Where There's a Will, There's a Way: I Want to Raise Cattle

I LOVE calm cattle! This steer was one of THE calmest, best-behaved steers of the herd. There were a few others like him, but he was my favorite.
I LOVE calm cattle! This steer was one of THE calmest, best-behaved steers of the herd. There were a few others like him, but he was my favorite.

Call me Crazy but I do!

 I've been around cattle all my life, and there's just something unexplainable about them that I can't get away from.  I've helped raise stocker steers since I can remember, have had a few bad experiences with them as well that would've made someone less stubborn, somewhat stupid, and ornery than me begin to hate them.  I don't hate them; hell they're really the only large farm animal species that I feel comfortable around.  I sure have a lot of respect for them now than I did when I got them bad experiences like I did.

When I helped Dad raise stockers, I thought I knew everything there was to know about cattle, be it breeds, temperment, and how to feed them.  But when I went to university and took some courses through my Animal Science degree program, there was WAY more to cattle than I could've imagined! Before then, I didn't even know things like EPDs, heterosis, calving ease, heifer bulls, etc. even existed! I even thought that Herefords were crazy wild buggers you couldn't even get near!  Well, I've sure learned a lot since then.  I was even able to teach Dad a few things too to better our stocker operation.

Now that the farm has kind of changed hands after Dad passed away a couple years ago, the plans I had made when he was still alive had to be revamped a bit, as other plans for the farm had come up; some already taken into effect.  I'm still working on them, little by little, but basically I know what I want and what I would like to have done once our farmland is no longer leased out.

The thing of it is is that I would like to get back into cattle.  But instead of going stocker like before, I would like to try to build up a cow-calf herd.  And make that a one-man (or rather, one-woman) operation that makes the cows work for me instead of me working my tail off for them, like Dad had done with the stockers.  That means I would like to have a low-cost operation that does not require constant every-day feeding of grain or other supplements just to keep the cows in condition, nor have to feed hay during a 200 day period of winter.  Having the cows on pasture for as long as possible, with rotational grazing, and implementing winter grazing techniques like stockpiling and bale grazing to extend the period that the cows are in the dry lot over the winter.

Ultimately, I want my cows to be able to gain on just grass, and feed them only hay with no other supplements (except the usual salt and mineral mix of course). With a good grazing plan, ability to soil test when necessary, and matching the needs of my cows with the patterns of nature, can I achieve the goal of a low-cost, grass-fed operation.

Matching cows to my management plan will also determine my bottom line.  I want smallish cows that mature no bigger than 1200 lbs or less (I like cattle I can see over!), and a breed or breeds that will do well on just grass, maintaining condition, have good forage convertability, be good protective mothers, do well under minimal management, have small but growthy calves, have good milk, need little help calving out on their own, flesh out and slick off well, have great fertility, a calm, docile temperment, and good carcass merits. I would rather have a commercial herd than a purebred herd, though having a uniform herd of cattle may be nice to work with.  I have come across a number of breeds that might be able to meet my criteria, including Murray Grey, Speckle Park, Red Poll, Hereford, Red Angus, Shorthorn, and Angus.  Speckle Park seems to be the breed that I am really starting to like, as they are animals that are small, and have everything I mentioned above; plus I am quite partial to the colouration of these creatures.  But I still have to do some more research on this breed, as it is relatively new and not as popular as Red Angus and Angus.

Right now, on this farm I have around 360 acres to work with. Not 20 acres, one half section.  It's not as much land as a 5 000 acre ranch, but to me it's quite a bit of land to work with.  Right now it's tilled up and being converted into cropland, but I want to someway, somehow, turn this used crop land into permanent pasture that does not need to be plowed up every few years due to poor pasture management.  That is a goal.  My objectives of how to get that done are still under review, though having it contract-seeded may be my best option. What I am going to do with some of the extra pasture that won't be used for grazing? Most of it I would like to take hay off of; some I may leave to try some stockpiling techniques.  But I'm not to sure as of yet.

There's so many things to think about and so many other things I could talk about on here, but I won't because of the time I've taken up already just thinking about and discussing the basic things I want first. There are still somethings I haven't even mentioned that I am considering, like handling facilities, keeping the weaned calves until they are ready for slaughter, selling calves through auction versus direct sales, etc.  I've still got a lot of learning and researching to do yet!

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Comments 12 comments

Cedar Cove Farm profile image

Cedar Cove Farm 6 years ago from Southern Missouri

Keep us posted, you're on the right track.


JWestCattle profile image

JWestCattle 6 years ago from Texas

On the Speckle Parks, I've read a lot about them, looked at lots of photos, and I'd say they have done a good job of controlling breeding for superior and consistent animals. Unfortunately, they don't allow breed-up any longer, but it's really 'fortunate' for the breed itself. With black angus, you'll get more at the auction barn when you sell your calves (if you sell them there) because of their black hide, but you also will be more subject to getting injured because of their nature, and they are more difficult to work on your own so you would periodically have the added cost of labor to help you. And on size, you need to look past the weight and pay attention to the frame score as well. A Frame Score 2, very short, cow can weigh 1200 lbs in good body condition, as can a Frame Score 5 that has a lot of leg. ........just my 2 cents... :)


WildRoseBeef profile image

WildRoseBeef 6 years ago from Alberta, Canada Author

JWest, by "breed-up" you mean the breed isn't expanding much any more, or adding much more improvements? The other thing that kinda worries me is there probably isn't many breeders around here in Alberta that raise SP's; that I'd have to look into.

As for the Angus breed, LOL I know exactly what you're saying, as we have had Angus steers to deal with as well, and it was nigh impossible to try to make any "pets" out of them. It was always the Shorthorns, Red Angus or HerefordX steers I could get tame enough to eat out of my hand. The Angus boys? Not a chance!

So the ultimatum is this: If I can't first get my paws on some SP's, then I'll be going with Herefords, Shorthorns, or maybe Red Angus. Most likely Herefords. :)


JWestCattle profile image

JWestCattle 6 years ago from Texas

By breed-up, I mean that you can't take a Speckle Park bull and cross him with a commercial cow and have a registered Speckle Park half-blood animal. That is a good thing, depending on your goals, as it promotes consistency in breeding as well as greater hybrid vigor.

The only time I've ever been put on the rail of a cattle pen was working with the original Angus I started with, I literally left my shoes on the ground, and it was a female that put me there, granted her foot hurt, but that wasn't enough reason for me.

I'm pretty sure there are Speckle Parks near Canada, and you can always go the AI route on a set of cows. The breed appears to be comparably gentle to their parent cross, which I firmly believe is the docile POLLED ancient Park cow now known as British White, which of course I raise.

Gentleness in a cow for a woman who is doing the work is, in my opinion from personal experience, of the highest importance. Hereford's come close, but not like the polled ancient park cows. I've got an old blog or two on Speckle Parks, and the folks I've emailed with are really nice, don't give up that idea.


WildRoseBeef profile image

WildRoseBeef 6 years ago from Alberta, Canada Author

Ahh that's what I thought. I had a look at the Canadian Speckle Park Association website and it said the breed was no longer being bred-up like you mentioned. I also had a look to see if there were any Alberta producers and sure enough, I came across about 20 of them. (I was very glad to see that!)

The gentle side is also probably from those Canadian Shorthorns that we have up here as well. The polled characteristics are also great to have as always hated helping with dehorning calves. And yes, I am really looking to have gentle, good-natured cows as I have had my share of experiences with nutty, wild-eyed steers. It also helps to have a calm temperment especially if I'm planning on rotational graze them, which means they get to see me every day. I'm also a sucker for cool coat colour patterns too.

Thanks for the advice, advice like this will definately help me in the long run on my decisions and plans!


Pura Vida Acres 6 years ago

Hi,

I came across your blog after doing a Google search for Speckle Park Cattle. I routinely do this search because we have Speckle Park Cattle and I am always looking for links, etc. on the breed. Obviously, I am biased now that we are Speckle Park breeders, but I thought I would share with you our reasons for getting SP, because I think they match your goals too. My "day job" involves working quite a bit with cattle and I come across plenty of breeds and breed crosses. So over the years I have formed some obvious biases. And even though there are plenty of variations within each breed (some good and some bad animals within each breed), there are definitely breed characteristics that paint an overall picture of what to expect with each breed. When we decided to get some cattle of our own, I wanted naturally polled cattle, good beef animals, medium frame and high on my list was docility. As we debated about what breed to go with, I made a few inquiries and set up visits with several SP breeders. What tipped the balance for me was that during the ranch visits we walked right up and into the herds of SP. In many other cattle breeds you get a chance to see them as they move over the hill away from you. I am sure you could find a few SP cattle that are flighty, but on average they are a very docile breed. Also, SP have great carcass traits as you probably know. I think the fancy colour patterns are a bonus and add more appeal for me than solid coloured animals. The fact they were developed in Canada makes them extra special for me as well. Anyway, I have never regretted our decision and even though I am now very biased, I know I became this way because of the great experiences we have had with this breed and from working with other good producers who use this breed. I wish you the best of luck in finding a cattle breed you are proud to own and I hope you give SP serious consideration. There are some great breeders out there (in any breed) that will help you with all the questions you might have. Good luck. I enjoy your blog. Joe


WildRoseBeef profile image

WildRoseBeef 6 years ago from Alberta, Canada Author

Hi Joe;

Thank you for that! I sometimes find that breeders do get a little biased, but that's just fine, because it's pretty obvious that they love their breed, and wouldn't have any other. Do you have a website where I can find more info on Speckle Parks? I'm trying to collect as many websites and info as possible to determine, in the coming years, if SP IS right for me. (And I think it is!!)


Pura Vida Acres 6 years ago

Hi,

You can conduct a Google search and find numerous producer web sites promoting Speckle Park cattle. Now that Australia, New Zealand and Ireland have imported the breed, their web sites are also popping up in the search. I think one of the sites I admire the most is from Legacy Speckle Park because they have picked the breed based on the contribution they can make to the commercial beef cattle industry. They do a good job of describing their philosophy and how SP work for them. They have some great cattle and they haven't missed sight of the ultimate goal of the breed to be functional, efficient, maternal, have good carcass traits, etc. Cheers!


JWestCattle profile image

JWestCattle 6 years ago from Texas

Hi Wild Rose, I actually got a google alert this morning that is right on topic for you, it's a Speckle Park discussion going on in a forum at cattletoday.com, the link is http://www.cattletoday.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=5... .


WildRoseBeef profile image

WildRoseBeef 6 years ago from Alberta, Canada Author

Hi JWest, I'm just on CT just now when you just posted, so I'll go have a look at the thread...thanks!


kevins blog52 profile image

kevins blog52 4 years ago from southern Indiana

I liked your hub WildRoseBeef,With your love for cattle and the farm, you will do all right WildRoseBeef,Just don't go over board, It will take time to build your herd, and you will grow as it grows. My daddy always said don't bet the farm. Good luck and God bless, voted up and interesting.


WildRoseBeef profile image

WildRoseBeef 4 years ago from Alberta, Canada Author

Thanks Kevin. I still got a long way to go but at least I have a good idea of what kind of operation I want, instead of going in being completely clueless.

And yet, I'm ALWAYS learning! :)

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