Choose Cow Species and Managing It

Building Your Farm

  1. Select cattle breeds to raise when starting your farm. There are over 100 breeds of cattle in the world, and all of them are different. For the greatest chance of success, choose breeds according to the goals of your farm or ranch, not what you like or are willing to work with. Find out which cows are commonly available in your area, since they will be cheaper and easier to raise than other breeds.
    • If you are into beef production, start with a docile breed. Herefords, Red Polls, Shorthorns, Galloways, and British Whites are some examples.
    • Black Angus cattle are a popular source of beef, but they are a little tricky for beginners. Angus bulls are known to be more aggressive than those from other breeds, so be careful.
    • For dairy production, the most popular breeds are Holstein, Jersey, Brown Swiss, Guernsey, and Ayrshire.
    • Jersey cows are the most versatile breed. They are often used for both beef and dairy as well as for breeding calves.
  2. Purchase healthy cows to stock your farm. Don’t go whole-hog and buy as many cows as you can stock on your property! Seek out a few quality cows that are right for your farm’s purpose. Look for ones with great conformation, which means a proper skeletal and muscular structure. Also, factor in the cow’s age, temperament, and overall health.
    • Heifers are an option if you don’t mind waiting 2 or more years to produce calves for sale.
    • You may also be able to buy a bred cow with their previous calf to get a return on your investment right away.
    • You do not need to get a bull unless you do not wish to use artificial insemination. If you choose to keep a bull, wait until you have 10 or more cows.
  3. Build barns and other facilities needed for your cows. No matter what kind of farm you start, you need a good barn to keep your cows when they’re not out to pasture. For calves, you have to have a calf barn and a calving facility. If you’re beginning a dairy farm, you will also need a milking parlor with stanchions.
    • Beef cattle don’t require much in the way of extra facilities beyond well-supplied barns.
  4. Install water sources for your cows. You need plenty of clean water to keep your cows hydrated and your pastures green. Install irrigation systems as needed to compensate for dry environments. For your cows, have water troughs available. Make sure you are able to reach them with a hose, refilling them when necessary. Having ponds or reservoirs on your property also helps.
    • Depending on the land you start on, you may need to install plumbing or irrigation systems. Hire a contractor to direct water to your fields and barns.
  5. Plant grass and alfalfa to use as a food source. Cows eat a lot of food per day, so you need a constant supply of it. Hay is most of their diet, but they also benefit from foods like corn and grains that provide more protein. The easiest way to do this is to make hay by seeding a pasture with grass and alfalfa. Harvest it with a hay baler.
    • You may need to buy hay or other feed, especially during the winter. This gets pricey, so you will be better off if you have good pastures.
    • Cows graze for food, but they may destroy your fields if you’re not careful. You do this by moving the cows to different pastures every day so they graze each field lightly.
  6. Set up fences to keep your cows in the pastures. Cattle can easily destroy fences, so hire a professional as needed to get good barriers. Fence posts need to be about 16 12 in (42 cm) apart. Connect them with electrified, high tensile wires. Use the fences on your farm’s perimeter and any areas you wish to protect so the cattle can’t reach them.
    • Confining your cattle ensures they can’t wander off your farm. It also prevents them from getting into pastures and destroying them by overgrazing.

Managing Your Farm

  1. Get in touch with a nutritionist, veterinarian, and other professionals. These people will help your cattle farm succeed. A good nutritionist and veterinarian keep your cows healthy. Calves need annual vaccinations starting right after they are born. A nutritionist will help you get the right food. Maintain good relationships with these people to increase your chances of success!
    • Some other people to think about are your buyers and suppliers. Have a guy that sells you feed, for instance. Get friendly with anyone you sell to. You all benefit by working with one another, so they may be able to help you during tough times.
    • Avoid neglecting your neighbors, farming organizations, or similar groups. They can all provide support and resources for your new farm.
  2. Create a waste management and compost plan for cow manure. Manure is a great way to put nutrients back into your pastures. You’re going to have plenty of it, so you might as well find a use for it. Unfortunately, you can’t let the manure drop anywhere, because it has parasites that taints pastures. You have to shovel it into a box, then keep it warm, moist, and mixed for several month until it turns into a potent fertilizer.
    • If you don’t wish to make your own compost, have a disposal plan for throwing away the manure.
    • Check your local laws. Some areas have regulations on what you can do with the manure
  3. Set up record keeping books covering your cows and finances. A crucial part of staying in business is tracking your farm properly. The financial records are the most important. Keep a running tally of how much money you have available, your purchases, sales, and any assets you exchange. Creating additional records for your animals also helps you stay engaged with your operations.
    • For example, keep health records for your animals. Use the records to remind yourself when the cows need vaccinations or are calving. Proper documentation may help you identify health problems before they get serious.
    • In some countries, having records for all of your animals is mandatory. You may need to get a radio frequency tag for each animal bought, sold, or born on your farm.


  • Start small and operate within your budget. Get a few cows to start. When you have more money and experience, begin expanding your farm.
  • Save money by keeping your operation low-cost. For example, use artificial insemination instead of keeping a bull. Implement a year-round grazing program to keep the cows out to pasture all year.
  • Store more hay than what you immediately need. There is no such thing as having too much.
  • A good way to make some profit quickly is to sell calves to groups like the Future Farmers of America (FFA) or 4-H Clubs. Club members raise the calves to show at fairs.
  • Avoid keeping any calves from your first-calf heifers. They aren’t as quality as the calves from older cows.
  • Visit local yard sales for used equipment. Check the bulletin boards in feed stores and other area stores for good deals. Knowing how to repair your own machines also helps.


  • Always keep your eye out for trouble when working with cows and bulls. Cows flattening their ears, bellowing, or butting heads are dangerous to be around.
  • Raising cattle is a constant job. You never know when an emergency will happen, so only go into the cattle business if you’re certain you can handle the stress.

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