NFU Mutual Smallholding Insurance

Author Topic: Starting with cattle - research stage  (Read 857 times)

Paul and Caroline

  • Joined Apr 2014
Starting with cattle - research stage
« on: June 16, 2019, 05:15:30 pm »
Hi

We have a 7 acre smallholding in SW Scotland on which we keep  small flock of sheep and occasionally a handful of Pig weaners. We have always liked the idea of keeping some cattle and we are doing the research into this. Could I pick your (collective) brains with a couple of questions please?

1. What would be good reading material to help with the research? We have the Haynes Sheep and Pig keeping manual and wondered if there was anything similar for cattle?

2. Allowing for pasture rotation what would be the optimum stocking density for my 7 acres?

3. Which breeds would cope with overwintering outdoors? Where we are it's not extremely cold in winter but can be very wet and very windy. There is no natural shelter on our property although we do have substantial outbuildings which we could adapt for indoor overwintering if we absolutely needed to - we are looking at beef breeds rather than dairy breeds

Thank you in anticipation

Voss Electric Fence

shep53

  • Joined Jan 2011
  • Argyll
Re: Starting with cattle - research stage
« Reply #1 on: June 16, 2019, 08:10:54 pm »
Need a bit more clarification , will you still have sheep  and pigs ?  is your ground old pasture with no input eg lime /fertilizer / dung ? can you buy hay / straw and store it under cover and handle big round bales  ? ( if your ground is wet in winter even 2-3 cows will damage it )   Do you have the ability to clean out a shed after wintering and spread the dung ? Do you have some where to have some form of handling set up ? if only a crush and a few gates ? Do your paddocks have a good water supply as  a cow suckling a calf will drink large volumes ?

Paul and Caroline

  • Joined Apr 2014
Re: Starting with cattle - research stage
« Reply #2 on: June 16, 2019, 08:38:41 pm »
Need a bit more clarification , will you still have sheep  and pigs ?  is your ground old pasture with no input eg lime /fertilizer / dung ? can you buy hay / straw and store it under cover and handle big round bales  ? ( if your ground is wet in winter even 2-3 cows will damage it )   Do you have the ability to clean out a shed after wintering and spread the dung ? Do you have some where to have some form of handling set up ? if only a crush and a few gates ? Do your paddocks have a good water supply as  a cow suckling a calf will drink large volumes ?

Hi - will answer this in separate paragraphs: -


1. yes we will still have sheep (10 Ewes and up to 20 lambs which will go to market late summer) and occasionally pigs which have their own fenced paddock. We would look to graze the cattle and sheep in the same paddocks.....

2. Currently our 3 fields are c. 3.5 acres, c 2.5 acres and a small one of around .5 acre (that's over and above the Pig paddock). It is well established pasture and has the manure of our sheep on it which isn't exactly a lot!  This year we put fertiliser on the middle field intending to harvest hay - we got 4 big round bales of good hay from our smallest field last summer and anticipate At least 15 large round bales this year from the middle field (weather allowing). If the weather lets us down we will cut it for silage. Straw isn't an issue and we can source it quite easily.

3. Your comment about poaching is the one that worries us most. The ground can get very, very wet.

4. One of our activities is raising our commercial sheep farmer neighbours pet/Cade lambs until they are weaned - up to 200 of them and that provides loads of manure for spreading - our neighbour can and will do that for us, but we will also fertilise as necessary.

5. Our other neighbour is a dairy farmer with mobile handling facilities and he has said we can borrow his crush etc as and when

6. The bigger field has water 'on tap' and we have the means to do the same to our other fields

One of our biggest concerns is that although we have good sized outbuildings if we needed to overwinter indoors, we don't have any gates/pens/enclosures in the sheds so we would need to factor the cost of those into our planning

shep53

  • Joined Jan 2011
  • Argyll
Re: Starting with cattle - research stage
« Reply #3 on: June 16, 2019, 09:50:57 pm »
Since you are keeping your 10 ewes this is equal to 2 cows so start with maybe 2 Aberdeen angus type cows  , which are medium sized  fairly quite and very saleable ,with calves sold at weaning in the autumn or spring , so either born inside late winter or outside in autumn .  You may have to buy in all the hay ?

shep53

  • Joined Jan 2011
  • Argyll
Re: Starting with cattle - research stage
« Reply #4 on: June 16, 2019, 10:10:00 pm »
Have a look at individual head yokes for the shed as you can use for vet/ AI /tb /calving / individual feeding and less waste of hay as they cannot drag it backwards and trample on it

SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
Re: Starting with cattle - research stage
« Reply #5 on: June 16, 2019, 10:43:15 pm »
If you’ve no natural shelter and it’s wet over winter then you will need to give them access to a shed, whether or not they’re poaching the ground.  (Which if it’s wet, they will be - unless maybe if it’s really good draining soil.)

A hardy breed will survive but it’s not ok for them to have to be wet for days or weeks at a time.  Cold not an issue, wet much more of an issue.

And you also need shelter in summer from sun and flies.  And young calves can’t stand a lot of wet either.

Dexters would be lighter on the ground and are as hardy as any.  You don’t really have very much ground to be thinking about full size beasts like Angus.
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 cow, beef cattle, pigs, sheep for meat and fleece, ducks and hens for eggs, veg and fruit growing

SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
Re: Starting with cattle - research stage
« Reply #6 on: June 16, 2019, 10:45:20 pm »
If the ground will take them through the winter, other options would be Galloways or Blue Greys (hybrids).  Both quite woolly and probably the best to cope with lack of shelter.  I guess Highlands ditto.
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 cow, beef cattle, pigs, sheep for meat and fleece, ducks and hens for eggs, veg and fruit growing

Rosemary

  • Joined Oct 2007
  • Barry, Angus, Scotland
    • The Accidental Smallholder
Re: Starting with cattle - research stage
« Reply #7 on: June 17, 2019, 12:05:18 pm »
We have 9 acres of pretty good grass; three cows (so three calves a year to weaning)and a bull. About 12 ewes, tup and mainly twin lambs. We inwinter the cattle - 1st November to 31st April.
If we didn't have 10 acres of rented grass and somewhere to send our steers for two years, we couldn't manage. Just sayin'

PipKelpy

  • Joined Mar 2019
  • North Shropshire
  • Dreamer with docile cattle and sheep!
Re: Starting with cattle - research stage
« Reply #8 on: June 20, 2019, 09:39:19 pm »
I love cattle, always preferred them to sheep, so knowing that, I reduced the flock in size in preparation for the 'future' when the cattle will be more! I have still in stock 14 round bales of hay from last year, though I have used 22 bales since October last year feeding 1 in calf suckler, 1 15 month weanling (Knickers) and 1, 8 month weanling (last year's calf) and 13 sheep, 7 of which lambed. Grass during the winter yet all still scoffed hay! So when I looked at all my grass yesterday thinking about the amount of hay i'm hoping to get (unfortunately I always think positive where hay is concerned as I don't like to think of bad weather during the process) it occurred to me that as long as I pass the TB test in 2 weeks time, my current 2 big mouths, 2 middle size mouths and 2 small mouths are going to be 4 big mouths 2 middle size mouths and 2 smaller mouths same time next year and hay stocks (if any) are going to be down! Cows are addictive, especially when they are friendly and gentle!! The problem is remembering that they can scoff and double in size in a year and unless you can get calving times right, you'll be taking them through winter. In the past, we were fortunate to calve in March, wean over winter and then flog in February, but this was when we ran 2 places and all lived out with baled silage on tap and fields to wander. Apart from Juniper, all my girls were purchased in as calves and each are halter trained, their tubtrug  feeding bowls match their headcollars and leads! They suit me! Whatever breed you have, enjoy them. Cattle are characters, each have quirks and foibles!!
Halter train the cattle to keep them quiet but watch your back when they come a'bulling! Give them all names even those you plan to eat. Always be calm. Most importantly, invest in wellies with steel toe caps and be prepared for the clever cow who knows where the toe caps end!!

twizzel

  • Joined Apr 2012
Re: Starting with cattle - research stage
« Reply #9 on: June 21, 2019, 09:42:14 am »
I am not sure you’d have enough land with the sheep as well. Our 17 ewes with 34 lambs have run on just short of 4 acres of good grazing since the lambs were a month old. So that’s just over 4 ewes to the acre. Going on the same ratio your ewes would need 2.5 acres.


That would leave the 3.5 acre field for the cattle. If you have 2 cows it wouldn’t be long until their calves were eating grass and then I think you’d run into grass shortage?

SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
Re: Starting with cattle - research stage
« Reply #10 on: June 21, 2019, 10:50:06 am »
I am not sure you’d have enough land with the sheep as well. Our 17 ewes with 34 lambs have run on just short of 4 acres of good grazing since the lambs were a month old. So that’s just over 4 ewes to the acre. Going on the same ratio your ewes would need 2.5 acres.


That would leave the 3.5 acre field for the cattle. If you have 2 cows it wouldn’t be long until their calves were eating grass and then I think you’d run into grass shortage?

The rule of thumb is one acre per adult cow, double that if you want to make your own hay.  A weaned calf counts 0.6 of an adult, to a year old, then 0.8 to eighteen months.  Something like that, anyway.

The rule of thumb for sheep is 5 adults to the acre.  A ewe with lambs at foot counts 1.15 I think, which would tally with your 4 ewes with lambs, twiz.

And the rules of thumb assume good ground, drains well, in a typically English climate.  (Sorry, but it’s true.). So it’s less animals if you’re north - or west - of the border, and way less if your ground is boggy, or very dry, or very rushy, or severely disadvantaged, etc.

Up near the Northumberland moorland line, it’s an acre or two per sheep, for instance ;).
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 cow, beef cattle, pigs, sheep for meat and fleece, ducks and hens for eggs, veg and fruit growing

twizzel

  • Joined Apr 2012
Re: Starting with cattle - research stage
« Reply #11 on: June 21, 2019, 11:04:07 am »
Agreed... 5  sheep to an acre would be on productive lowland grazing during the summer. During last winter our 17 in lamb ewes ran over 12 acres from November until late February (so that would equate to 1.4 ewes to the acre).


I think in the original poster's situation they would need some extra winter grazing to make cattle and sheep work.





Paul and Caroline

  • Joined Apr 2014
Re: Starting with cattle - research stage
« Reply #12 on: June 22, 2019, 10:25:17 pm »
Agreed... 5  sheep to an acre would be on productive lowland grazing during the summer. During last winter our 17 in lamb ewes ran over 12 acres from November until late February (so that would equate to 1.4 ewes to the acre).


I think in the original poster's situation they would need some extra winter grazing to make cattle and sheep work.

This is why I think research is so important - got such a lot to think about,  a head - v - heart decision to be made.......

 

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