This goes out to those of you operating a small farm or those planning to. Here are a few things to consider if you are planning to grow your small farm in a viable and sustainable way through beef cattle production.
1. Think about adequate resources
Beef cattle production is no easy feat and there are many resources that you have to take into account like equipment, land, feed, facilities, and labor. For land space, this is usually a factor that small farm owners struggle with the most, followed by feed resources. As for equipment, some of the more common ones are waterers, trailers, feeders, chutes, wagons, calving pens, etc. All of these can usually be found at used farm sales if you are looking for cheaper alternatives.
2. Update your knowledge database
How much do you know about caring for your cattle? How to look out for their health, whether they are getting the proper nutrition, how to facilitate their reproduction, how to ensure their well-being on the farm, and etc? If you are unsure of one or two things, don’t fret as there is quite a range of good educational programs that are available to provide you the necessary information to better care for your cattle. In fact, if you have adequate resources, you can look to working with experienced producers, veterinarians, nutritionists, extension specialists, and other professionals.
3. Taking account of financial concerns
Of course, to ensure a sustainable small farm, you would need to know what are the potential costs and income and asking another farmer is not the best method because costs and income can vary due to a set of different factors like production methods and market variables. As such, what you can do is consult land grant university extension programs as they have specialists in farm management and several online budgeting tools to help you get the complex calculations done.
4. Settle on a suitable beef industry
While it may come as a surprise, the beef industry is incredibly diverse and can be categorized into feedlot and cow-calf production. Cow-calf production ensures the continuity of cows through breeding cows and producing new calves every year. Feedlot production then grows the calf to the market weight and then sell them, where they will be processed into beef for retail. In fact, even before feedlot productions, there are stocker or backgrounder producers who develop the calf to a certain size before being sold to the feedlot producers. These are only some of the few examples of the branches in the beef industry, there are many more roles like seed stock producers, club calf producers. The important thing is to research these roles and devise a marketing plan to find the industry that resonates with you.
5. Value-adding in the cattle market
Small players in a market mostly have the same fate, to be at the mercy of the other players in the cattle industry. However, in the case of small cattle farms, they can be well-placed to make use of niche markets. For example, there is an increasing demand for farm goods that are natural, organic, grass-fed, source-verified, and so on. Here, cattle that meet these criteria can be sold as a freezer or locker beef. Regardless of whether you choose to pursue seed stock production or market weaned calves as commodity feeder calves, there are various ways you can add value to the market. All you need to do is think out of the box and consider what are the ways to best make production more efficient and effective.
6. Determining a good production system
Production can differ across regions because of many factors like climate and resources. In the Midwest, one of the most common systems is to have the cattle calves graze the pastures when they are developing in spring, and for winter, have them consume hay, grain, silage, and other feeds from the spring season. In other areas, utilizing this system can prove counterproductive as it may extend the grazing season because of the need to graze crop residue and stockpiled forages. So, in other news, there is growing consideration of dry lot and confinement production. So, there is not only one way to successfully farm beef cattle, so work it out depending on your own conditions.
7. Set a calving season
This is important to your production system and to keep calving season as efficient as possible, you want to have a group of calves that age and weigh the same. Most herds usually calve in the spring season but it does not mean that it is fixed, you can determine your own calving season. All you have to do is plan accordingly and take into account, labor availability, facilities, feed availability, weather, marketing plan, etc.
8. Breeding plans to produce calves
To have calving seasons, you must first have in place, bulls, that inseminate your cows. However, bulls are, unfortunately, costlier than other types of cattle. As such, in order to ensure the maximization of your costs, you would need to be able to justify the costs spent on the bull by averaging it throughout your cows. For example, if you have 25 to 30 cows available, buying your own bull might be the best option. Alternatively, if you don’t, there are other methods like artificial insemination or discussing lease agreements or partnerships, and more to secure your bull. So, these are some of the things to consider when making your decision on the bulls.
9. Feeding your cattle
The feed is a crucial factor in beef cattle production and the greatest cost as well given that you need the right feed to ensure proper nutrition to your cows which directly affects their well-being, health, and productivity. You need to ensure well-balanced nutrition but also consider your own budget for this.
10. Invest in your talents and interest
Given the diversity of beef cattle production, you need to find out where your interests and talents lie because they can bring you greater success when you actually enjoy your work.
With that said, we hope these tips can go a long way to helping you raise the perfect beef cattle production farm.