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Beef Cattle

Photo by Vlad Chețan: https://www.pexels.com/photo/photo-of-herd-of-cattle-on-road-2600277/

Keep a few cattle for our own consumption and milk production. Aim for a mixed breed so that we have both good milk and good meat production. The bulk of the feed can come from the intensive barley operation explained below.

Keeping and Caring for Cattle Beef on a Southern African Homestead:

  1. Fencing and Shelter: Start by setting up strong and secure fencing around the pasture area where you’ll keep your cattle. This protects them from wandering off and keeps them safe from predators. Provide a shelter or shade structure to shield them from extreme weather conditions, like scorching sun or heavy rain.
  2. Water Supply: Ensure a consistent supply of clean and fresh water for your cattle. They need plenty of water to stay healthy and hydrated, especially in the hot and dry climate of Southern Africa.
  3. Feeding: Cattle primarily graze on grass, so make sure the pasture is rich in nutritious grasses. If possible use holistic grazing methods. Supplement their diet with hay or barley sprouts during dry seasons when fresh grass may be scarce. If necessary, provide commercial cattle feed with essential nutrients to keep them strong and healthy.
  4. Healthcare: Regularly check on your cattle to ensure they are in good health. Look out for signs of illness or injury, and seek advice from a veterinarian if needed. Vaccinate them to protect against common diseases prevalent in the region.
  5. Parasite Control: Keep an eye out for external parasites like ticks and internal parasites like worms. Use appropriate treatments to control these parasites and prevent them from harming your cattle.
  6. Cattle Handling: Develop a calm and patient approach when handling your cattle. Train them to respond to your cues and commands to make tasks like milking or moving them easier and safer.
  7. Breeding and Calving: If you plan to breed your cattle, understand their reproductive cycles and arrange for a bull during the breeding season. When a cow is about to give birth (calving), provide a safe and quiet area for her and assist if needed.
  8. Record Keeping: Maintain records of your cattle’s health, vaccinations, breeding, and other important information. This will help you keep track of their well-being and manage them effectively.
  9. Grazing Management: Use holistic grazing to feed your cattle AND improve the land and grasses they are grazing on.
  10. Safety: Always prioritize safety when working with cattle. Learn proper cattle-handling techniques and use appropriate safety gear to avoid accidents.

Remember, caring for cattle requires dedication and responsibility. Building a bond with your cattle and understanding their needs will ensure a happy and healthy herd on your Southern African homestead. Enjoy your journey as a cattle farmer!

Choosing a breed

Photo by Žaneta Mišutová: https://www.pexels.com/photo/close-up-of-an-nguni-cow-on-a-pasture-17279873/

In arid regions like Namibia and the Karoo, it’s important to select cattle breeds that are well-suited to the climate and can thrive in challenging conditions. Here are some cattle breeds that are ideal for a small farm in arid Namibia:

  1. Brahman: Brahman cattle are known for their heat tolerance and ability to withstand arid conditions. They have loose skin and large ears, which help them dissipate heat more effectively. Brahman cattle are also resistant to many common cattle diseases.
  2. Nguni: Nguni cattle are indigenous to Southern Africa and are well-adapted to various climates, including arid regions. They are hardy, resistant to diseases, and can thrive on rough forage. Nguni cattle come in a variety of colors and patterns, making them visually striking.
  3. Afrikaner: Afrikaner cattle are native to Namibia and are well-suited to the local environment. They have a good foraging ability and can maintain their body condition on limited feed. Afrikaner cattle are known for their docile temperament and resistance to tick-borne diseases.
  4. Tuli: Tuli cattle originated in Zimbabwe and have proven to be well-adapted to hot and dry conditions. They are efficient foragers and have good meat quality, making them suitable for beef production in arid regions.
  5. Bonsmara: Bonsmara cattle are a crossbreed of Afrikaner, Hereford, and Shorthorn cattle. They are known for their adaptability to various environments, including arid areas. Bonsmara cattle are hardy, fertile, and produce good-quality meat.
  6. African Sanga: Sanga cattle are a group of indigenous cattle breeds found in various African countries. They have evolved to tolerate heat and scarcity of water and are known for their resilience in arid conditions.
  7. Santa Gertrudis: Although not originally from Africa, Santa Gertrudis cattle have been successfully introduced to arid regions. They are a crossbreed of Brahman and Shorthorn cattle, combining heat tolerance with good meat quality.

When selecting a breed for a small farm in arid Namibia, consider factors such as heat tolerance, disease resistance, foraging ability, and overall adaptability to the local environment. Additionally, the breed’s intended use (meat production, milk production, or both) and your farm’s specific management practices should also be taken into account. Consulting with local agricultural experts or breeders can be beneficial in making the best choice for your farm.

Feeding your cattle

On a homestead, there are several food sources that can be provided or produced to supplement or replace commercial feed for cattle. Here are some possible options:

  1. Pasture Grass: The most natural and common food source for cattle is pasture grass. Establishing and maintaining diverse and nutritious pasture can provide a significant portion of their diet.
  2. Hay: During dry seasons or when fresh pasture is limited, producing and storing hay from harvested grasses or legumes can be a valuable source of feed.
  3. Crop Residues: After harvesting crops like maize or wheat, the leftover plant material (stems, leaves, etc.) can be used as feed for cattle.
  4. Cover Crops: Grow cover crops like legumes (e.g., clover, vetch) that enrich the soil with nitrogen and provide additional forage for cattle.
  5. Silage: Fermenting chopped green forage (such as corn, sorghum, or grass) in an airtight container produces silage, a nutritious and preserved feed.
  6. Kitchen Scraps: Uncooked fruit and vegetable scraps from the kitchen can be fed to cattle, reducing waste and providing additional nutrients.
  7. Weeds and Brush: Some weeds and brush can be suitable for cattle consumption, helping control invasive plants and providing additional forage.
  8. Comfrey: As mentioned earlier, comfrey can be grown and used as fodder for cattle, providing a nutrient-rich and protein-rich feed.
  9. Tree Fodder: Trees like leucaena and mulberry can be grown for their leaves, which are rich in protein and serve as fodder.
  10. Crop Byproducts: Byproducts from crop processing, such as wheat bran or oilseed meals, can be fed to cattle, reducing waste and utilizing resources.
  11. Mineral and Salt Licks: Providing mineral blocks or salt licks ensures cattle get essential minerals and helps improve their overall health.
  12. Crop Residues: After harvesting crops like maize or wheat, the leftover plant material (stems, leaves, etc.) can be used as feed for cattle.

It’s essential to ensure that these alternative food sources meet the cattle’s nutritional requirements and that their diet is well-balanced. Consulting with a livestock nutrition expert can be helpful in creating a suitable and sustainable feeding program on your homestead.

To get the most out of your cattle herd, buy a good book to learn more.

Here’s a recommended organic supplement for cattle

Homemade supplement for cows – mixed daily with cut forage for milk cows – this is good for the cows, the people drinking the milk, and for downstream irrigation once it has passed the cows stomach. Downstream you plant your forage which you then feed to your cows again and you have a cycle, human compost goes back to field again as well.

Get the Pat Colby book on natural animal nutrition.

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