Investing in cattle is something we have not yet decided to do. However, that might change at anytime. There are certainly benefits to having cattle.
Cows are easier to fence than many other farm animals, and they yield much higher livestock returns (more milk and more meat).
However, their size also requires more resources. If you have the means to feed cattle, and the means to harvest their bounty, dairy or meat cows are certainly something to consider for your homestead.
Best Dairy Cow Breeds
The vast majority of the milk you will see sold in grocery stores originated from a Holstein cow. You find the Holstein cow milk in the store simply because they produce more milk.
It is cheaper for a mass-producer to use a cow that produces 10 gallons a day than a cow that produces 4. However, the Jersey Cow still produces a lot of milk, about 4 gallons of milk per day, and the quality is much higher than the Holstein.
One reason for the better quality is the inherent sweetness of the Jersey cow’s milk – it has a butterfat content of around 5%. This butterfat content also makes it more useful for creating other products such as butter and cheeses. (Thanks to Pepper Bradford for the information)
Beef Cattle Breeds
Beef Cattle breeds are extensive and vary widely throughout the world. In our area the Angus is a popular breed. These cattle produce either greater amounts of meat, or a meat that has a better flavor than other cattle. The tallest and heaviest of the beef cattle is the Chianina. A Chianina can easily reach 3,500lb (live weight).
Dual Purpose Cattle
There are a handful of breeds that stand out as being dual purpose – but of those the Dexter is even more unique. As a very small breed of cattle they would also do well on a smaller property, while also being dual purpose. At roughly 2 gallons of milk per day with a 4% butterfat, these cattle still produce good milk. A mature bull can weigh 1,000lb, providing plenty of meat for any size family.
Selecting your Cattle Breed
There certainly are several options to consider when choosing a breed of cattle for your homestead. Whatever your choice, remember to set up your grazing pastures and livestock sheltering prior to purchasing your cattle. If you want milk, be sure to pick a breed that produces the amount of milk you can handle processing each day. If you are looking for meat, the options are very wide open – selecting popular local breed, or helping save a heritage breed, might be the best way to go.