Beef Herd Management

The average beef herd manager must take care of around 40 head of cattle, but many livestock managers oversee operations with more than 100 cattle. Cattle operations include cow-calf operations, in which a herd is kept to birth and raise calves, and cattle feedlots, which are used for finishing beef cattle. Whichever type of operation a manager is running, efficient herd management is important for animal health and profitability.

Beef Cattle Nutrition

There is a variety of options when it comes to beef cattle nutrition. Cattle can be fed on a combination of roughages (hay and grass), grains, oilseeds, and byproducts. It is very important for cattle to receive essential vitamins and minerals in their rations, like calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sodium, and selenium. Deficiencies in these and other nutrients will lead to poor health problems and a reduced quality of life for the animal. Many beef producers are moving towards grass-fed beef because there is a high demand for it in the market. Rations should be formulated depending on the class of cattle and the requirements of the producer, but must contain protein, energy, fiber, minerals, and vitamins.

Cattle Housing

Suitable shelter is important for beef herds to be comfortable and stay dry. There are several different barn designs a farmer could use, such as a clear span pole barn, a hoop barn, or an open-sided single-slope roof shed. Herd managers will also need feeding equipment, like feed bunks and portable hay feeders, as well as chutes and pens.

Herd Health

Keeping beef cattle healthy not only improves the quality of life for the animals, but it will mean the farmer has higher quality livestock to offer the market. Some health issues that herd managers should look out for include pinkeye and flies, both of which can irritate the animal and interfere with weight gain. Managers should also take care to ensure their herd is not overexposed to heat.

Cattle Marketing and Finishing

The final steps in the beef production process for herd managers are marketing and finishing. Livestock marketing requires several steps on the part of the herd manager or farm owner in order to make a sale. The manager should estimate the cost of production per head in order to determine the sale price that will result in profit. The market fluctuates, and selling at certain times will yield more profit. Managers should research the market outlook and present their livestock favorably in order to interest potential buyers.

Finishing is the process of intensively feeding cattle to cause weight gain before slaughter. This is normally done on cattle feedlots, also known as concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs).