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Starting a Virginia Beef Cattle Farm
Raising Beef Cattle
Raising beef cattle for yourself or for profit can be an incredibly rewarding and satisfying enterprise, and it doesn’t require a ranch. In fact, beef cattle can be raised successfully and healthily on relatively small pieces of land.
Though there are several management skills that define successful beef producers, learning to raise your own cattle isn’t nearly as daunting an operation as it may seem. Each beef cattle enterprise has different resources: the land, labor, capital, and feed vary from one farm to another.
With acres of lush land perfect for raising cattle in the Virginia countryside, the abundant resources of Virginia farms make for them ideal places to maximize returns and raise beef cattle profitably.
Virginia’s Thriving Beef Industry
The goal of the beef industry—to produce live beef animals from which high quality beef can be delivered to the consumer—is incredibly attainable in Virginia. Because of this, cattle farmers flock to Virginia farms, bringing to Virginia a diverse and well-established beef cattle industry.
When searching for the perfect place to raise beef cattle, farmers look for an abundance of rich plant life on which their cattle can grow strong and healthy. The environment provided by western and central Virginia—with its lush topography, mild climate, and rich soils—lends itself to the production of lush forages.
In Virginia, many of cow herds operate on about two to two and a half acres of pastureland per cow. If hay is being produced as well, an additional half acre per unit is added. As the land is so lush, some operations are even able to maintain just one yearling stocker per acre of pasture, making starting a cattle farm an incredibly attainable goal, even without too many acres of land.
Because of the excellence of the amount and quality of forages produced in the area paired with the exceptional water availability, the area encourages the production of substantial cow/calf and stocker cattle. Western Virginia boasts the ideal elevation, forage species, topography, and rainfall patterns for cattle grazing, and the area’s abundance of farms provides Virginia beef producers with access to a wide array of by-product feedstuffs.
In addition to the conditions which result in a high rate of success of cattle raising enterprises in Virginia, the state’s economy is perfect for those hoping to operate a cattle farm on a part time basis because there is a sufficient amount of off-farm employment available.
Feeder cattle producers in Virginia have a wide choice of marketing alternatives because of the state’s extensive system of commingled feeder cattle sales that benefit the smaller operations. Local feeder cattle associations and the Virginia Cattlemen’s Association operate graded, commingled feeder sales that allow smaller cattle farms to benefit from the price advantage that results from selling feeder cattle in large, uniform lots.
Information for New Cattle Farmers
Since maximizing profitability in the cattle business requires several management skills, new cattle farmers should be sure to educate themselves fully in order to guarantee the success of their new business. As Virginia is the ideal place to start a beef cattle enterprise, the state has created an organization to help answer the questions of prospective cattle farmers.
Each county in the state has an office of the Virginia Cooperative Extension, which provides farmers with research-based, unbiased information regarding agriculture and, more specifically, the cattle industry. Their website (http://www.ext.vt.edu) can be used as a source of additional information for cattle farmers regarding production, budgeting, and marketing of their new enterprise.