BEFORE I go cattle shopping, I do a little research. Do you?
Do you visit farm websites, or try to find photos of the farm on google earth? Do you call and ask questions? We aren’t going to the farm store in town, so we gotta know if we are going to the right place, Right?
What things should you look for?
- Management practices that mirror your planned practices: While things like feed bins and hay stacks can be seen from maps, without setting foot on the place, you may not know if the bin has been sitting unused for 10 years, or was drawn from that morning. Does the farm have a fancy show barn or pens? How about the hay stacks? What kind of hay are they using? Are there feed bunks for feeding daily, and are they being used? Kick those cow patties apart, the old and the fresh. What’s in them?
- Ask questions. Do they feed silage? Do they feed cake, or other supplements? If so, how much? What kind of hay do they use. While years can vary, some hay stacks are all super rich hay, and others might be course, and lower quality.
- WHY should we be concerned with the above things? This is extremely important! If we aren’t concerned about these things, we won’t know if we are buying cattle that have been adapted to a high maintenance diet, or a low maintenance diet. We MUST know this BEFORE we bother to look at any cattle.
I used a section that shows the area where we live. There’s a lot of fields in the area. And farms are small. There’s also a lot of pasture in the area. It’s beautiful country.
You can see in the image where we fed hay the previous winter, those brown spots in the pastures. Stock ponds, and feedlots, sacrifice areas that would be planted or left to heal up on their own. Living in a cold climate, our pastures will look different than those in other area of the country. You can’t see the topography of the area, but you can see the general concepts. Few buildings, and a general scope of the management. Of course, this is one photo, one year. Knowing how it changes and evolves, requires a visit!
Why do I put so much emphasis on the management?
Without understanding the management, you have no idea if that animal was fed grain, cake, or just grass. Good grass, poor grass, and so on.
This image portrays a bull in grass. Is that where he spent his life? Or was he placed there to portray an image to you?
In this case, he’s MY bull. He had been on a grass only diet. He never lost an ounce. Even on lower quality hay. But in a bull book looking at bulls for a sale, what were they fed? Were they in a feedlot to get them into that condition? While I don’t sugar coat things, is that true for everyone? Probably not.
If you’re looking at females, or bulls, this post is relevant to both.
One thing you cannot guess from the snowy season photo is whether the animal has fly resistance or not. There’s not usually flies this time of year, and it’s pretty hard to select a bull without seeing them in fly season if that’s one of your criteria.
We show for FUN.
We somewhat randomly pick animals from the pasture that have often never been handled. We go on to enjoy the fun of showing. Without a show barn, cooler room, daily washing, special feed rations, show box full of clippers to sprays, and the list goes on. Good cattle are good cattle in the pasture and in the ring without all that extra “stuff”.
I raised my kids that winning isn’t everything, but having fun is what it’s all about. We really get excited when we do achieve a winning award, and we admire all that our competitors do to achieve what they have.
Are “show cattle” what you are looking for? Or are you looking for “front pasture” type cattle? Believe it or not, some people don’t have a clue. They just want “a cow”.
There’s NOTHING wrong with wanting “a cow”. I just hope you are never taken advantage of as you search and end up with a whole cow of trouble.
Remember, “good cows aren’t cheap, cheap cows aren’t good”.
You will spend a lot less on a good cow, than a cheap cow long term. That’s money well spent.
Be sure of what you are looking for in how you will manage your herd. Getting cattle that are already adapted to your planned management is well worth it. Also consider how you will market your animals.
I see so many people overlook some of these things. I hope this isn’t you.
If I can be of any assistance as you get your herd started, I’m here for you.