Book review: Raising Cattle for Dairy and Beef
I have just finished reading this book, which is part of a series, by prolific American homesteading (the North American counterpart of our Smallholding) author Kim Pezza.
Kim is experienced in many aspects of farm life and self-sufficiency and is currently working to turn her grandparents’ 1800s farm into a working homestead. The book covers beef, dairy and multi-purpose breeds alike. The information is pitched at novices and covers all facets of cattle husbandry, with the emphasis on areas that will concern, affect or interest smallholders in particular.
The differing terminology can be a little confusing on occasion and there seems to be no mention of the registration or movement paperwork that we, in the UK, would have to complete as a matter of course. But this is by-the-by. This is not, perhaps, the best resource for prospective UK cattle keepers – I would actually suggest a practical course or shadowing a more experienced keeper as a far better option – but it does have some interesting information and viewpoints contained in its pages.
It suggests throughout that perhaps a larger proportion of ‘homesteaders’ in the US keep cattle than we would expect over here. This is possibly due to the fact that, in some States especially, land is more easily available at affordable prices and possibly because of the additional paperwork and testing for cattle in the UK when when compared to other livestock. Maybe it’s just a cultural thing.
Interestingly, the breed information, while peppered with familiar names such as Angus, Holstein and Jersey, describes many animals that we might not be so familiar with. Of particular interest was the section on miniature breeds. In the UK we would be limited to the naturally diminutive Dexter but, much as we might believe America is all about ‘bigger is better’ , they have spent considerable time and effort developing small versions of many other breeds including the impressive American Longhorn, Zebu and our very own Hereford. More on this in a future article.
It may interest you to know that, after efforts by UK breeders, slowly but surely, some of these beautiful ‘bantam’ cattle are becoming available here although, as yet, in very small numbers.They will be the focus of their own article shortly.
The book briefly covers other aspects of cattle keeping that we might not necessarily consider too. Firstly, they have the popular spectacle of rodeo which glamourises the cowboy lifestyle with demonstrations of herding, roping (with lasso) and the testosterone fuelled spectacle of bull riding. Not something we health and safety encumbered Brits will expect to see on our shores any time soon I guess.
Outside of this, it does touch on the other more traditional uses of cattle as oxen and even for riding.
Here, in the UK it is traditionally the domain of horses to pull carts and plough fields but in many parts of the world, then, as now, cattle are routinely trained for these duties and perform them extremely reliably too. I myself would be happy to see appropriate breeds, used responsibly, in small scale systems, taking over at least some of the work that tractors or ATVs are now almost exclusively employed for. An interesting thought?
You can find the book on Amazon or direct from http://www.turnaround-uk.com/books/encyclopedias-maps.html priced at £4.99 soft back or £3.64 kindle edition*. Although not a hugely detailed tutorial it is an interesting, easy to digest, introduction nevertheless and, at that price, I would say it’s worth a read if only for the comparison between the two systems.
*Correct a time of publication
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