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Best first timer breeds and why?

 
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Hello everyone! My name is Caley and my dream is to move to land, but for now am in a suburban setting. If one was to do research, both on dairy cows and beef cattle, where would you start to learn the basics about feed, maintenance and daily requirements. In your opinion:

Is beef or dairy cattle an easier starting point?
What is your favorite breed and why?
Is there a benefit to mixed breeds (half dairy and half beef)?

Would love the good, bad and ugly info. That is the best way to stay informed.
 
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Hi, Caley

Welcome to the forums!

Knowing what part of the world you live in might help with the suggestions. In Texas, you might get suggestions for Herefords or Longhorns though in Canada the suggestion might be for a Dexter

Whether to get dairy cows or beef cows also depends on your future situation. Is the cow for a homestead supplying both milk and meat? Or do you just want to fill a freezer?
 
Caley Tolver
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Hi Anne,

We currently live in Colorado, but we are looking to move to Texas/Tennessee/Carolinas/Kentucky area OR Montana/Idaho/Dakotas area. That is very up in the air because we are at least 2 years away from that dream coming to fruition.

As for the needs, we currently source our beef products from local ranchers, so we want to stick with that no matter if we raise it ourselves or we find a local rancher in our new area. I like the idea of having a family dairy cow, but am not certain that we can consume the amount of milk that is provided. Hence, the question about mixed breeds. Something that gives a decent amount of milk, but also tastes good? Is that possible and still sustainable? I also feel that my kids would get attached to a dairy cow, but if beef cattle are raised farther from the house on pasture, they wouldn't get as attached, so many that isn't a requirement I want to tackle. Would love any and all feedback. Thank you!

 
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Cows are an awesome investment. Beef cows are definitely much easier to manage than milk cows. Milk cows require a place to milk (stanchion), are more prone to health issues, and tie you down to the farm, because you have to milk everyday at a consistent time.

Depending on your families needs, you can go with a dual purpose cow.
We have a dexter family milk cow, she puts out about 1/2 gallon with each milking. right now we are milking twice a day and freezing some for when we dry her off in a month. She is awesome for us right now, until our son starts drinking more milk, then we will likely upgrade or get a second dexter. Dexters are very hardy and if you get good stock, won't have health issues. Because they aren't production milk cows, they are less prone to mastitis and it is much easier to calf share.

We also have lowline angus cows and a lowline bull, and these cows are great too (but only for meat, not milk).
 
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Caley, we just bought our first homestead cow, a Dexter, in March '21.  She has been a joy to our family, and has taught us more than any book!  However, starting with some research is highly advisable.  I started on YouTube and Permies.com, of course, and then read books all Winter.

Check out:  Permies.com - Homestead Cows

Some things I wish we would've done:
1. Don't be in a hurry!  Make friends with homesteaders and farmers in your area, which I wish I had done more.  The connections since owning a cow could've helped us select the right one at a good price.  Ask them about supplements and hay, etc...

2. Pasture, Pasture, Pasture!  At least some permanent fencing is a must, and I would make sure that the cow is trained to poly-braid, etc.  Plan to rotate paddocks, because a muddy cow is an unhappy, stressed cow.  (and no fun to milk!)  Watch a few Greg Judy videos.

3. Buy a tame animal with a sweet disposition.  If possible, spend a couple visits seeing how the cow interacts with people (see #1).  A skittish or aggressive cow won't do for a family milker, and maybe not even a beef cow.  Remember the calves learn everything from the mama.  

4. If the cow is bred, ask for the evidence and press the seller for a calving date.  We were told that ours would calve in June/July, but turns out she didn't get bred until just before we picked her up!!  It's almost November and her udder is just starting to swell.  (Do the sellers know what they're talking about?)

5. For beef, my advice is to go with a mid-sized standard breed.  Some of the rarer breeds might be tempting, but learning on a $1,200 animal is different than learning on a standard $300-400 one.  

Man, there's so much to say, but I hope this helps!!
 
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I have very little experience with cows, so I will not presume to make a suggestion, but I will comment on this type of question.

Experience is the best teacher, and a teacher with experience is the next best thing. If you can get some experience being around cows and working with them, doing the chores, and that sort of thing, it would go a long way to helping you with your decision. Even if that is not possible, I would suggest reading books and watching videos from people who have been doing it a long time. Preferably people who have been doing it a long time in the manner that you want to raise your cow(s). I love watching so many different homesteaders on youtube... but some of them are giving advice on raising animals when they have little to no experience with it themselves. Let us not fall into the trap of asking celebrities about something they know little about simply because they are famous, instead of asking an expert. Just because someone has tons of subscribers on youtube does not mean they have experience. On the other hand, just because someone has not raised an animal does not mean they are wrong. They could be passing on information learned from experienced sources.

Good luck. Cows are something I have been considering adding to our land.
 
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Hello Calypso,

Beef cattle are better to start.
Favorite breed is Red Angus. (Good Mama, easy to feed, early to slaugter, best meat)
Two-utilize-breeds like Simmental are today crossbreedet with Red-Holstein for more Milk or breed to a verry good beef cow. Many small Farms in my area have Simmental for mamacow+calf.
Help on a Farn, when a cow became a calf. There you learn so much.
When you lost the calf, you must milk the cow for 300 days. 2 time a day, everyday the same time. Only for 44 lbs.

Fleischrinder sind besser als Milchkühe bei Beginn der Rinderhaltung.
Eine gute Rasse ist Angus (rot).(Gute Mutter, leicht zu füttern, frühreif + gute Zunahmen, beste Fleischqualität)
Zweinutzungsrassen (Milch und Fleisch) wie Simmentaler werden heute mit Holsteiner rot gekreuzt oder auf Fleisch gezüchtet. Viele kleine Farmer in meiner Gegend nutzen Simmentaler für Mutterkuh.
Hilf auf einer Farm, wenn eine Kuh ein Kalb bekommt. Dort lernst du viel. Wenn du das Kalb verlierst, musst du die Kuh melken. 300 Tage lang, 2 x am Tag, immer zur selben Zeit, für 20 Liter am Tag.

(I'am a German and i can't speak Englisch.)
 
pollinator
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I don't have all of the information or experience, but I've considered what having a dairy cow in our lives would look like.  It seems like one of the most important components of having dairy animals is also having pigs.  They will happily eat the milk that the cow poops in, the skim milk from when you separate cream, and the whey leftover from making cheese.  They significantly reduce the waste involved in having a cow with higher production levels.  You'll also need to ensure you have adequate refrigerator and freezer space to handle the volume of milk coming into your kitchen on a daily basis.  You also need to have a backup plan for if you get sick, injured, or called away.  Having a lower production breed may be good for that as you could calf share without as much of an issue.  
 
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