Starting a Cattle Operation

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Jan 8, 2017
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I've been browsing the site for a while now and taking advantage of the awesome information. Always had an interest in farming/ranching and worked for several years of high school/college for a guy on a smallish ranch. I've been running a couple of different retail businesses for a few years now. One of them I purchased, the other I started from the ground up.
Also have an agriculture focused degree.

My available land is fairly small, a few acres of rotational grazing and I would be required to purchase a good amount of feed. Land would be free or low in cost.

I have considered a few options, purebred, beef and cow/calf commercial.

I know the record keeping/reputation basis for purebred isn't the smartest thing to start off it.

If I were to start a cow/calf operation my plan is to try to get some older cows that are bred, not first calf heifers. My thought is that these cows would be less likely to need assistance during calving, when compared to a first calf heifer. Certainly a positive for a newcomer since one of us needs to know how to do it haha. Second, I would be more likely to reach break even quicker with these that starting out with opens/un-bred heifers. Also, with the current low prices in the market I figure it would be a good time to get in.

Just looking to see if my thoughts are correct on these things and I guess just suggestions in general on the subject.

Also, I am hoping to get a rough list of what vaccines/supplements I should always give my herd.

Thank you for your time reading this in advance.
I would say SS heavies until you get your feet wet and decide the direction you want to set your compass.
These girls have some years left and know how to work.
As for the commercial cow a lot would depend on your region of the country and working facilities.
I wouldn't suggest any of the Brahman or crosses for the rookie.
Ge91, welcome to this great board who will help you. Read their previous blog or advices. Know color n demand n your areas n weather.

What I did, I attend a whole year at the auction of price upside n downside. Know when they are ready to cull or unload.
Re vaccines - should find a vet who can help you in your area or mentor from another local herd.

Your idea of starting with bred cows is a good one. PERSONALLY I would avoid the sale barn - though I'm sure some have had great luck there. Look for a dispersal or local cattle for sale off the farm where you can meet the owners and ask questions and follow up later if you have issues - this will be worth gold later on. Prices won't be a ton different if you shop well.

Supplements depend on you feed so there's no one size fits all for that. Again,getting some local help would be ideal.
ge91 welcome to the board.
I started just a couple years ago doing the same thing you are talking about doing. I would agree about knowing the market you have for your cattle, in my area black is king and any color will get docked 10 to 15 cents a pound if you sell at a sale barn. If you go direct to people or a butcher it won't matter quite as much.
A lot of people are not fond of sale barn cattle and I understand why, however that's how I acquired my cows. I just went to sales and watched for the cows that were herd dispersal cattle, figured there was less chance someone was just getting rid of there culls. Be ready to take the trailer home empty cause there not at every sale.
Just my 02. whatever way you go have fun with it and don't get in to far over your head.
Herd dispersal sales at the auction barn. Vet for meds, until you get your feet wet. Although not necessary, I'd bucket feed them for a while. You'll make friends quicker that way, and maybe they'll play nice.
Welcome also. I am fairly new on this site and have learned quite a bit, even though I have been in cattle for many years. You say the amount of land is small. What is small??? And have you considered trying some steers or even heifers to just 5 wts to 8 wts? I agree with going to the local sale/auction barn if it is very close and just WATCH. Get a feel for the prices, for what COLOR is bringing the best prices. You might want to get your feet wet with some animals that don't require calving for a year or two; and are big enough that there won't be as many issues with sickness as with smaller just weaned calves. You can run more 5-6 wts on the same land as cow/calf pairs. And you will be able to turn them over quicker. If you go to the sale and it's an off week, you might pick up 5 or 10 or so at a bargain price and in 3 months make back your investment plus some just on the weight gain...Cattle are a gamble but you already know that after working on a ranch.
We have bought at herd dispersals, and have gotten quite a few at the auction just cuz there are a few brought in. Usually buy the cow/calf pairs there, don't always trust the ones that are "bred" unless they have been vet preg ckd there at the yard prior to the sale. I agree that it is a very smart idea to start with some older breds if that is the route you are going to go. Yep, at a dispersal of some sort they should be less than the heifers, and should know what they are doing. And less chance of calving difficulties...

Here black is "the color" , we can buy reds or herefords and even some char breds for less than the blacks and if bred black they usually have a black calf, bwf, or a smokey calf with a black nose and they will sell like the blacks pretty much. "Ear cattle" (brahma influence of some sort) don't do good here. So know what you are going into with the idea that you want the most saleable calves.

A good vet will help with a vaccination schedule, and with the new VFD you will need a vet relationship to be able to give any drugs in feed or water delivery. There are discussions on that if you do a search...

Good luck.

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