What a fun endeavour to get into! Raising cows and cattle for milk, for meat, for just keeping the grass down, or even just to have one as a pet because you like cows so much (bless your heart), is one of the most rewarding, trying, frustrating and fun experiences you can have in your life. There's much to get into keeping cows, so let's dive in.
I decided to create this section of The Bovine Practicum because I thought of some of the folks out there that are quite new to raising cows and cattle, are not sure what they're getting into, what they're doing or how to do it, and may be looking for some resources to lean on to give them guidance.
I sincerely hope to make this place where you can come and get some information you're looking for on raising or keeping cows.
I'm not too picky on who this particular blog is intended for, but I am directing it towards those who are actively engaged in the raising of the critters, no matter the herd size, no matter the intention that you have for raising them. Most of the content is going to be directed to those of you who are keeping your bovines for beef and/or dairy, FYI.
Why am I creating yet another blog-type page on this site? For one, I can't get enough of teaching people through deliverables such as a website like this. I love it. For another, I've been finding that the Ruminations Blog has become geared far more towards the general public--folks who may or may not have much in the way of an agricultural background--and not towards farmers and ranchers. As someone from a farm who actively works with farmers, I found that a little disconcerting and disheartening (yes, I can disappoint myself), and I'm sure that the folk who are keeping cows and want to know more about how to care for their animals, have too. My goal is to change that with this section.
A third reason is that I've been inspired by some "homesteader" type folk who've been doing the right things--and some not so right, by my book--with their own cows and cattle, at least from what they've shared with their vlogs. While I in no way intend to point fingers directly at them and point out their flaws, instead I would like to take some of the things they've done, and maybe are doing, and give some explanation how and why it may or may not work, and maybe how it can apply to you.
Anyway, I've gone far enough off on a tangent, so let's continue on with my short-ish intro into keeping cows!
A Surprising Element Most May Not Realize
Did you know that the biggest, most significant element of raising bovines is the feeding and grazing part?
No matter what, what they eat determines almost everything, from how much milk you get from them, how healthy they are, to the fact that they can reproduce. It's all interrelated. A lot of health and reproductive issues have much to do with what you (or don't) feed them.
Your biggest focus should be around feeding and grazing the critters, regardless what they're going to be used for. There's a whole lot more to feeding cows than just putting looks-like-good-enough-hay in front of them, more than just throwing them out to pasture for the season. There's minerals and vitamins to consider, forage testing, whether or not to use grain and what kind, timing with grazing, and much more.
Health, Breeding, Handling, Calving...
While feeding and grazing takes up a big chunk of keeping cows, there's some other components that are also important. If you're keeping cows to breed them, when to breed, natural service versus AI (artificial insemination), what's estrus and what to look for, among other information are pretty important to know to guarantee your cows are going to drop a calf.
And what about that time when a new calf does come along? What do you do if one of your cows starts having trouble calving? Once the calf is out, how soon does he need colostrum? What is colostrum, and why is it important? If his/her momma isn't going to accept them, what do you do then? Or, if momma and baby get along fine, what can you do to make them comfortable and healthy? These questions and more will get answered here as time goes on.
Health and disease is a tricky subject for this blog since I'm not a veterinarian and therefore am not entitled to give out herd-health related information nor advice to those who may be needing it. I can provide general information, F.Y.I, on different diseases and such, but when it pertains to your own animals, I highly, HIGHLY recommend that you contact your local large animal (preferably bovine) veterinarian for any issues that you have in your herd or with individual animals.
Then there's handling. Cows are much bigger than most newbies expect, and are entirely different animals to work with than, say, dogs or horses are. They behave differently than dogs or horses do, and some may not know what to do or what to expect when a cow start shaking and tossing her head at you or if a group of animals keep playing keep-away. What about herding them? Always some neat things to talk about with that topic as well.
If you're feeling slightly overwhelmed reading all that, I don't blame you. But there's so much more where that came from. I've seen thousands of different questions and articles on various things pertaining to raising cows and cattle that it gets mind-boggling just thinking about it.
These sorts of things that I mentioned above--and much more of course--are what I hope to get to eventually on this blog, in between getting posts up on the main Ruminations Blog section.
I hope that you will learn something from what I will share, and maybe learn something from you should you leave a comment below (or if you wish to contact me privately via the Contact Me page).
This is more of a "farmers/ranchers only" section where I share and expound on the various tips, tricks, and information on how to raise cows and cattle, from feeding and grazing to breeding, to handling and keeping them healthy. This is really for anyone who wants to raise cows, or is already doing so!
Range Nerd, Forage & Grazing Fanatic and a Bovine Enthusiast. A love for farming, and for the soil.