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Author Topic: Starting with cattle  (Read 3049 times)


  • Joined Jan 2015
Starting with cattle
« on: October 06, 2015, 08:19:16 am »
I've just been browsing old threads on this topic and decided to start a new one.

We've been on our smallholding for a year now and have got a small flock of sheep (mainly shetlands), hens, ducks, turkeys and have reared 2 Gloucester Old Spots (who almost ready to go) as well as 2 ponies.

I have hankered after cattle for a while so as to have beef for the freezer.  The sheep and ponies haven't eaten as much grass as we expected, so we still have lots. I've been researching breeds and feel I want something small like Shetland or Dexter, as I worry about handling larger animals with limited experience. There are 2 places with Dexters for sale locally  - one is offering a couple of 3yr old cows in calf to a belted Galloway bull; the other has got a number of yearlings of both sexes, so I could get a couple of steers to finish.

What would you advise as a start? I'd love to have our own calves in the spring, and then continue breeding, but am wondering whether it would be more sensible to get the young stock to finish and get the experience of handling etc before risking cows ...

Also, I've noticed a range of opinions about Dexters! Do they tend to be difficult to handle? The owners of these ones we're going to look at have assured me they are docile, but that's obviously not been everyone's experience.


  • Joined Aug 2013
Re: Starting with cattle
« Reply #1 on: October 06, 2015, 09:04:32 am »
A couple of steers sounds like a great plan to get you started, but as has been said before on here, don't forget the paperwork and ask about disease status before you buy, you will need a shed for winter unless you plan to keep them just for summer, and you will need some sort of handling facility in case of illness or TB testing.


  • Joined Jul 2014
Re: Starting with cattle
« Reply #2 on: October 07, 2015, 08:50:23 am »
By starting with steers you will get an idea how your land copes with cattle, how much grass they will actually eat so giving an idea of future stocking numbers and how to look after cattle.


  • Joined Oct 2010
Re: Starting with cattle
« Reply #3 on: October 13, 2015, 10:47:59 am »
 Well, you're always going to get nearly as many opinions as people replying, so here's mine  :sunshine:
  Small holding is about following your heart.
 You like the idea of calves in spring so - go for it - get a couple of in calf cows.
 Dexters are convenient to start with because of their reduced size. If you get short legged ones you can even use sheep hurdles to gather them. And if, like Buffy, you have a lamb creep, them they will be able to test it to destuction. (Did it last a week? :roflanim: )
But DOensure they are quiet and well handled. I once got 2 that were very cheap and very difficult to catch, and I thought I could handle them once they got home; but they turned out to be dangerous. I couldn't let my kids in the field with them because they would seriously go for them. I didn't keep them long but put them straight into market and even there, one turned on one of the drovers
However, that really is the exception, and I've no idea what had made them like that.
My first dexters came from a retired neighbour who kept them as a hobby. They were all halter  trained
and would happily eat out your hand and stand to be petted and brushed.  They do tend to have "small person syndrome", and my quietest, show winning one would still never miss the opportunity to try and crush me against the side of the trailer when I led her in, but she didn't have enough weight to even cause  any serious pressure and maybe I misjudged her and she just liked being close to me. :thinking:
So - have a look at the ones for sale locally and just see what they are like when you walk amongst them in the field, and if possible ask to see how easy they are to gather. If they run away when you approach, then maybe give them a miss and look for something a bit more placid.
Rules are made:
  for the guidance of wise men
  and the obedience of fools.


  • The Accidental Smallholder
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  • Joined Oct 2007
  • Carnoustie, Angus
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Re: Starting with cattle
« Reply #4 on: October 13, 2015, 09:48:33 pm »


  • Joined Jan 2015
Re: Starting with cattle
« Reply #5 on: October 14, 2015, 08:29:49 pm »
Well, we have decided to go for a couple of pedigree steers from a very reputable local breeder, rather than the cows. Several reasons really. I thought I should be sensible and get the hang of handling and caring for cattle with youngsters rather than with two fully grown (and not so friendly) cows. We can see how the grass goes and how much they eat. Also it means we'll have beef in the freezer at least a year earlier than if we rely on calves that won't even be born until next March.

However, if all goes well, I might get a couple of in-calf cows or a cow and calf in the spring, and then will have the best of both worlds.  I do love having baby animals around  :)

Old Shep

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • North Yorkshire
Re: Starting with cattle
« Reply #6 on: October 14, 2015, 08:52:19 pm »
Hi Daleswoman - are going for Dexters then?  Just interested in your comment of "not too friendly cows".  The "boss" got two Dexter cows with calves at foot , one of which is lovely and the other one not so!!!   Were they short or non short?
Helen - (used to be just Shep).  Gordon Setters, Border Collies and chief lambing assistant to BigBennyShep.


  • Joined Oct 2010
Re: Starting with cattle
« Reply #7 on: October 16, 2015, 10:20:26 am »
So - decision made - always good to finally decide which way you're going. Don't get too fond of them!
Just a thought occured to me though :thinking: . You say you're buying "pedigree" steers? Now it costs to register them and is a pretty pointless excercise when they're destined solely for meat as they don't taste any better. So hope you're not being charged extra for for their registration?   
Rules are made:
  for the guidance of wise men
  and the obedience of fools.


  • Joined Jun 2013
  • South Wales .Carmarthenshire. SA18
Re: Starting with cattle
« Reply #8 on: October 16, 2015, 09:49:01 pm »
Have you got or do you have access to a cattle crush crate ?

Vets around here sometimes bring their own on wheels and bill you for the service/use time , others won't come & look at your animals if you don't have one.

If you looking to AI I'm led to understand that it is a useful piece of equipment .
Strong belief , triggers the mind to find the way ... Dyslexia just makes it that bit more amusing & interesting


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