I have about 1.5-2 acres of meadow - grass and herbs (plantain mostly). I don't currently have any grazing stock, and my poultry is in runs due to foxes. We will be getting some geese but not enough to keep the grass down, we will also be getting pigs but only a few and plan to use a paddock shift system to get them tilling up some of the meadow to be converted to vegetable growing. In the distant future (a few years at least) I would like to keep a few dairy goats but this is subject to life making that possible! In the meantime, I want to keep my meadows, as meadows, but my goodness that's a lot of work! We had guest sheep grazing it down for a few months in the winter, but now I am laboriously mowing it by hand with a scythe and trying to find someone to help me out with a mower. I am also trying to get the guest sheep back but because I've planted some trees around the edge and stuff, the shepherd thinks fencing etc will be more trouble than it's worth for the amount of grazing he will get. He has suggested that I consider a cow because they could be tethered, reducing the need to protectively fence small trees, and they are less likely than Welsh mountain sheep to go scrambling over the bank into our garden. At first he was trying to convince me to get a Jersey so we could have a dairy cow but I don't think we're ready for that commitment. Then he suggested getting a couple of young male calves to fatten. I am completely clueless when it comes to cows. Are either of these a realistic possibility? If I got young males, how much additional feed would they need? How much shelter? Could they really be tethered all the time?
Cows on teathers work great. I have a yearling heiffer on a teather in my front yard as I type this. Definitely dont try goats or sheeps with ropes, they have an instinctual death wish. Wont end well.
So long as you move the teather frequently enough, you would not need any supplemental feed. Just kelp and salt for minerals, and a tub of water.
Plantain is excellent cattle feed, much superior to grass, IMHO. Your animal will graze roughly based on body weight, so for your size pasture, one animal unit would work well. I would get a yearling steer (800 lbs or so), otherwise you would need two young ones to get the job done. For me, two animals on teathers starts to feel like a job, one animal is great.
Dairy cow on a teather is a beautiful thing so long as you keep moving her to fresh grass regularly, like three times a day I would reccomend. Dont underestimate how awesome a milk cow is! But definitely not as simple as a beef steer.
Do be aware that if you dont move frequently enough, you will trample your pasture into mud if it is at all moist, which sounds like an issue in your area. I know I sound like a broken record, but frequent moves is key with animals on teathers. good luck!
Thanks very much for your reply! I really hadn't heard much about tethering before so that's very useful info. Our area is indeed wet (understatement!!). The meadow has tons of plantain, clover, and other goodies. Sadly it also has ragwort, which I am weeding out as best I can. It's adjacent to the house so visiting the animal 2-3 times per day would not be an issue.
What about shelter? Do you leave the animal tethered outside at night (only predators are foxes, nothing big), or do you need to bring it into shelter at night? We do not have a barn.
If I got one or two young males, with the intention of using them to eat the grass as I raise them for slaughter, how long would I expect to keep them before slaughtering (I appreciate that there's an element of, how good is the grazing as to how quickly they fatten up, but I mean very roughly - are we talking months, or a year?)
Location: 6200' westen slope of colorado, zone 6
posted 7 years ago
surely some of the softer-hearted among us might cry, but cattle wouldnt need any shelter in Wales.
as for slaughtering age, it does really depend, but isnt exacting in any way. bigger animal makes more beef. a smaller animal, less mature in stature, will yield a lower percentage of beef per body weight, because their body is more bone proportionally. but keeping it simple, you could harvest the beef when it is convenient for your needs, no problem. really, IME, cant lose with backyard beef. make sure your abbatoir dry ages the meat for optimal flavor and tenderness. this step is as important as everything you do when raising and feeding the animal.
a really good resource for you would be 'grassfed to finish' by Alan Nation. definitely worth purchasing and reading to give you an understanding of why to do what.
Getting only one bullock ( steer ) is never as good as having at least two. They thrive much better together.
A solitary cow is ok, for half the year she will have the calf anyway, and she will be fine foe the rest on her own.
Location: De Cymru (West Wales, UK)
posted 7 years ago
thank you everyone for those thought-provoking replies. I will get on some more reading and talking to people. The tethered animals would be clearly visible from the road, so nosiness might be a problem. However I am already registered as a smallholder and with stock would need to have visits from the animal welfare people anyway, so as long as they are satisfied I assume that would give me sufficient protection from unfounded complaints (I might be naive though!). As with everything I do I would be talking to my neighbors and the village before hand anyway, and though people think I am a bit nuts they do stick up for each other around here especially with regards to authority, so hopefully that wouldn't be too much of an issue.
I definitely see beef cattle out on the land all year round out here - the harshest part of last winter was snow on the ground 6" deep for around 2 weeks, otherwise it hovered between -3 and +5 celsius. To the best of my knowledge the local small dairy herds do tend to stay indoors for at least a couple of months over winter, but I'm pretty sure people with 'family cows' don't keep them in all the time.
In any case I think I'm getting a bit ahead of myself here but it's another fascinating avenue to explore, thank you again!
Companion Planting Guide by World Permaculture Association