Even though many family-owned farms do business on a smaller scale than large livestock operators, they can successfully utilize a number of the latter’s techniques and best practices. Some strategies are simple, common sense approaches, while others require more investment and effort. When implemented and adjusted appropriately for the size of the operation, these methods can potentially save time and money and improve the quality of the livestock. The Colorado State University Extension Office offers these tips.
Livestock generally don’t require much shelter, so build prudently. A solid three-sided structure can block bitter winds during the winter and provide shade from summer’s blistering sun. Any available foliage also offers relief from the heat, so consider planting trees if it’s appropriate to the area.
Chutes can increase the efficiency of caring for animals during certain procedures, such as vaccinating. Before starting construction, consider the farm’s size and how often the chutes would be used.
Sturdy fencing is a must, so don’t skimp. Because livestock like to rub against fencing, installing a wire connected to an electric fence charger can prevent damage.
Food and Water
Locate livestock feeding stations near water and shade.
Placing feedlots on sloped land positively impacts animal health by improving drainage, which prevents contamination.
A balanced diet plays an important role in maintaining healthy animals. Increase animals’ efficiency by feeding them according to their nutritional needs. Livestock feed generally is classified as roughages and concentrates. Roughages are low in total digestible nutrients and high in fiber, which provides bulk and promotes bowel function. Roughages include alfalfa, grass, grazing pasture, hay and straw. Minimal in fiber and high in digestible nutrients, concentrates may provide more net energy than roughages. Concentrates include grains, cottonseed meal, wheat bran and soybean meal.
Consult a veterinarian for vitamin, mineral and other nutritional supplements that would benefit the animals’ health.
Plentiful water should be readily available. Invest in tank heaters to prevent freezing in the winter. Weekly use of copper sulfate in water tanks or pond water thwarts the growth of moss and green algae.
Purebred animals are only one option for producers. Crossbred calves combine breed traits and contribute to what’s referred to as hybrid vigor, or a better overall animal. Once a producer selects a breed, healthy animals should have good muscle tone, balance and alertness. Also look for the specialized characteristics that are pertinent to the breed.
Small operations might consider using artificial insemination of livestock instead of maintaining a bull. This allows access to a quality bull without incurring the associated expenses.
Wean calves by separating them from their mothers into another pen. Castrate male calves and dehorn calves of horned breeds to reduce the chance of injury.
Keep complete and accurate breeding records. They’re critical in animal management, marketing and future breeding decisions.
Place premium value on disease prevention and health maintenance. Talk with a veterinarian about appropriate vaccines, tests and other medical treatments that will keep livestock healthy.
Exercise, sunshine and fresh air also contribute greatly to animal well-being.