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Author Topic: HELP! New to all things Cattle - where to start!  (Read 2051 times)


  • Joined Jan 2021
HELP! New to all things Cattle - where to start!
« on: June 18, 2021, 12:54:04 pm »
Hello Everyone,

Please forgive me I'm sure there will be similar threads on here, but I haven't quite found all the info yet!

I would like to get a couple of cows to breed from. I have had lots of experience with cows (Brahmans in Australia so very different i know!) but not kept them personally in the UK. I have pigs (4 saddlebacks who are seriously friendly and lie down when they have their bellies scratched, for the freezer but having wonderful lives at the moment!!) and would like to have cows who are lovely and tame and keep them for a long time, but have the calves for the freezer..

My questions..

Age? I would like them to be very tame easy to handle. Should I be getting them as calves so they relax and get to know me? and wait until they are old enough and then put them in calf (what age would this be?)

Breed? I originally thought about Highlands but someone said they might be a bit more difficult to handle with their horns, even if they are friendly they could be a liability...? Now I am thinking Belted Galloway. Not too big and fairly docile and good meat? But apparently very slow growing - would this be a problem? Or should i be considering other breeds for this sort of operation? (I would like an interesting breed rather than the usual more commercial types).

Timing? At what age do you put them in calf and at what age would you kill a calf?

Where to buy? Should i be looking at going to the local auction marts or approaching local farmers, or any other route..?

If anyone out there has any thoughts on this or is doing anything similar i would really love to hear! I do apologise for a million questions, but i am seriously excited, i have been thinking about this for a long time and thought this was the best place to ask people for advice!

Thank you so much in advance -


  • Joined Oct 2007
  • Barry, Angus, Scotland
    • The Accidental Smallholder
Re: HELP! New to all things Cattle - where to start!
« Reply #1 on: June 18, 2021, 01:58:21 pm »
You might want to consider Shetlands. On the RBST Watchlist as "At Risk". Relatively small, generally docile (although I always hesitate to attribute temperment to a breed as a whole).

Most Shetlands are black and white, but red, grey, dun and brindle are also found in the breed. You would aim to have a Shetland heifer calve around her second birthday; steers you can, of course, kill anytime but steers will finish before 30 months and the beef is amazing.
The breed has a breed society on Shetland and a breeders Association (of which I am Secretary) Shetland Cattle Breeders Association (SCBA) which supports the breed and breeders on the mainland. SCBA website is and we have a Facebook page.
SCBA is running its first breed sale with Harrison & Hetherington at the end of September for breeding stock - bulls,cows and heifers. SCBA is 11 to join but we're doing a fee deferment for six months (basically six months free).
We've bred Shetlands for 10 years - never once regretted it. If you click on the Diary above, you'll be able to see our cattle and there's more information here
If you want to explore Shetlands more andmaybe go see some, email me


  • Joined Oct 2010
Re: HELP! New to all things Cattle - where to start!
« Reply #2 on: June 18, 2021, 02:51:52 pm »
I keep Highlands, belted Galloways and Herefords. All quiet, placid breeds, which is why I keep them. I don't find the horns of highlands a problem as they are very careful with them and and are very gentle animals. But to get a better meat carcase I cross them with a polled Hereford - which also sorts out the horned problem with the offspring.   
The Belties are lovely attractive animals and also docile. I would not say they are slow growing. They are milky and the calves grow as fast as the Herefords on good grass. But in many cases they are kept on moorland, which they are well suited to, but obviously will not grow as fast under those conditions. Ours never get concentrates, but are fed on good grass in summer and good hay and feed blocks in winter and the calves grow like weeds. The production you get from your animals is directly related to the input.
Get an animal you are attracted to because you are the one that sees them every day. I particularly like the Belties, apart from their attributes,  because they are different and everyone says how nice they look.

Rules are made:
  for the guidance of wise men
  and the obedience of fools.


  • Joined Apr 2012
Re: HELP! New to all things Cattle - where to start!
« Reply #3 on: June 18, 2021, 04:53:09 pm »
Whatever you go for make sure they are from a high health herd clear of johnes, BVD and ibr  :thumbsup:  and invest in a crush and some gates for handling


  • Joined Oct 2010
Re: HELP! New to all things Cattle - where to start!
« Reply #4 on: June 18, 2021, 07:53:51 pm »
You also asked about the best age to buy, and whether from market or privately.
As you are only planning on keeping 2 cows, I would get 2 young cows, in calf, direct from a farm so you can see for yourself they are tame and well handled. All my cows are quiet and will feed out of my hand and follow me anywhere for carrots. It makes it so much easier when you need to handle them like for calving and TB testing and any vet visits. The last thing you want is having to chase them round the field.
Rules are made:
  for the guidance of wise men
  and the obedience of fools.


  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
    • Trelay Cohousing Community
Re: HELP! New to all things Cattle - where to start!
« Reply #5 on: June 18, 2021, 09:33:32 pm »
Much good stuff has already been said, but a few things I would add.

You are in North Yorkshire so you have to think about TB testing.  The vets can insist on a crush (although some are flexible so long as they will be safe), and this could give you a considerable headache if you go for Highlands, because of the very wide horns.

You can halter train at any age up to and including in-calf heifers, provided you get ones which are well handled to begin with.  If buying unhandled, then yes, get them younger.  If you can source from a local farmer / breeder, so much the better as you can see them at home, but as you have experience of cattle you would be able to tell what sort of temperament they have in the sale ring.

Calves with horns can give you problems to solve - dehorning / disbudding - unless you are happy to have all your beasts horned.  If not, it is *much* easier all round to use a polled bull where, if your cows have or had horns, the polled gene is dominant.  Angus works, is usually a good choice for ease of calving, and nice quiet, decent meat calves that will do well on grass systems.  Or stick with Galloways of course, if you go that way.

Galloways come in lots of colours, and the Riggit is regaining popularity.  Personally I love the look of the white, with the black points. 

It suits our system here to send our meat calves off at under 12 months and not over-winter them.  They are just for our own consumption and their mums are "cow-calf" house cows (so they rear their own calves and we take the surplus) but it wouldn't make financial sense in a commercial setup to send them off so young.  However, the meat from these milk-and-grass fed happy young animals is awesome.  We would of course get more than twice as much meat if we kept them for two summers, but for us that doesn't compensate for the cost and extra workload of overwintering them, plus we don't have a huge amount of grazing, so would struggle to have enough grass for all our cows and calves and sheep and lambs if we were keeping calves on to 18-24 months.  But the key to having decent calves at 9-11 months is milky mums and, of course, a decent bull.  So if you did think you wanted to send them off younger, I would suggest looking at a milky breed such as Red Devon, Shetland, a milking strain of Galloway (they aren't all as milky as some), Whitebred Shorthorn, even Northern Dairy Shorthorn.  (The latter is more akin to a Shetland than a regular Dairy Shorthorn.)  And / or a Jersey cross of one of those breeds.  Our butcher raved about the 11 month stirk he butchered for us off our Red Devon x Jersey heifer, using a good Angus bull, and our Jersey x NDS heifer is making an outstanding job of rearing her NDS calf; he"s a good chunky meaty shape for all he's 3/4 NDS 1/4 Jersey.

Sorry, I do get a bit carried away! 
Don't listen to the money men - they know the price of everything and the value of nothing

Live in a cohousing community with small farm for our own use.  Dairy cows (rearing their own calves for beef), pigs, sheep for meat and fleece, ducks and hens for eggs, veg and fruit growing


  • Global Moderator
  • Joined Sep 2012
  • Llandeilo Carmarthenshire
    • Nantygroes
    • Facebook
Re: HELP! New to all things Cattle - where to start!
« Reply #6 on: June 19, 2021, 07:56:46 am »
Dont discount xbreds .....  My friendliest heifer is a Dexter x Angus ... mainly because I had to help her along for the first 3 days .

However I agree with Sally about Shetlands ...  love mine .....  only downside is they do get fat on good grazing.

Don't wrestle with pigs, they will love it and you will just get all muddy.

Let go of who you are and become who you are meant to be.
Nantygroes  facebook page


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