Bringing Cattle to Your Barn
Horse and Rider|Spring 2020
Keeping cows at home is a natural fit for riders interested in cattle events. Here are a few things to know before you bring cattle to your horse barn.
KATIE NAVARRA

Practicing for roping, sorting, working cow horse, or any cattle class is challenging without, well, cattle. That was one reason Bill Riel and fiancée Emma Reichert decided to introduce cows to their small horse farm in Mechanicville, New York. Riel team roped, Reichert competed in breakaway roping, and their one boarder was learning to box and sort cattle. So expanding the hobby farm to include about a dozen head of cattle just seemed to make sense, and as a bonus provided the opportunity for additional income through beef sales.

Success with cattle, as with any livestock, starts with planning. That includes breed selection, fencing, and developing an understanding of the basic needs of the species. Here, you’ll find advice for choosing a breed suited for your goals, purchasing your animals, selecting fencing and housing, and providing care—all information that will help you in your plan to bring cattle to your horse barn.

What Type of Cattle?

There are more than 80 breeds of cattle readily available in the U.S., each developed for a different purpose. Most have their own registry and website, where you can research breed characteristics to see how they might fit your farm plans.

Ashley Wright of the Cochise County Cooperative Extension in Willcox, Arizona, says how you intend to use the cattle is the most important factor when deciding which breed to buy. The breeds most commonly used for beef, dairy, roping, or other cattle events differ significantly, she notes.

“If you’re looking to raise your own beef, you’ll want to consider breeds such as Angus, Hereford, Charolais, or Simmental,” she recommends. “Corriente cattle are the most popular breed for roping steers, while breeds such as Holstein, Jersey, Brown Swiss, or Guernsey are common dairy breeds.”

For working cow horse and cutting events, Brahma cross and Charolais are popular choices.

As to how many head to acquire, Wright points out that cattle, like horses, are herd animals and do better in groups of at least two or three for companionship and social-behavior needs.

Riel and Reichert started with a few heifers that were a Holstein/beef-type cross. Then they purchased a black “baldy” bull (typically a crossbred between Hereford and a solid black breed, such as Angus) to produce calves that could be raised for beef.

A few months after their initial purchase, they bought at auction four purebred calves—three Jersey and a Holstein—to use for breakaway roping practice. Their earlier-purchased crossbred heifers produced a calf each and were easily sustained on grass and hay. But the purebred Jersey and Holstein's calves struggled from the day they arrived—first from scours, then from failing to bulk up. Eventually, three of those calves died.

“The Jersey thing just didn’t work for us,” Riel says. “That’s one thing you have to be prepared for—the animals that don’t survive.” He’s since purchased a Hereford and an Angus, both breeds known for producing heavier weighted cattle.

Although he originally considered practicing roping with the calves produced on his farm, that’s changed now that he sees the time and money invested in raising them.

“I’m a heeler, and I don’t want to rope down on the back legs and risk an injury,” he says, noting that you, too, may find your goals and the intended use for your cattle changing over time.

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine

MORE STORIES FROM HORSE AND RIDERView All

THE ELUSIVE ‘FEEL'

It takes a great horseman to develop and understand feel. However, finding feel doesn’t come easy. Al Dunning breaks down the things you need to know, both in and out of the saddle, to develop feel with your horse, and how it’ll help you better connect with him.

9 mins read
Horse and Rider
Spring 2021

Come Together

SOMETIMES IT’S EASY to get bogged down in negativity, especially coming out of 2020. We’re going through a pandemic, many of us haven’t seen our families in almost a year, and all the fun activities we used to do (horse related or not) have been rescheduled, canceled, or set aside for the time being.

3 mins read
Horse and Rider
Spring 2021

Welcome to the Herd

A tiny equine with big ears is just what this family needed.

3 mins read
Horse and Rider
Spring 2021

Making a Diagnosis

Is your horse lame? Learn why it’s important to do what it takes to make an accurate diagnosis before you treat.

9 mins read
Horse and Rider
Spring 2021

Groundwork for Yourself

You practice groundwork with your horse, but here you’ll learn how you can apply the same principles to yourself to become a more confident, effective rider in the saddle.

4 mins read
Horse and Rider
Spring 2021

Horse-Powered Reading

At Rise Canyon Ranch, horses are helping children learn to love reading.

4 mins read
Horse and Rider
Spring 2021

Secrets to Correct a Sticky Backup

If your horse isn’t responsive in his feet when you ask him to back up, Bud Lyon’s insights can help.

3 mins read
Horse and Rider
Spring 2021

Establish Communication Through the Lead Rope

Is your horse pushy on the ground? Improve your communication with him and relieve his anxiety when you’re handling him.

4 mins read
Horse and Rider
Spring 2021

COTTONWOOD COUNTRY

LOCATED IN THE HEART OF ARIZONA, THIS DESERT DESTINATION MAKES FOR THE PERFECT GETAWAY.

8 mins read
Horse and Rider
Spring 2021

Basics of the Rundown

In order to fix your stop, you need to take a few steps back and focus on making sure your horse is soft, relaxed, and responsive to your hand and leg when you’re in the rundown.

3 mins read
Horse and Rider
Spring 2021