Raise my own beef ?

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Hi, I'm about to buy a small 10 acre farm located in North East PA and need a little help...

First of all - I have never worked or lived on a farm. I have raised some gamebirds and common pets but that's about it. I have never been involved in any organizations such as 4H.

The Farm - has about 4 acres of pastures, some woods, a very small creek and an old house w/ barn (good structures).

I would like to raise some (3 or 4) Herefords or Angus but not sure what's involved. I read an older thread about minicattle and became interested in the smaller breeds.

My questions begin here: Am I getting in over my head ? Where can I learn more about raising beef ? Is there an organization like 4H for adults ? Can I join a Co-Op program with no experience ?

If you can help, I would appreciate your replies ! Thanks

-- Ed the CitySlicker (dirtybirds1999@hotmail.com), April 04, 2002


Hey, city slicker, there ain't much to it. Make sure they have pasture, their immunizations, feed in winter, worm medicine twice a year. Be sure you have good fences and water. Watch for things that don't look normal. Befriend a cow person in your area.

I did the same thing. Grew up in Austin, moved rural, now have my own herd. It's a love thing, I guess. Cows are peaceful creatures.

Be warned, Herefords and Angus are NOT small animals. Also, there is NO NEED to go purebred. The expense is rediculous, and if you aren't going to get into it BIG time, just find some good crossbreds with the influence of Herefords and Angus.


-- Rose in Texas (open_rose@hotmail.com), April 04, 2002.

Check with any local farmes , lots of time they will use an angus or herford bull to there dairy cow .The off spring taste mighty fine.

-- Patty Gamble (fodfarms@slic.com), April 04, 2002.

Hey Ed, welcome to the country. You can do it- beef cattle are some of the easiest critters to maintain. If they have food and water and occasional health care they do just fine. You'll probably have to buy a bit of hay to get them thru the winter. Stop by your local co- operative extention office and see what kinds of info they have. Most literature will be geared toward the professional producer but maybe you can pick up some 4H material or perhaps something geared toward the beginning farmer. There are some books out there like "Raising a Calf for Beef" that may be helpful.

I think Herefords or Hereford cross cattle would probably be a good choice for you. They're fairly docile and very winter hardy. They're also one of the smaller beef breeds. Good luck and have fun!

-- shakeytails in KY (shakeytails@yahoo.com), April 04, 2002.

Hi Ed, I am also in PA. Northeast is about an hour from me. If you want to email me You are welcome to come out and see our set up. I to was a city person that went country. We lived right in the middle of the "hood" and had to get out. We now raise all our own meat. Chickens, turkeys, a cow every year. Did I also mention 100+ rabbits. I am now raising rabbits commercially and would go back to the city for a million dollars. I have a neighbor that has a dairy farm and can purchase a holstein calf[bull] at a couple weeks for $100.00. Holsteins are a dairy breed but the meat is very good. I also know of processing fascilities and such.

-- tracy (murfette@stargate.net), April 04, 2002.

That should have been WOULD NOT go back to the city for a million dollars

-- tracy (murfette@stargate.net), April 04, 2002.

Congratulations and welcome to the countryside! It all depends on what you are wanting to raise cattle for. If it is just to feed the family, one steer will feed the whole family for a year. If you are wanting to raise it to sell, you probably will want to re-think that because you will have more invested that you will ever get out of it. To make any money you would have to have at least 20 head. Also, if you would be much better off with 2 head of cattle and rotate your pasture. If you do that, you don't need to do a thing with them other than give them water. They will thrive on pasture alone. Just give them some grain at the end to fatten them up and feed them hay in the winter.

You can't get into mini cattle for under $1,000 a head. It is very expensive and one bad situation can wipe you out (disease, wild animals, etc.). It's a big investment if you don't know what you are doing.

My best advice also would be to go with a Hereford or Hereford cross. They have good temperments. If you are raising the cattle just for family consumption, then you can't beat the price of a Jersey steer. You can pick them up really cheap from dairy farms because they want the girls..not the boys! Jersey's are a great starter cattle too because they are very gentle, have even dispositions, and they make great family meat. The fat tends to be a bit on the yellow side (but all the fat and meat taste like "regular" beef - it is just a trait of the breed) just that they aren't raised for meat commerically people go for the nice white fat because that is what we are use to seeing. Kind of the differance in a brown chicken egg and a white chicken egg -- there isn't a bit of differance other than the color of the shell.

-- Karen (mountains_mama2@hotmail.com), April 04, 2002.

If you want to consider minis, you may want to look into Dexters. I understand they can be used as a dual purpose critter if you're interested in milk also. Probably not in terms of gallons per day. In some places, they don't command such a high price and are considered better than average foragers.

-- Nina (Ingardenwithcat@hotmail.com), April 04, 2002.

get onto the penn state ag websites !!, they have tons of guides, most are aimed at big set ups, but you can easily raise one or two cows on your land, while "techinicly" you can keep more, i wouldnt , because its really hard on the property

http://extension.aers.psu.edu/ this is for penn states extension programs, its a great resource!!!

one other thing, folks may want to see this site... from the cover of this past weekends ny times magazine!!!! an article on how beef is "commercially" raised ..... http://www.nytimes.com/2002/03/31/magazine/31BEEF.html

-- Beth Van Stiphout (willosnake@hotmail.com), April 04, 2002.

I have been reading about pasture raised meat and am very tempted to try some of my own in the future. I did send for info from local establishments that have meat for sale. Does anyone raise their cattle strictly on grass and then butcher in the fall? That seems like it would be the easiest. I am also intrigued by Dexter Cattle, but in that case I would imagine the cost would be higher and the best thing to do would be to keep a cow and breed for the meat each year. Is it a problem to keep only one cow over the winter. Would it get lonely?? If I don't have a barn, does a cow need a completely enclosed structure for the winter? I have land to use here, but would much rather be on my plot in North Central PA. Would two acres of good pasture feed 2 cows?? Just must convince the husband. He thinks I am nuts with half the stuff. I did have chickens for 8 years though and he even built me a nice coop. Thanks.

-- Cindy (CBirder@aol.com), April 04, 2002.

Beth --I looked up that article you suggested at the ny times site. That was an eye opener! A quote from the article regarding grass vs. corn fed, "the market signals are not there, as long as my competitor's doing it, I've got to do it too." That is a sad truth. The consumer's want "cheap" prices and the cattlemen follow along in order to make a living. Thank you for article.

-- Sariah in S. Idaho (joelsariah@hotmail.com), April 04, 2002.

Excellent article on beef production for the modern consumer. No surprises. I don't think, however, that Rumensin is an antibiotic. It's a product that aids in digestion. This is not to say that they don't give the cattle antibiotics, they do, but that isn't it.

Better they have antibiotics than we have diseased meat in the food chain.

-- Rose (open_rose@hotmail.com), April 04, 2002.

Thanks for the great information !!! I now think that I'll stay away from the minicattle for now... I ordered two books yesterday, "Raising a Calf for Beef" and "Storey's Guide to Raising Beef Cattle".

What should I expect to pay for an Angus or Hereford calf ? (As suggested, I'll probably will not go with purebred) Can I keep just one or do they do better in small groups ?

-- Ed the CitySlicker (dirtybirds1999@hotmail.com), April 05, 2002.

hi i would also sugest a herford x (wonderful animals). we started with a holstein bull calf,then i went and baught a herford simital x heifer that was about 3 months old payed 300.00 for her(best money ever spent)waited until she was almost 2 then bred her to the bull,then we seperated him into a feed pen,fattened him for 2 months then butchered him,after we butchered him we went and got another bull calf(holstien)he was big enough to rebreed nutmeg after she freshened,we have done this 3 times.so every year we have our breed bull and meat for the freezer.also she has had twins 2 out of three times(we don't know about this time yet)she's due in may but she looks like she's going to twin again. well just my .02 worth. good luck in whatever you do! (note)we do not casterate we just seperate them from the cow and fatten them(never have we had bad meat)

-- cindy young ( Mich) (youngsponderosa@coslink.net), April 05, 2002.

I think most the the answers here are good, but are missing a big point. If you only have 4 acres of pasture, you don't have enough for four head of cattle and have healthy pasture unless you are planning to buy hay and/or range feed. I suggest taking a baby step and contacting your local Ag extension agent for some printed literature on pasturing animals. Nothing worse than biting off more than you can chew and ending up faced with huge feed bills or poor cattle. Best of luck, Shari

-- Shari (Bellsoundfarm@cs.com), April 05, 2002.

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