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Newbie to beef cattle

Discussion in 'Everything Else Cattle' started by RollingAcres, Jun 28, 2017.

  1. Jun 28, 2017
    RollingAcres

    RollingAcres True BYH Addict

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    Hello everyone!

    I'm new to BYH and new to the cattle world. My husband and I have been talking about raising some cattle for beef, just for us (maybe down the road we will think about breeding/selling). We recently have a chance to purchase 2 Red Devon heifers (11-mo and 2-mo) and got them home last weekend. I have been reading and learning as much as I can.

    We are planning on raising grass fed beef on our land. We have 9.5 acres, which currently 1.5 acres are fenced for the cattle. We will work on getting more areas fenced in so we can rotate the pasture. We also feed them sweet feed once a day.

    I currently have some questions and I'm hoping to get some advice from you all.

    1) Since we only just brought the cattle home last weekend, they still won't let us go near them yet. We've been walking to them and trying to feed them some sweet feed but in the end they would just walk away when we get close to them (about 5-8 ft). Any advice on how to get them to come to us or not walk away from us? We want to be able to get near them so we can check on them or work on them if needed and for future vet visit.
    2) I have read that they need salt/mineral in their diet. Is there a specific kind of salt block to get for beef cattle?
    3) We live in upstate New York. Even though right now is summer, winter will come before we know it and snow will be falling. What advice do you have for raising cattle in the winter? We plan on feeding them hay, alfalfa and grain.
    4) We got them a 15-gallon water tank and filled it with water since 3 days ago. I've been checking the tank to see if I need to refill it but so far it doesn't look like they have drank much. Should I be worried? Do I need to "teach" them that that's their water source? They both did go near it, sniffed it and walked away.

    Thank you in advance for your help and advice!
     
  2. Jun 29, 2017
    greybeard

    greybeard Herd Master Golden Herd Member

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    4. They'll drink when they get thirsty. Don't let them run out on hot days. A mature beef animal may drink up to 20 gal of water/day in hot months. A lactating bovine can require even more

    3. Someone from that region would be a better source of advice than I would be, but even here in south East Texas, they need at least a wind break. Cattle can handle lots of frigid temps, and lots of rain, but in winter, not much wet cold wind. I figure you have about 4 months before the cold air hits your area. A simple 2 or 3 sided structure, on high well drained ground, with a roof will get them thru cold, wet, snowy nights up there. The side(s) the prevailing wind comes from needs to be covered. In summer, shade is all they need..any tree will work.

    In winter, free choice hay is preferable--iow, don't let them run out. If you can't do free choice, put their hay out in the afternoon. A belly full of hay is like building a fire in their gut and helps keep them warm at night.

    2. Loose stockman's salt and a good loose mineral. I don't do blocks. A mature heifer, bull or cow generally consumes about 4oz of mineral per day. That, is a lot of licking at a block when they should be out on the grass eating. Build or buy a covered loose mineral/loose salt feeder.
    [​IMG]

    If you have a tree to hang it from, these work great:
    http://www.cattletoday.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=69572
    It hangs at an angle, which keeps rain out of it most of the time. If you can't hang it, put it in an old tire, and get a "Wind and Rain" type loose mineral.
    https://www.purinamills.com/2.purin...andRain-All-Season-Storm-Package.png?ext=.png

    Place your salt & mineral feeders away from their drinking water. You don't want it right next to water. They'll eat salt then go to water, then back to salt..back & forth and can take in too much salt. If you see them licking each other tho, it's a generally a sign they need salt.

    1. Buy a bag of 20% cattle cubes. Feed them a little each day from a bucket. Just pour a few cubes out on the ground over the fence and once they eat some, they'll come running to you every time they see you with a bucket. Once they get a taste for those cubes, it's like candy to them. There's a 'reason' many folks refer to them as 'calling cubes'. Mine know what a sack of cubes looks like and I better not be standing in the way when they come thundering up...

    Personally, I don't do sweet feed. I've never had any cattle that liked it any better than unsweetened feed. Molasses does add some energy to the ration, but imo, not enough to make any difference.
     
    Last edited: Jun 29, 2017
  3. Jun 29, 2017
    RollingAcres

    RollingAcres True BYH Addict

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    greybeard, thank you! This is very helpful!
    1. I was able to get even closer to them yesterday with some feed. I saw that they were eating the feed that I poured in their buckets, so I got some more and walked to them.
    2. The pictured mineral/salt feeder idea is great. We are going to work on building something similar or like the ones from the links you sent.
    3. They do currently have a 3-sided lean-to, which we might add a half door at a later time. They also have a row of trees where they could go to get some shade. We are planning on giving them free-choice hay.
    4. Yesterday when I got home, I saw that they were at the water tank drinking. So all that worry for nothing, lol! :weee
     
  4. Jul 7, 2017
    WildRoseBeef

    WildRoseBeef Range nerd & bovine enthusiast

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    1. This all takes time. You're strange to them, but give them a few weeks and regular interaction with them, and they'll warm up to you.

    2. Salt/mineral important. Loose is certainly considerably better, but even in loose form you can't control intake rates because of the hierarchial/herd dynamic. Having the feeder NOT close to the water source, but rather out where they're eating or grazing ensures every single animal is getting the mineral they need. And they'll need the mineral all year round.

    3. Shelter is one thing, feed intake is another. Cattle in colder weather will eat more. They will need more energy in the winter, particularly during periods where temperatures are going to go down below their threshold level (which is around 21ºF) so make sure the feed they're getting is good quality. If you need to feed grain, about 2 lb of grain for every 10-degree drop in temperature will help them cope. Also, in the fall, checking their body condition score (done about the same time most northern US/Canadian cows get preg-checked) is a must to make sure they go into the winter NOT thin, but at a good condition where they have enough fat cover to require less feed and less energy than a thin cow would need during those wicked cold snaps. (At the same time, if those heifers are going into the winter above-conditioned (typically heifers should be around a BCS of 3.5 (on a scale of 1 to 5, one being the most emaciated) to be considered in "good" or "normal" condition; this would translate to, on the 1 to 9 US scale for beef cattle, about 6 to 6.5 BCS), it's a great reason to feed them poorer quality feed, or leave off the grain (which you probably will do eventually anyway) so that they can lose some weight prior to calving in the spring.

    Body condition scoring is another beast to describe. Typically you never look at the abdomen of a cow, but rather the fat covering over the bones of the hips, spine, and ribs. These are a couple great link to check out on BCS: http://www.beefresearch.ca/research/body-condition-scoring.cfm
    http://www.cowbcs.info/photogallery.html

    Here's more info on feeding cows in winter: http://www1.agric.gov.ab.ca/$department/deptdocs.nsf/all/faq7955

    Thing is, when feeding in the winter, thin cows will eat more feed and need more TLC during the winter. Winter is also a crap time to try to make those cows put on weight. So, make sure those girls go in winter relatively fat and sassy!

    4. As GB said, if the get thirsty enough, they'll find out where and how to get their water. :)
     
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  5. Jul 14, 2017
    RollingAcres

    RollingAcres True BYH Addict

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    @WildRoseBeef thank you and very nice to "meet" you!
    We bought a bale of alfalfa for the cows but they barely touched it. Not sure if they just don't like it, or just prefer grazing out in the pasture. Who wants dried up alfalfa when there's tons of fresh grass to eat, right? We'll get them good quality feed for the winter and will also supplement with some grain. They do currently get some grain every few days. Mainly to get them get used to us. The older of the 2 will come near me and sniff my hand, the younger one still needs some time.
     
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  6. Jul 14, 2017
    Alaskan

    Alaskan True BYH Addict

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    Just FYI, I love training cattle to come when you call. Of course that is done by feeding them.

    However, I wouldn't ever want to train them to eat out of my hand. Even a soft head bump from a cow is pretty powerful.

    As far as winter housing. ...how much snow do you get? Snow over 3 feet and it will start rolling into your open shelter and eat up space.

    With a big enough shelter, and the wind side closed, you should be fine...but do think it through.
     
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  7. Jul 17, 2017
    RollingAcres

    RollingAcres True BYH Addict

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    We do get a lot of snow up here and will definitely keep that in mind. Thank you!
     
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  8. Jul 24, 2017
    WyndSyrin

    WyndSyrin Overrun with beasties

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    Hello to you RollingAcres,

    As I am also a newbie to beef cattle I would like to share what I have learned in the last year that I have worked on the farm that I am currently at.

    Getting the cows to let you get close to them will take a lot of work. Your 2 month old I believe you will have a very good chance of getting her to warm up to you. It all comes down to how you treat them. Always give them a positive experience when you are around them. They will eventually see you as non-threatening and get curious about who you are. By feeding them the Sweet feed you are well on your way to them equating you with food.

    Yes cows need Salt and Mineral. I have discovered through experience and reading that they need Salt, A trace mineral block-which you can get as a combo at a feed store. Also since you have heifers they will need a phosphorus mineral as well. The farm that I am on has just started to use Trace mineral blocks.

    You will need Hay for your cows. Exactly how much will depend on how cold it gets. If you can try to find someone that has large hay bales and buy them from that person. As for a number in which you should buy I can't really tell you since what is used in the midwest is completely different than what you would use in upstate New York. you would want to up the sweet feed to 2x/day in winter so they have the extra energy.

    If it were me, I would look into getting a bigger stock tank since what GB said is true they drink a lot especially during the summer. Case in point here in the midwest, we have 114 head of cattle and 8 bulls spread across 360 acres Eight of the heifers are in their own 20 acres and they drink down a long mettle stock tank in about 4+ days during the summer. And those are just yearling. the bigger ones have spring fed watering tanks, but the point is still there. they need water all of the time.

    Also I would suggest that you look into a large animal vet, so they can make sure your two heifers are in good condition and eventually when you start having calves they are in good shape as well.

    Hope this helps you out
     
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  9. Jul 24, 2017
    farmerjan

    farmerjan True BYH Addict

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    One thing that you might want to do is to let the cattle come to you, not walk to them. In other words, once you get to the point that they turn away, you are getting into their space and they are reacting to what is known as their flight zone. So, now that they have been there a bit, just call them and let them come to you or to your buckets. Slow and steady voice, no yelling, no getting excited etc so that they don't perceive you as a threat of any kind.
    The younger calf may take longer, it's a kid thing if they aren't bottle raised.
    A 50-100 gal water trough is better for them for the warmer months. We have 18 cow calf pairs and the bull at one pasture and they are drinking 350 gal water a day with out temps in the 90's every day. I have to fill the troughs daily due to some problems so I know what they are drinking.

    Get a book like Raising Beef Cattle by Heather Thomas Smith, it is one of the Storey Publication books. Tractor Supply usually has some. Good general info.

    We do both loose trace mineral and the red trace salt blocks in our mineral feeders. Have a couple of cows that aren't big on the loose and the blocks also help the ones that want to knock the mineral out of the feeder. Put it out there and they will self limit themselves. Yes, do not put it right near the water, had 3 cows one time get salt poisoning when they decided to gorge themselves on some loose salt. So, we never feed just salt to them. The mineral usually doesn't taste so inviting and it is what will limit what their intake is. The blocks will limit them just because they can't get too much at a time since it takes time and effort to lick them.

    Most will eat grass over hay any time there is fresh grass to eat. Don't worry about it.
    Alfalfa is not necessary for beef cattle as the protein is very rich. Heifers will get too fat on it if fed in any amount. It will help cut the costs of grain in the winter and is a good feed for keeping up condition in winter but if they are not lactating, they pretty much don't need feed that rich. You don't want them to get roly poly fat unless you are going to be sending them to butcher.

    Are you planning to eat either of these? You said you wanted to raise some cattle for beef. I would suggest that if you want beef for your freezer, then a steer or 2 would be the way to go. You are looking at about another year for the older one to have a calf, then another 12-18 months before it is ready to eat if that is your plan.
    If there is anyone near you that you know, try to get some practical experience with cows that are calving because having your first calf out of a heifer is not something a newbie should be doing. It is hard enough to let a cow have a calf that is already an experienced mother, but heifers calving can be a trying experience. If you can work with or around some that are calving, then at least you can get an idea of what is to be expected and what to look for and know when to call a vet.

    YES find a large animal vet and start a relationship with them while there are no problems with your animals. Understand that you are going to have to have some kind of catch pen and head chute to contain them when they have to be worked or checked. An animal that is hurting or sick will not just stand there and let you walk up to them in a field.

    I would suggest a small catch pen that you do all the feeding in so that they are comfortable coming into it and then when you have to contain them, you just shut the gate. From there it is easier to get them into a head catch or chute of some kind. Once they get to where they associate you with feed, they will come when they see you or you call them and that is the easiest way to work cattle. Let them come to you, not you have to chase them.

    None of this is meant to be negative. Everyone has to start somewhere. We run alot of cows and raise our own heifers up and calve out about 20 heifers a year besides our mature cattle. Have been doing this for 40+ years. Everything that can go wrong will at some point in time. But if you can get some experience with someone local,... offer to be free help if they will teach you.... then you will know what to look out for and at least know when you are in over your head and know when you need to call someone. Yes, my vet is on my phone and he still gets called.
     
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  10. Jul 24, 2017
    RollingAcres

    RollingAcres True BYH Addict

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    @farmerjan and @WyndSyrin Thank you very much for your advice and info.
    @farmerjan I completely understand none of it is meant to be negative. I'm here to learn, and with learning you learn about the good and the bad.
    And yes we are raising these for beef but might try to breed them first. Like you said, we have another year or so before the older one is ready to have a calf. That will give us time to really learn and get some experience. Of course the best learning is hands on experience like you suggested.

    @WyndSyrin they both will now come near me. The younger calf is still getting use to it. She would follow the older one when the older one comes near me.