NFU Mutual Smallholding Insurance

Author Topic: Choice of cattle  (Read 943 times)

janeh

  • Joined Sep 2017
Choice of cattle
« on: September 17, 2019, 11:16:11 am »
Hello,
We are thinking of getting a couple of cattle. We don't have a huge place (9.3 acres) and we have some sheep already. I was thinking cattle would be good for the land rather than just keeping sheep. Our place did belong to a lady who kept Dexter cattle for a number of years and we have some loose boxes that would be suitable if needed in winter..

Anyway, we went to Melton Mowbray at the weekend to have a look at a dispersal sale of Shetlands from the Manx herd. They were bigger than I expected, especially the bull. I was a bit put off them and thought maybe we should consider Dexters although I would not want short legged ones.

Can any Shetland owners comment on the variation in size? I have heard people talk of a "traditional type". I was put off Dexters as people said they can be stroppy, but I am thinking this depends on how they have been bred and handled. We don't have a crush but we have a Dexter sized bull pen.

Just wondering if anyone has any helpful advice. Thanks! Jane
Voss Electric Fence

harmony

  • Joined Feb 2012
Re: Choice of cattle
« Reply #1 on: September 17, 2019, 01:09:28 pm »
I saw that bull. He looked like he meant business.

macgro7

  • Joined Feb 2016
Re: Choice of cattle
« Reply #2 on: September 17, 2019, 08:10:44 pm »
We saw him too.
However Shetlands are much more gentle than Dexters, although dexters were quite a lot smaller.
It's a bit like with the sheep - small tiny little soay are impossible to catch comparing to chubby big Leicester ones.

There was a white park cow with massive horns and a tiny calf in Melton who really didn't like my 4yo son - she was trying to hurt him through the fence - it's good it was strong.

I decided to go for whitebred shorthorn when we finally get enough land God willing.
Growing loads of fruits and vegetables! Raising dairy goats, chickens, ducks, geese rabbits and a little boy on 1/2 acre in the middle of the city of Leicester, using permaculture methods.

SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
Re: Choice of cattle
« Reply #3 on: September 18, 2019, 01:40:06 am »
You haven’t got a lot of ground, especially as far up the country as you are.  Your two cattle will presumably be four and then, if they are for your own consumption, briefly six each year?  So Dexters might be your only choice - if indeed that is enough ground for any cattle at all, given that you already have some sheep.  Dexters are very thrifty and the youngsters grow well off grass. 

Yes, some Dexters are sweeter and gentler than others, so choose wisely ;).  But they are predominantly a beef breed, so the cows are suckler cows, whose job is to look after their calves themselves and give the farmer very little work.  So they are naturally more independent and less biddable than dairy breeds.  A Shetland is a dual purpose, so more likely to be more biddable and less independent-minded than a true suckler.  A full-on dairy type would be quieter still - but more likely to be less hardy and need winter housing.
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: Choice of cattle
« Reply #4 on: September 18, 2019, 01:43:24 am »
Oh, another factor is servicing.  When I moved here, they had Dexters here and hired a bull each year.  My Jerseys replaced the Dexters and now we use AI.  The folks who knew the Dexters have said they weren’t sure they’d have managed to get the Dexters in for AI, not to mention that the operative may well refuse to use a wall-and-gate setup with a more fiesty animal.  And they were pretty tame Dexters.

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: Choice of cattle
« Reply #5 on: September 18, 2019, 07:26:24 am »
We have Shetlands and we milk them. Our bull comes in with them, gets tied up and gets his bucket with the rest. We bought him at six months, so he knwos nothing different. He's a big boy but generally docile - although I always give myself an escape route, just in case hegets excoted (as opposed to aggressive - if he get's agressive, he's mince. Literally.)
When I told my vet wewere getting cattle, he said if it was Dexters, we'd need another vet. I think he was joking.TBH, I think it's more about handling than breed. Not all Shetlands are tame and not all Dexters are wild.
I do love my girls though.

Backinwellies

  • Global Moderator
  • Joined Sep 2012
  • Llandeilo Carmarthenshire
    • Nantygroes
    • Facebook
Re: Choice of cattle
« Reply #6 on: September 18, 2019, 09:09:25 am »
Hi Jane

replying to your email on here so others may benefit from the answers.

I have both Dexter's and Shetland's.  I love both. 
 Dexter's are more mischievous … and will jump a livestock fence to join a bulling heifer next door.  Mine will eat out of my hand and come easily to a bucket. (They were halter trained as calves by owner though I didn't keep this up)
Shetland's much more laid back … much less likely to jump a fence (though have had one clear a five bar gate!) .  The finer one's would need housing (I had one and found she lost so much weight in winter I had to seriously concentrate feed). Now I have heavier type … that get far toooo fat on grass  but over winter outside on hay/straw and don't lose an ounce!

All calve when I'm not looking and are excellent mothers.  Both cross well to AA, for a larger beef beast.

I use AI generally with little trouble … one year I kept a bull calf, sold his mother, and used him then sent him to the freezer. Personally I don't think we have the facilities to handle a bull... however 'tame'.

As for facilities … you must have a crush, or in our case, we have a calving gate with head lock which is used for Tb test and medication.  Most vets will no longer treat or tb test with beast held by a normal gate.

Your biggest issue will be your lack of acreage.... most people who think I'll have 2 cows forget it takes 2 to 3 years to grow a beef steer/ heifer … so even if you only breed cows alternate years (not recommended as they do get fat) you will have a herd of  2 cows, 1 two year old, 1 one year old and a calf at any one time …. so at least 5 … then allow for a lovely pedigree heifer which you want to keep …..    so at minimum you need enough grazing for a herd of 6 (unless you sell all offspring as youngstock) .   If you can afford to buy in all your winter hay then you may have enough land ?

Cows are the best! (well close to goats anyway!)….  I'd ditch my sheep if my land wasn't so damp!   Strip grazing my cows has greatly improved both the quantity and quality of our grass … but has taken 5 years.

I think my biggest problem has been finding new homes for pedigree offspring at a sensible price …The last 2 lots I sold have not found a good long term home unfortunately,  hence I now just put everything to AA …. and sold a yearling last year for £500 without any problem. 

Please feel free to email me again if there is anything else I can answer.   If you live anywhere near S Wales then pop along and meet them all .
Linda

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.

http://nantygroes.blogspot.co.uk/
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janeh

  • Joined Sep 2017
Re: Choice of cattle
« Reply #7 on: September 18, 2019, 03:54:32 pm »
Thanks for the advice. Plenty to think about! Our place was owned by a lady who kept Dexter cattle. People say she kept 15 but I don't know how many calves she kept as she used to milk the cows. She also had goats and sows. I really don't know how she managed it but I have heard that she didn't waste a blade of grass (unsurprisingly!). I am not sure we want to work the place that hard.

We have a lot of hay this year although we could sell some. This year was a very good year by all accounts. I suppose there are other ways of keeping cattle. When I was young we bought in calves and bucket fed them, but you end up spending on milk powder and calf food and they get ill easily. Could get weaned beasts but depends how big they get.

It's true we are quite up north (County Durham) and high (1000 feet) so we get late springs. Most cattle owners here keep them in over the winter, probably to save the ground as much as anything else. Could stick with sheep...

SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
Re: Choice of cattle
« Reply #8 on: September 18, 2019, 05:42:05 pm »
One option might be to buy weaned dairy x calves in spring, graze them over summer then sell them as stores in the autumn?
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: Choice of cattle
« Reply #9 on: September 18, 2019, 07:33:45 pm »
One option might be to buy weaned dairy x calves in spring, graze them over summer then sell them as stores in the autumn?


With the way the beef and store market is at the moment there is very little point financially  :gloomy: 


You don’t say how many sheep you’ve got on the 9 acres but cattle take more land than you think really, and more thought into handling than sheep where you can just get away with a few hurdles here and there.

PipKelpy

  • Joined Mar 2019
  • North Shropshire
  • Dreamer with docile cattle and sheep!
Re: Choice of cattle
« Reply #10 on: September 23, 2019, 06:55:13 am »
Hi, been busy with epileptic dog for nearly a week so only just read this thread! Halter train from as young as possible if possible. This is regarding the comment 'Must have a crush'.

Yes, with regards to feet trimming if do. All my cretins, the females originated from the same dairy farm and are all red Hereford X. Due to them being off Ayrshire x Jersey mums, all are red, 2 favour the Hereford sire regarding colour and markings and the other 2, half sisters on the mums side take after the mum having black tiger stripes!!

Anyhow, all but Juniper are halter trained (She came when 14 months old) but all will tie, including this year's  calves! TB test this year, Juniper tied in the alley (bottom of shed between 2 gates) all others headcollars on and tied to a gate. Vet surprised and didn't mind. The farm the girls came off actually tie all their dairies up and vet goes from cow to cow.

It all depends on the vet. I had a vet come here for a tb test several years ago to test 2 Brown Swiss bullocks and he visibly recoiled when he saw that he had to stand next to them even though there was a gate between them!

Yes, I understand cattle can be jumpy, even the quiet ones but it is also how you handle from the beginning.

Not only that but the way our shed is set up we can't get a crush in.
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!!

Bramble&Rose Dairy

  • Joined Dec 2017
  • Warwickshire
Re: Choice of cattle
« Reply #11 on: October 10, 2019, 12:09:11 pm »
Hi janeh,
We will have some Blue grey heifers for sale in the next couple of months. They are not hand reared or halter trained but quiet. Will grow to average size like the Galloway, make good mothers, easy calving, hardy and be milky.
The only thing is I don't know how easily out wintered they would be where you are? Does anyway keep something similar in the same area to compare them with?

SallyintNorth

  • Joined Feb 2011
  • Cornwall
  • Rarely short of an opinion but I mean well
Re: Choice of cattle
« Reply #12 on: October 12, 2019, 12:32:16 pm »
Hi janeh,
We will have some Blue grey heifers for sale in the next couple of months. They are not hand reared or halter trained but quiet. Will grow to average size like the Galloway, make good mothers, easy calving, hardy and be milky.
The only thing is I don't know how easily out wintered they would be where you are? Does anyway keep something similar in the same area to compare them with?

Blue-greys are effectively native to the north of England / Scottish Borders, and the ones bred up there don’t really take to being housed in winter.  They’re very hardy, thrifty, easy calving, great mothers, and the right ones can be fairly docile. Heifers fetch a good price at the sales at Newcastleton in October and other similar ones in the area. 

Ex-BH in Cumbria still keeps a small herd of them on his moorland ground with his Angus bull.  The offspring don’t fetch as much as those from the bigger dairy cross suckler cows, but the lower costs to keep them mean that the Blue-Greys actually leave more profit once they’re established.  However we always found that some of the heifers we bought wouldn’t make it into the herd; as is the case with any heifer I guess, but it always seemed a higher attrition rate with the Blue-Greys.  Once established, they’re great - they just get on with it and need nothing but a bit of hay in winter.  That was with a herd of 8 plus the bull on 90 acres of moorland, though :/

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

 

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