in the soil. You cannot avoid exposure. You need to get this from a vet, and there might be other vaccines you need, talk to the vet and ask.
Recognize and treat illness and injury. Use the BAR acronym. Bright, Alert, Responsive, you cannot sneak up on a healthy animal. When it hears you, it's head should come up. It's eyes and coat should reflect light. It should walk normally when you approach. Have someone to call if it doesn't look right, this can be a vet or someone nearby with cattle experience.
Are you looking at breeding? Or just getting a couple young animals and growing them out to butcher weight?
If you are looking at breeding, which would be good if you get a heritage breed, you are looking at a minimum of 2 cows. Then either buying and maintaining a bull, expensive. Or using artificial insemination, which would be difficult to get an AI tech out for only a few cows.
If you mostly just want meat, I recommend buying a couple weaned calves off someone nearby. Breed doesn't matter as long as they are a beef breed. The main influence on the nutrient density of meat is what the animal ate, and even then, only the last ~6 months really matter. Keep them on grass until you can see fat deposits around the tail head. This will likely be when they are over 2 years old.
There is a beef cattle code of practice that lists everything cattle need. It is up to the person to figure out how to meet all the needs. There are multiple books, articles, and magazines about all that. I personally recommend Holistic Managment: A Framework for Desicion Making by Allam Savory. This is more about deciding how to manage your pastures, land and life though.
If you don't have enough grass for 2 full sized animals there are smaller breeds such as dexters that might work. Or you might have to look at sheep or something.