The demand for organic meat has been steadily rising as consumers become more inclined to purchasing natural foods, which come with some additional benefits. For instance, it’s believed to be safer, healthier and better for the environment to consume organic meats over conventional meats.
This rings especially true for cattle, the source of our favorite steaks and beef cuts. Organic, or grass-fed cattle is actually one of the most nutritious proteins available, with lots of omega-3 and healthy fats. It also has fewer calories than conventional beef, making it one of the best meat options for those who are conscious of their diets.
Starting a Farm
As such, starting a cattle farm to produce your own organic beef makes sense. Not only will you be able to consume organic beef, but you can also easily be a player in this $76.4 billion cattle industry. It looks daunting, but here’s how you can get started:
To raise cattle, one of the main considerations is the location. You’ll need to find a piece of land with pastures that are clean, with a natural supply of food and water to sustain your cattle.
The weather has to be good as well. Research has shown that cows prefer a moderate climate that leans towards a slight chill, about 25 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Anything above 80 degrees Fahrenheit, and you risk them undergoing physiological stress that would require more equipment and maintenance to cope. On the other side of the heat spectrum, cold rain should be avoided at all costs.
These are the basic environmental considerations, but there might be more boxes you have to check to be a certified producer of organic meat. These requirements vary from state to state, so check with your local authorities or farming groups.
When it comes to the sustenance of your herd of cattle, what’s the most important point that comes to mind? If you said food, then you are right, and if you said shelter, you’re right too. Both are equally important to ensure that your cows are healthy and that you are able to see a significant return on the initial investment.
In terms of shelter, you have to decide on how you want to house your cattle. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to invest a lot of capital for this. Instead, simply use your local facilities to make cattle housing or even a small dairy farm. Here are some things you should consider:
- Height: It’s important to leave the roof a little higher than we humans are used to. A good gauge is between nine to ten feet. This helps to ensure that there is enough air and light entering the shed. It also aids in draining rainwater or debris.
- Drainage: The entrance and exits should allow for the easy removal of trash and excretion from your cattle as you’ll be cleaning the shed often! It’s important to do so to prevent pests like mosquitos and harmful parasites from breeding.
- Flooring: The floor should be kept dry, neat and clean, and it should never be slippery! Ideally, each cattle should have a five square meter space to itself.
With these considerations, decide if you want to utilize an open housing method or a fixed housing method. Open housing is only recommended if your location has stable weather and temperature. As for fixed housing, you can choose between one-row or two-row cattle houses, depending on the number of cattle.
You might not have your cattle yet, but soon you’ll have lots of mouths to feed. It’s all the more important to watch what you’re feeding the cattle when you’re raising organic livestock – so it’s important to have a good plan.
A quick science lesson: cows eat plants and are natural herbivores. They have a four-chambered stomach that easily breaks down grass and other plants, absorbing the nutrients much more easily than a human would on the same diet.
Here are the three most important elements to what makes a good feed:
- Vitamins: Beef cattle require a lot of vitamins, but the good news is that their bodies produce it naturally, especially vitamins B and K.
- Protein: Grass and hay do contain proteins, but you should supplement it with legumes such as soybeans and chickpeas. Make sure your young calves get enough protein too, as this will help them grow into sturdy adults.
- Minerals: This explains the mineral block you might have seen on other farms. Cows do need minerals like copper, zinc, and iodine, but only trace amounts. As such, getting the cattle to lick a mineral block is sufficient.
Apart from the feed, if any, you’d definitely need good, nutrient-rich pasture to raise organic cattle. Needless to say, this applies even more when raising grass-fed beef. To help nurture your pasture, seed, rest and rake it as and when needed. Look out for and get rid of weeds. Also, make sure whatever fertilizers you use on the pasture is organic! It sounds more labor-intensive, and it is, but the results will be well worth it.
On top of that, you might want to purchase a guard animal such as a guard dog or a llama. They’ll watch over your cows, especially the younger ones from predators and pests.
Once that’s in place, come up with a feeding plan. We recommend supplementing your organic cattle’s grazing diet with organic grains and minerals. Plan how much food you’ll give your cattle in each stage of life — from calves to adults, and the finishing rations before slaughter as well.
4. Buying and caring for cattle
Once you’ve done the required preparation, it’s finally time to purchase your first calves! The best place to look would be an organic meat producer in your area. That way, you can also ask for tips as a beginner farmer.
At a later stage, it’ll be time to breed. Before breeding, check that livestock are all organic before buying them or allowing them to breed. Check bulls in case they have any STDs, low sperm count or any health defects. Mothers should have large pelvises and no physical deformities.
Remember to keep track of and weigh your animals as time passes. Once they are heavy enough for slaughtering, ensure that you have the right procedures, suppliers, and ranch requirements in place.
As you can tell, caring for the cattle is the easy part — you just need good planning and the right equipment to start your own organic cattle farm. Treat the art and the animals with respect, and you’ll be able to reap the benefits in no time.