The average life span for cattle is 18 to 22 years, though
they can live in excess of 25 years. However, Sanctuary animals
who have come from abusive factory farm conditions consequently
may have more health problems and a shorter life span. On
average, adult male breeds of cattle, such as Angus, Jersey
and Hereford (bulls if un-castrated; steers if castrated),
weigh between 1,200 and 1,800 pounds. Larger breeds, such
as Brahman, Brangus, Charolais, and Holstein males, can actually
weigh 2,000 to 2,800 pounds. Adult females (cows) weigh between
1,100 and 1,500 pounds, but larger breeds like Charolais can
weigh closer to 2,000 pounds. The normal body temperature
for cattle is between 101° F and 102° F.
Water - Clean, fresh water must always be available to your
cattle. A mature animal will generally consume between 10
and 20 gallons a day, so be sure to use a container large
enough to hold that quantity. Water needs increase with hot
weather. We recommend investing in an automatic watering system
(available through farm supply stores or the catalogs below),
as it will
greatly reduce water waste.
Salt and Minerals - Salt should always be available to your
cattle. Salt blocks and specially designed holders for them
can be purchased at most feed stores. If you are in an area
that has selenium-deficient soil, a salt block with selenium
is recommended. Also, trace mineral blocks are available and,
depending upon the soil in the region where you live, may
Feed - Cattle are ruminants (animals with stomachs that have
four chambers) and, consequently, rely mainly on hay or pasture
for their dietary needs. Grain is very high in energy and,
therefore, we do not recommend its use for healthy cattle.
Feed required for maintenance is approximately 2 percent of
the animal's body weight in dry matter/hay per day.
Pasture - Pasture should be of good quality and plentiful,
as it provides the bulk of your cattle's dietary needs. Before
pasturing, be sure to remove all plants that are poisonous
to cattle. Contact your County Agriculture Extension Agent
for a complete listing of poisonous plants in your area. If
adequate pasture is not available, you will need to supplement
with hay. Adult cattle need two pounds of hay per 100 pounds
of body weight daily. Alfalfa hay is very high in protein
and should only be used for sick or debilitated animals. To
avoid hay waste, we suggest the use of a hay feeder. If feeding
your cattle outdoors, place hay under cover to prevent wet
feed a costly and unhealthy problem. To locate a source
of hay in your area, check with your County Agriculture Extension
Agent for a listing of hay/straw auctions or in the farming
section of your local paper. It is less expensive per bale
if you can buy in large quantity; therefore, it is well worth
the investment to build some type of hay storage building
or loft. If you have multiple cattle, it is also a better
investment to use round bale hay, which requires the use of
a tractor for feeding.
Cattle are relatively easy to halter train, and we recommend
the use of a rope halter, available through farm supply stores
or catalogs. By brushing your cattle and running your hands
over their bodies and legs, you will accustom them to being
haltered and touched, leading to less stressful handling in
the future. Be careful when working around cattle. Although
cattle are not usually aggressive, they are very strong and
can injure you by their normal range of motion (such as swinging
their head to the side to swat at flies). You should always
be aware of where they are stepping so they don't accidentally
crush your feet. Cattle can feel threatened when confined,
and some do kick. Always be very aware of your location when
around cattle, never getting between a frightened cow and
a wall or gate. Generally, you will not need to use cattle
chutes for restraint, and can use a gate instead. If you would
like further information on handling, see our shelter website.
One of the most important ways to keep yourself and your animals
safe is to know each individual animal, and to know how they
react in stressful situations. Cattle that have been through
traumatic experiences can be harder to work with, and may
require the assistance of a veterinarian or someone who is
professionally trained to handle them.
Building - Cattle shelters do not need to be elaborate, but
must be waterproof. Depending on the climate in your location,
you may only need a three-sided structure with the open side
facing away from the prevailing winds. If you have a totally
enclosed barn, be sure it is well ventilated. This is extremely
important for both hot and cold weather. If the barn is much
over 50° F in the cold weather, humidity from urine, manure
and body moisture may rise and can cause pneumonia. Allow
at least 35 to 40-square-feet for each animal. Always provide
your cattle with plenty of clean, dry straw for bedding. Remove
damp and soiled straw daily, replacing it with fresh straw.
Spreading lime (be sure to use hydrate lime, not feed lime)
on wet areas before laying down fresh straw will help absorb
moisture and prevent spread of bacteria. If your barn has
a cement floor rather than dirt, provide extra bedding during
the winter months.
Fencing - Sturdy fencing and secure gates are a must for cattle.
There are a variety of fences; woven wire, wood, electric,
and barbed wire. Prices vary greatly, so shop around. Electrical
or woven wire (or a combination of the two) is generally the
most practical. Barbed wire provides adequate fencing; however,
it can lead to injuries if your cattle attempt to break through
the fence. Fencing should be strung taut, eight to ten feet
between posts, and approximately four-feet high.
Pasture - We recommend five to ten acres of land per cow.
This may vary depending on pasture quality, weather and seasonal
factors, as well as the amount of hay you are feeding. If
you have a large number of cattle, you will want more than
one pasture so that the cattle can rotate between the two,
allowing each to regenerate.
Maintenance - Every five to six weeks, cattle should get a
routine, individual health check and have some basic health
procedures done. These include: Cleaning ears; checking and
trimming hooves (see below); feeling the whole body (depending
on the temperament of the animal) for lumps and bumps; checking
udders of females for hardness, swelling, heat, and discharge;
brushing; and examining eyes and third eyelid for any lumps,
injury or discharge. Cattle are relatively easy to take care
of, and sanitary
housing, good quality pasture, nutritious food, and plenty
of sunshine will help to reduce health problems.
Hoof Trimming - Proper hoof care is important; your veterinarian
can examine your cattle's hooves to determine if they need
trimming. To avoid injury to the cattle and yourself, annual
hoof trimming should always be performed by a professional.
trimming should be done annually, and maintenance trimming
may need to be done in between.
Vaccines - Cattle need to be vaccinated yearly for rabies
and several other contagious diseases. Consult your veterinarian
for advice on vaccinating your cattle, since different regions
require different vaccines.
Common Health Problems
Bloat/Grain Poisoning - This is a serious condition commonly
caused by overeating grain or lush, high-quality pastures.
Make sure feed barrels and feedbags are completely inaccessible,
and slowly adjust cattle to new pasture by bringing them some
of the pasture for a few days. Then, turn them out for only
a few hours at a time. The first obvious symptoms of bloat
are distension of the rumen (the area beside the hip bone
of the left side), labored breathing and signs of discomfort,
such as kicking, grinding teeth, groaning, bawling, and profuse
salivation. Any evidence of bloat should be deemed an emergency
and your vet should be contacted immediately.
Foot Rot - Foot rot is a bacterial infection of the hoof.
One or more hooves can be infected at any time. The first
symptom of foot rot is usually lameness (limping). Check the
hoof for signs of swelling, heat, redness, or pus, and consult
your veterinarian for treatment. The risk of foot rot is greatly
minimized by proper hoof care. Muddy areas in pasture and
rough walk areas can contribute to hoof damage and should,
therefore, be avoided. Unclean feed areas, or cement areas
with a buildup of feces and urine (called slurry), can greatly
increase the incidence of hoof infections and foot rot.
Respiratory Problems - Coughing, nasal discharge, watery eyes,
sneezing, lethargy, and loss of appetite are all possible
symptoms of a respiratory infection. Consult your veterinarian
if you notice any of these symptoms.
Johne's Disease - Johne's disease is a chronic bacterial infection,
which primarily affects the lower small intestine of ruminants
(cattle, goats, sheep, llamas, deer, and bison). Clinical
signs include weight loss and diarrhea with a normal appetite.
Johne's disease signs are rarely evident until two to six
years after initial infection, which usually occurs at birth.
There is no treatment for Johne's disease by use of conventional
medicine. However, you may prolong life by the use of homeopathic
medicine, and you will want to consult a licensed homeopathic
veterinarian. The disease is contagious, so animals showing
symptoms should be isolated. Consult your veterinarian immediately
if you suspect Johne's disease.
Eye Cancer - In a sanctuary environment, you are more likely
to deal with older cattle and, therefore, deal with diseases
that affect this age group. One is eye cancer, particularly
squamous cell carcinoma. Squamous cell tumors are most common
in breeds with white hair or light skin pigmentation, and
may be caused by exposure to sunlight or genetics. Most squamous
cell carcinomas are solitary lesions and, if caught quickly,
can be treated. Squamous cell tumors can metastasize and are
rapid-growing. The lesions arise on the actual eyeball, but
also develop on the third eyelid. Checking your cattle's eyes
regularly for any changes is an important part in keeping
Eye Infections - Check your cattle daily for signs of eye
infections. Symptoms include discolored or cloudy eyes, unusual
discharges and swelling. Contact your veterinarian immediately
if you find signs of an eye infection.
Parasites - Good sanitation will greatly reduce parasite problems,
but you should still have your cattle checked regularly. Fecal
tests should be done every three months, and cattle treated
according to the results. Cattle should be treated every season
to control grubs, caused by heel flies, even if there are
no parasites in their feces. The flies attach their eggs to
the legs of the cattle in late spring or early summer, and
should be treated as soon as possible after heel fly season.
Ivermectin is commonly used and is available in both pour-on
solutions and in an injectable form. If you choose to use
an injectable, always have your veterinarian show you how
to administer it before undertaking this procedure.
Mastitis - Mastitis is an inflammation of the mammary glands,
caused by bacteria. Acute mastitis symptoms include an elevated
temperature and a hot, hard, swollen udder. Your cow's udder
will probably be very sore. This is generally only a problem
with cows that have been lactating, but even cows who are
not lactating can still be susceptible. Seek veterinary advice
if you notice any of the above symptoms, since treatment with
antibiotics is essential.
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