The benefits of raising cattle. What a phrase that strikes up a lot of controversy from either end of the raising of, caring for livestock like cattle! You’ve got the extreme right end saying that nothing can compare with raising cattle, and the other end that argues that there are absolutely no benefits to raising cattle. Where I stand is somewhere in the middle, but I tend to lean more to the right than the left. But this article is not about arguments about whether there exists any benefits to raising cattle, but rather what are the benefits to raising these critters.
There are moral benefits, environmental, emotional, physical, economical and other benefits to raising cattle. Each has their own level of importance to every producer, some being more so than others. I didn’t list finances as being a benefit because it seems for many producers that more money is being put into raise the dad-gummed critters than what comes out! Really–there is not much financial benefit to raising cattle, even if you’re striving to be a low-cost producer. More money needs to go into the care, feed and welfare of these animals than what you can get out of them, no matter if you’re selling your meat direct or selling your cattle to the local salebarn.
For many though, raising cattle can get you tax exemption. I’m not exactly sure how or how the whole process works, but I do know that if raise cattle or some form of livestock for profit it can act as a tax exemption. Cattle is a large economic benefit to many countries as well, contributing to billions of dollars annually upon the sale, export and import of live animals, carcasses and boxed beef. Too bad it doesn’t reflect it on the people that raise them…
Regardless, the hard work that is involved is worth it in the end. It is said that raising livestock is 90% hard work and 10% satisfaction, and I believe it is that 10% satisfaction that many producers strive for–seeing new calves hit the ground and grow into strong, healthy animals, and seeing them get sold off to market when they’re good and ready to go. This is where the moral benefits come into play. Raising cattle takes a ton of hard work and you have to diligent, just about a jack- or jenny-of-all-trades, and not be the type that likes to stick with normal everyday routines. The reason I say this is that your farm duties change with every season–calving in the spring, putting bulls out in the summer, haying in the summer, processing calves in the fall, preparing for fall-winter-spring feeding, etc. Fences need to be checked regularly, cattle checked on a regular basis, keep up to date with times to vaccinate, preg-check, put the bulls in and pull them out, wean calves, the list goes on. Some producers have more machinery to maintain and fix than others do, and this is also a chore in itself and can take up a lot of time and effort.
There will undoubtedly be times when you just wonder why you even got into raising cattle in the first place. It can be an emotional drain if you’ve gotten into something that you didn’t expect to be that difficult. But it can be an emotional reward when you see all the blood, sweat and tears you put into your operation come out in the form of a good-sized paycheck for the cattle you worked your rear off to raise, or see your cows give birth to and raise some nice baby calves. It may even come as a reward when you are able to buy some new and improved handling facilities or a new tractor. I don’t think anything gets a farmer more happier or excited than a new tractor!!
With the hard work can come with the physical benefits as well. Who needs to go to a fitness gym when they’ve got all the physical labour needed on a ranch or farm that raises cattle? Not only do you have no time for going to a gym–let alone work out on your own fitness equipment at home, if you have any–but farming is a lot more physically demanding than most realize. Though there still is a lot time spent sitting on the tractor, you still need to be strong to spread straw, cut and pull strings off bales (which is no easy task, mark my words!), shovelling manure out of a barn, pulling a calf out of a cow that’s having a hard time pushing it out, lifting and moving salt blocks to replace the ones already eaten, moving small square hay/straw bales by hand, fixing/building fence, the list goes on. I heard of a story where a cattleman had one of his city friends out to help a little with some fencing on his farm. His city friend was the type that jogs every day and goes to the gym every day and keeps in good shape. The cattleman himself didn’t look like much a fitness fanatic compared to his friend, but his level of strength and endurance when out doing some fence-building outdid his city friend by a long shot. By the time they had one section of fence-line completed, the producer’s friend was exhausted, and the producer was fixing to keep on going!
You do get a bit tougher and stronger when you’ve lived on a farm for a long time. You learn quickly that there’s no time to be grossed out because you got cow-crap on your hands or pants, nor to complain about something so trivial as a broken fingernail when handling or working with cattle. The cows don’t care, so neither should you. A person from the city won’t understand the kind of skin you must have until they’ve gotten in your shoes and done it themselves. Jokes that more than likely will offend them may be something to laugh about with your fellow-cattlemen friends or neighbors. No, you can’t be thin-skinned or much of a tender-foot to be a part of the cattle business.
It also takes a fair bit of smarts and fair amount of scientific knowledge to do well in the cattle business, especially if you want it to pay off environmentally. The only way that this can be done is if you become a steward of your land, and graze your cattle so that you are taking care of the land. Grazing cattle responsibly through managed intensive grazing will help by improving soil quality, increasing organic matter content, restore and maintain wildlife habitat areas such as wetlands, sloughs and marshlands, and increase both above and below-ground biomass content. The manure from cattle goes back into the soil where it belongs and doesn’t stay out in the drylot in a fermenting pile. The micro-organisms in the soil and the pasture plants themselves utilize the manure that cattle drop into the ground and use them for their own benefits, just like what always occurs in Nature. Even though grass-fed cattle do give out more methane than feedlot grain-fed cattle, this is still offset by a huge amount as to the benefits of raising grass-fed cattle. There are a lot of naysayers–mostly animal rights advocates and the like–that say that grass-fed beef or raising cattle on grass is the worst thing you can do for the environment, because of the “massive methane emissions” and the “vast amount of land needed to raise grass-fed cattle”; but what I’m seeing all here are simply excuses for these people to never switch their vegan diets. A lot of what they say about grass-fed beef being bad for the environment is unfounded. If feeding cattle on grass is so bad for the environment, then why does grass grow so much more healthier and lusher when cattle are rotationally grazed on it? Why do I see more wildlife coming around with grazing cattle than with farms that raise crops only? Those are just some of the questions I challenge those type of people to answer!
Undoubtedly there are many more benefits than what I had the time to list, so I will leave that to you to figure out on your own.