With the current market, everyone wants to know how to make sure their food is secure. You cant count on the supermarkets just in time supply model and consumers are realizing it’s easier, more economical, and actually kind of cool to go straight to the source, the farmer.
So you’ve decided you want to be the face for consumers to buy their secure source of protein! Yay! Welcome!
There are so many ways to raise cattle for meat, and below we will go over some important pieces you don’t want to miss.
Beef vs Dairy
Wait, dairy can be raised for beef? I thought beef was for meat and dairy was for milk? You would be correct! However, sometimes, you don’t want every dairy calf to make milk for you and you need to do something with them that can not only can prove worthy by making a profit but also shows respect to the animal as a living being with a purpose.
It’s your choice which type is best for your farm. The main difference is meat quality. Beef are, well, beefy. Their genetics are prioritized for heavy muscle, which means more meat and more fat as an end result. Dairy have lean thin muscle structures so their meat quality is usually lower in fat content and yields less meat from the carcass.
If you’re raising cattle for meat you want to have them on a high protein high fat diet. The means of obtaining these macronutrients depends if you want to raise them with grain, grass, or a combination of both. Everyone has their preferences but I personally believe the quality of meat is higher when the animal is raised on a rotational pasture with free access to a balanced grain ration. This also gives you secondary benefits such as increasing the soil quality and very little “farm” smell.
I’m just going to add here, you need a water source too. You can have an automatic waterer or a water tank. It doesn’t matter to the animals what type, just as long as they access to as much water as they may need through each season. And fun fact, if you need help keeping your water clean, carnival gold fish work great!! They don’t have to be from the carnival but I feel like people hardly know what to do with the gold fish they win, ha.
As I mentioned previously, I believe rotationally grazing is the best way to raise cattle for the animal, the environment, and for the farmer! But don’t let those big words scare you. You don’t have to have thousands or even hundreds of acres to rotationally graze. We raise our cattle on less than 6 acres and rotationally graze. We have 3 cow calf pairs that split the area equally. We rotate them as needed. Some paddocks need more time than others. The biggest key is not to let the pasture get over grazed. Let the cows eat down the grass but don’t let them eat all of the grass.
You can raise cattle for meat without rotationally grazing them. However, the soil will become trampled and there may be a fowl odor. This is caused by the lack of time available for plants to create a strong root structure. This ground can take a long time to recover and grow plants again. To prevent this type of damage you may want to look into a concrete pad or gravel. This will also help keep the animals clean.
So we covered the basics on what you need to raise the animals. But one big thing people don’t think about is their processor. This may be the most important part of raising animals for meat. You want to do your homework about your processor. Its not just about price or location. Make sure you like their work. Yes, each facility can do different work. They can offer different cuts, be better at some cuts than others, and their customer service can make a world of difference.
Once you chose your processor, you want to make sure you maintain a good relationship with them. In the current market where all the processors are booked up almost a year out, you don’t want to have to call around to many different processors just to get an animal processed. Having a good relationship with your processor would ensure your animals are processed at the right time to get the high yield, high grade, great quality you are looking for.
There is always more! If you want to know more about what exactly to feed, how to rotationally graze, our processor, or what quality really means, click the links below!!
Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more about how to raise animals on a small scale!