Whether you are raising a few cows and sheep as a hobby on a smallholding or have a large herd on a commercial farm, taking care of cattle and other livestock can be challenging, especially if you are still getting to grips with all the basics involved.
To ensure your animals are happy and healthy all year round, here are some useful pieces of advice you may want to consider.
Plan the Yard Layout Carefully
One of the most important tasks you should do when first setting up your farm or reviewing how your existing farm works, is to design your yard and the system used to move animals around the farm. According to the experts at Te Pari, a cattle yard system should be designed based on animals’ natural behavior and the safety of farmers. The purpose of creating a central yard and herding system is to provide a central place to gather cattle easily or transfer them quickly to other parts of the farm.
When planning out your yard, it is important to choose a site that:
- Provides access to laneways and all your fields and paddocks
- Is far enough away from your living quarters to avoid experiencing dust, flies, noise, and bad smells
- Allows access to trucks and vehicles in all-weathers
- Are close to water and power supplies
- Well-drained to prevent mud, adding gravel for more rise can help
- Is shaded by trees to give shelter from the summer heat
In addition to choosing the correct site for your yard, you will also need to design the layout of your yard components, typically these include a forcing yard, holding yard, the race, a loading ramp, and a crush and head bail.
The set-up of your yard system will depend on how many heads of cattle you have and how often you will need to herd them.
Manage Their Diet
Providing your animals with a balanced diet every day whilst avoiding overfeeding is vital to their health, growth, and production. Ideally, cattle feed should provide all the nutrients animals require, however, if one nutrient is lacking it will affect the health and weight of an animal, alternatively if cattle are overfed a nutrient then means you are wasting feed.
There is a range of feeds you can give your cattle to ensure they have sufficient nutrients including hay, grains, legumes, and pelleted feeds.
Build Enough Shelter
Building and maintaining day and nighttime shelters for your cattle are essential to their happiness, health, and productivity. Most milk-producing cattle will struggle in extreme heat and cold, resulting in lower milk yields. Therefore, livestock farmers need to build barns for cattle to rest in at night and outdoor shelters to give protection from rain, sun, and wind.
The size of the barn and shelters you build will be determined by the number of cattle you have, however you should make sure they are spacious enough, covered with the proper bedding, and well ventilated.
Clean Every Day
Of course, having a herd of cattle constantly grazing and wandering around your farm will result in a lot of excrement, so to prevent disease you must follow a cleaning schedule with every part of the farm cleaned and maintained regularly.
Naturally, the build-up of mud and manure can become a problem on any farm, so in addition to removing manure as much as possible, you can also add sand, gravel, and wood chips to shelter floors or areas of your farm that are prone to turning into a quagmire.
Fresh Water Every Day
Livestock consumes vast amounts of water, especially milk herds, therefore you must supply your animals with a sufficient amount of water every day to maintain productivity. In addition, water will also fill up your cattle, so they would require less feed.
Cattle’s water needs vary with the seasons, on particularly hot days they will need watering much more and even hosing down, whilst on cold winter days it is beneficial to warm water up a little, so they consume fewer calories heating up.
Regularly Health Check-Ups
Unfortunately, farm animals will naturally run into health troubles either from disease, injuries, or parasites, so you must monitor your cattle’s health carefully to spot any problems early on. If you have a larger herd then you have probably tagged them to make record keeping easier, this will also help in scheduling and tracking the health of each animal. Proactively monitoring the health of your animals will usually save you money on vet bills later when the problem is more serious.
Taking care of barn animals such as cows, goats, pigs or sheep can be rewarding and even profitable, although there are several tasks you should complete effectively first to ensure your animals’ happiness and well-being.