Beef cattle management and production course
This course has a very practical slant. It has been developed on the idea of "experiential" learning (learning through actual "hands on" experience).
Obviously, we can't send cattle through the mail; but a lot of "experiential learning" ideas have been tested, proven, and incorporated into this and our other courses over the decades the course has been running. It is continually reviewed, and through a combination of world class tutors and a tried and tested study program, this course lays a foundation for understanding beef cattle husbandry; giving you a capacity to adapt and grow your knowledge and skills as long as you are involved in the industry.
Duration: 100 hours (nominal duration)
This course is broken up into ten lessons (listed below), with an assignment to be submitted for comment at the end of each lesson
- Introduction to Beef Production and Beef Cattle Breeds - The role of beef cattle in agriculture; Scientific classification; Examples of breeds worldwide; British Beef breeds - angus, hereford, South devon, Sussex, Red poll; U.S. Developed Beef breeds - Santa gertrudis, American brahman, Amerifax, Beefmaster; European Beef breeds - Salers, Charolais, Simmental, Gelbvieh; Australian Beef breeds - Braford, Beefmaster, Droughtmaster, Murray Grey, Australian Lowline; South African Beef Breeds - Salorn, Tswana, Tuli, Afrikander; Breed selection considerations - horned vs poll, colour, gestation length, birth weight, mothering ability, post weaning growth, meat quality etc
- Beef Cattle Production Systems - Various systems of production - extensive, intensive, semi-intensive; Choosing a suitable system - considerations include size, climate, soils, transport, markets etc; Cattle handling facilities; Materials used in cattle handling; Cattle identification - branding, ear marking, tattooing, ear tags; De-horning - chemical and mechanical; Castration, dips and dipping, and injecting cattle
- Beef Cattle Breeding - Heritability, performance testing, progeny testing, selection; Pure versus cross breeding - advantages and disadvantages; Calving percentage; Management factors to improve calving percentage; Weaning Calves; Factors affecting calf weaning; The anatomy of the male reproductive system; The physiology of the male reproductive system; Fertility problems in the male; The anatomy and physiology of the female reproductive system; Fertility problems; Pregnancy and partuition; The structure of the mammary glands; Secretion of milk; Growth and development; Post natal growth; Compensatory growth
- Diseases in Beef Cattle (Viral and Bacterial) - Determining health status of the animal; Signs of a healthy animal; Causes of ill-health; Injury, poor nutrition, poisoning, parasites, hereditary conditions etc; Preventing ill-health; Correct feed and nutrition, insect control, parasite control, vaccinations, control stress etc
- Diseases in Beef Cattle (Parasites, etc.) - Some parasitic diseases; Other ailments of cattle - actinobacillosis, anaplasmosis, arthritis, beef measles; Poisoning, Pink eye, Milk fever, bloat etc
- Nutrition for Beef Cattle - Feed type - roughages and concentrates; Carbohydrates, protein, fats; Grass or grain feeding; Rations for beef cattle - maintenance or production rations; Maintenance rations; Procedure for calculating a ration; Supplementary feeding of protein; Lot Feeding; Minerals; Common macro-mineral deficiencies; Common trace mineral deficiencies; Diagnosis of trace mineral deficiencies; Vitamins; Water for farm animals; Protein
- Commercial Herd Management - The breeding herd; Production systems; Cow-calf herd; Beef production systems using dairy stock
- Feed Lot Management - Lot feeding - types of feedlot; Managing cattle in a feedlot; Feedlot Records; Article on pen feeding in South Africa
- Stud Herd Management - Time of calving; Feeding; Fertility; Indicators of fertility in bulls; Indicators of fertility in cows
- Management, Economics and Marketing - Profitability; Factors affecting gross output; Factors affecting variable costs
EXAMPLES OF COURSE SET TASKS AND ASSIGNMENTS
Visit or contact a range of enterprises - which may include farms, agricultural shows, and suppliers of farm products in order to research, photograph, describe and specify facilities in the places visited as a basis, or part basis, of assignment questions (For students unable to visit real farms, it can be acceptable to undertake virtual visits on the internet or video).
Identify beef cuts on a labeled diagram of a steer's body;
Judge a beef animal according to commonly recognised commercial standards;
Choose two breeds suitable for beef production in specified climates;
Observe and report on common cattle husbandry tasks, including dehorning, castration, dipping, vaccination, and drenching;
Explain methods that are used to control beef cattle movements;
Prepare a production schedule or timetable of husbandry practices for a typical beef cattle property in your locality for a period of 12 months;
Attempt to determine the nature and scope of beef cattle breeding in your region or country;
Explain the differences between and advantages of pure breeding and cross breeding;
Describe and explain management and other factors that can affect calving percentage and calf weaning;
Visit a supplier of health care treatments for cattle to determine what products (e.g. dips, medicines etc) are available;
Describe a significant viral disease, including its identification, symptoms and control;
Interview someone working in the industry to determine the significance and nature of disease problems in beef cattle;
List parasites and related organisms that are significant to beef cattle in your region;
Report on the preferred food requirements for beef cattle
Explain common health problems affecting animals, including the circumstances under which animals contract health problems, and methods used to prevent the development of ill health.
Analyse physical indicator symptoms of ill health in animals.
Explain the diagnostic characteristics of the main types of animal pathogenic microorganisms.
Explain the methods used in the treatment of pests and diseases in beef cattle.
Explain the role of inflammation, including it's symptoms and causes;
Determine the taxonomic class of animal pests and diseases.
Explain the biological processes which affect and control the immune system
Explain the biological processes which affect and control tissue repair in animals.
Determine procedures for the management of wounds to animals.
Explain the processes involved in cellular change in animals.
Diagnose simple health problems in beef.
Develop guidelines for assessing general signs of ill health in beef cattle. These guidelines should consider diseases and nutritional factors;
List minimum equipment required to run a commercial beef cattle property.
Distinguish between bulls, heifers and calves;
Describe diseases affecting feedlot cattle;
List criteria for selecting cattle for a feedlot and state what characteristics of the cattle should be considered.
Compare the management of beef cattle in feedlot with the management in a paddock;
Explain the management of a stud beef herd on a property you visited;
Explain the legal requirements and regulations concerning beef cattle;
Distinguish the following terms of grades of beef: prime, choice, good, standard, utility.
How Do You Decide Breeds to Raise?
Horned Vs Polled
Cattle with horns are more difficult to handle. This can result in bruising of meat, an important issue in marketing beef. Dehorning requires extra work for the producer and there is also the danger of infection or insect injury (especially in countries where screw worms is a problem)
Colour in some climates, can affect productivity of beef. In hot climates with intense sunlight, a light coat colours absorb less heat from the sun and aids in maintaining body temperature. In cold climates white udders may result in “snow burn”. Pigment around the eyes in white-faced cattle reduces the incidence of cancer of the eyelid. A uniform colour provides the appearance (or illusion) of uniformity of type or conformation in a group of cattle.
Also a distinctive colour or colour pattern forms the trademark of particular breeds and for this reason breed societies adopt standard colours or colour patterns. The issue of selective breeding based on coat colour alone may result in the culling of animals regardless of their other merits, especially in breeds where uniform coat colour has proven difficult to “fix”. To the extent that selection is made for coat colour, selection pressure for traits of greater economic importance is reduced.
Gestation Length and Birth Weight
Observable differences appear to exist between breeds, for example, some studies have found that in purebred Angus cattle, the gestation length averages 3 to 8 days less than Hereford or Shorthorn and claves are on average 5 to 8 pounds lighter at birth. Purebred Brahman cattle on average have gestation periods that are a few days longer than the British breeds. Crossing Brahman bulls with British cows tends to result in longer gestations.
Milking and Mothering Ability
The weaning weight of calves is a very important factor in profitable beef production. Some studies have shown that Angus cows tend to wean heavier calves than Herefords. In some areas Brahman cattle or Brahmin cross cattle tend to wean calves that are considerably heavier than British breeds. Mothering ability is an important characteristic that varies within breeds and needs to be considered in any selection program.
Post Weaning Growth
The ability to gain weight rapidly and efficiently after weaning is another important consideration. Environmental and genetic factors will affect post weaning growth rates.
Meat quality refers to the palatability of meat, including tenderness, juiciness and flavour. Beef carcass quality grades are generally based on visual appraisal of the physiological maturity of the carcass and the intramuscular fat (marbling). Marbling can be influenced by selective breeding. Studies have found that cattle breeds such as Angus, Murray Grey, Shorthorns, and Wagyu cattle have higher marbling scores (on average) compared to cattle such as Simmentals, Charolais and Chianina. Marbling can also be influenced by time on feed and the type of feed.
Stress can affect meat colour and toughness. Dark-cutting beef (DCB) commonly results when cattle are subjected to prolonged stress just prior to slaughter. Muscle glycogen, or the energy reserves of the animal, has a large influence on meat colour and pH. Good quality beef has a final pH value close to 5.5. The disposition of cattle is very important as calm-natured cattle will produce less “dark-cutting” meat.
The following factors may also contribute to dark cutting beef (DCB):
1. low energy intake by livestock,
2. poor livestock handling,
3. mixing groups of animals, and
4. severe weather conditions during transport
Suitability of purpose
The choice of cattle breed is largely determined by the individual situation and markets. For example, many lot feeders show a preference for Angus cattle particularly if feeding for the Asian market. Intensive growing and range grazing situations might require different breeds. The climatic situation also has a large bearing on breed suitability. Brahman cattle, for example, are adapted to handle tropical situations. They appear to handle poorer quality pastures better and have a high degree of tolerance to many external parasites when compared with British breeds.
British bred cattle were developed in areas of temperate climate and generally don’t have thermoregulatory mechanisms good enough to maintain body temperatures in a hot environment.
Hereditary defects occur in many cattle breeds and producers should be aware of these. For example, dwarfism has been a problem in Herefords and Angus cattle. Culling of breeding animals who exhibit undesirable traits will be necessary.
The Future is Bright
The Beef industry is an industry with a big future; particularly as the wealth of developing countries grows, and new markets expand. This is an industry on the move; and this is a course that can provide you with a foundation to move your skills and expertise forward, rapidly; in step with the rapidly expanding demand for beef.