posted on Apr, 12 2018 @ 08:18 AM
We have a great thread on chickens, ducks and turkeys here, so I wondered if there might be some interest in a thread about raising cattle and
As many here know we (my wife and I) raise cattle, Belted Galloways to be exact. We're what I would consider a small cow-calf operation meaning we
have a small herd of cattle which produces calves every year. We are principally a beef cattle operation, and have been doing this for many years.
Not being sure how much detail to go into, because I'm not sure how much interest there is in this subject, I'll just provide some brief background
and we'll see where things go from there.
We basically started from scratch. We didn't start on an established cattle ranch so we had to build everything from square one starting with one 80
acre parcel of land. Then came the installation of miles of fencing, both perimeter fencing and interior fencing. The construction of corrals,
livestock handling facilities (crowding tubs, alleys and chutes), barns, loafing sheds and the like came next. Getting started took about two years
of some pretty back breaking labor, both with day jobs to boot. Over the years we've expanded, adding more land as time and money permitted, and at
the same time we've also contracted (got smaller) at times. We started with 3 cows and a prize bull.
As noted, we raise Belted Galloways which are a strain of the Galloway breed. Galloways are one of the oldest breeds in North America originating in
the Galloway region of Scotland during the 17th century. Galloways are full sized animals, not to be confused with some of the other heritage brands
of mini-cattle like Lowlines and Dexters. The average bull weighs about 1,900-2,000 lbs at maturity (Jack, our herd bull is about 2,200), and cows
weigh approximately 1,400-1,500 lbs.
Galloways are one of the heartiest and healthiest breeds of cattle, easily able to deal with the freezing Colorado winters with their double coat.
Galloways also have several other attributes which are very attractive. First, they are a naturally 'poled' breed, meaning they do not have horns
which need to be removed. Horns on cattle are not only a nuisance, they're also very dangerous when working with the animals. Galloways seldom get
sick so veterinary needs are very limited with this breed. Probably one of the biggest attributes about Galloways is their feed to weight ratio.
Galloways are able to process feed about 30-35% more efficiently than most other breeds, so they require less feed to reach the same weight as other
cattle. The only trade out for this feed advantage is time to maturity (because nothing is truly "free"). Galloways take longer to reach weight
than other breeds, but to us this is an acceptable trade. To put this trade into perspective, it can mean having to "winter-over" a Galloway when
another breed may not need to do this (so there's the cost of the feed for winter).
We breed our cattle generally in late May to early June so we wind up with calves in late March to early April. The gestation period for a Galloway
cow is 9 months just like a human. We just calved for 2018, thankfully all without incident (Galloways are pretty good this way). So now our days
are filled with keeping track of calves who have a habit of getting separated from Momma for a variety of reasons. In fact, just this morning we had
to rescue an 'escapee' who likely rolled under the fence into a different pasture last night and couldn't figure out how to get back to Momma.
He's now happily enjoying his morning 'milkshake' compliments of his Mom.
The average day starts around 3:30am with feeding (and tracking everyone down...in the dark). Then we each get to go to our "day jobs". Ranch life
resumes around 4-5pm when we return whereupon we get to do the whole feeding and tracking everyone down thing again. We usually water at night
because this is not the most pleasant thing to do when it's -25 below zero outside in the mornings. Plus things are less frozen in the evenings than
they are in the mornings. By about 8:30pm yours truly is usually ready to hit the rack...to do it all again tomorrow.
People always ask why I ever wanted to do this (and often if I'm crazy). The truth is an interesting story (to me anyway), but I'll leave that for
another time. In the meantime, suffice to say I love the lifestyle, the hard work and most of all the animals.
I'd love to hear stories others have about raising livestock (not only cattle). I am also happy to answer any questions people may have.