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Updated 20 Jul 2018

Got beef in your blood? Then start a cattle business today

Either skew offers pros and cons, so you might be struggling on which path to take: Do you cultivate crop or rear cattle? The answers you seek could be in here. 

Diana Albertyn, 04 August 2017  Share  0 comments  Print

All the answers to your unique business lifestage questions

Starting a farm isn’t easy. Starting a niche farm is even harder. When it also comes down to the type of farm, do you go crop or try red meat? Either way, you’ll need particular sets of skills and mindsets. As the world looks upon its future food supply with uncertainty, particularly when it comes to beef, though, why not go red?

Beef farming pairs well with other agricultural enterprises because cattle can feed on crop residue and land not suitable for crops. But this isn’t the only benefit of becoming a farmer running a cattle-rearing business. “Before entering the cattle business, though, you should consider your resources, the land available and your level of interest and skill,” Farmer’s Weekly advises. “You should know why you want to rear cattle, and be able to set yourself goals to achieve the most constant economic return or personal satisfaction,” they say. 

Related: Farming successfully in volatile times comes down to knowing your costs


Before kicking off your farming plans, you should set yourself goals to achieve the most constant economic return or personal satisfaction. Competition for the beef industry will come mainly from the predicted 48% growth in average annual chicken consumption by 2020. “To take the greatest advantage of any increase in the beef prices, producers must work towards increasing herd efficiencies and producing heavier beef carcasses,” according to experts.

Cattle -lifestock

Your decision to choose cattle, over crop, farming means you’ll need to understand the nature of the business, its opportunities, challenges and requirements:

What can I expect as a first-time cattle farmer?

The basics

The essentials you’ll need to successfully rear cattle is capital-intensive, but if you shop smart and think ahead, you can acquire some of the following at discounted prices:

  • Enough high-quality grazing land to keep your animals.
  • A suitable cattle breed for the purposes of your operation (in this case, meat).
  • Fences and suitable enclosures for the land you’ll acquire.
  • Feeding troughs that can cater for bovine.
  • Farming equipment like tractors.

The opportunities

The market’s demand for demand for grass-fed animals, full traceability and humane slaughter is increasing. “Certain consumers are willing to pay a premium for a product that meets these criteria,” says Adrian Cloete, co-owner of Cloete Afrikaners and chairperson of the Grass-Fed Association of South Africa (GFASA). He has invested in marketing directly to consumers to guarantee sustainability. 

If you’re looking to breed your animals in the most profitable way, keep in mind to choose a cow based on the breed and cow that matches your feed resources and local conditions. The best commercial cows are chosen depending on their size, quality, age, condition, stage of pregnancy and market price. 

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The challenges 

Providing beef that is free-range and hormone free gives you a greater chance at a larger clientele, but it isn’t cheap or time-effective. “The main challenge when going the grass-fed route is time, says Cloete.

“As free-range grass-fed steers are only marketable at two or three years, starting a steer production system means that, in contrast to a weaner system that markets to feedlots, cash flow is initially limited.”

However, the Cloetes have adapted their system to maintain their free-range status by implementing new processes. “Before switching to our current system, we stocked conservatively and had an excess of old dry grass in the camps,” says Cloete, adding that production was also low. A change in their grazing approach has made a difference, which you can apply from day one to avoid going through similar challenges.

Stay ahead of the curve

A commercial cow herd can benefit from crossbreeding and may give you a competitive edge in the market. Combining the qualities of several breeds, coupled with the extra vitality from crossbred calves give you an advantage over competitors. However, before looking ahead at what your industry peers are doing, consider your game plan and the long-term possibilities and sustainability of your business.

An important tip for successful business is to have a clear mind on what you want to accomplish,” says Farm4Trade: “So, stick to your plan and from there you can establish the steps to move forward and achieve bigger goals.”


Becoming a cattle farmer could serve you well for future demand in future, but starting isn’t always easy. Ensure that in addition to the resources needed to begin, you also have a passion and understanding of the business.

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About the author

Diana Albertyn

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