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When you are deciding which breed of cattle you should start out farming with, you should consider several things.

1. Beef or Dairy?

Of course, you can slaughter any breed of cattle and get a decent side of beef. However, if you plan on selling your animals, keep in mind that a beef animal will gain weight more quickly on less feed than a dairy animal. Another thing to remember is that a female dairy breed, like a Holstein, may give much more milk than her baby can drink. If you don't go out on a daily basis and help relieve the pressure on her udder, she may develop mastitis, an udder infection that can seriously injure your cow.

If you do want to milk a cow, remember that you can milk any breed of cow. However, most beef cows will give a lot less milk than a dairy breed, so if you plan on selling your milk, you will be better off to buy a dairy breed.

2. Pure-bred or Cross-bred?

To have an excellent cattle herd, you don't have to limit yourself to pure-bred stock. In fact, cross-bred animals often gain weight more quickly due to hybrid vigor. Cross-bred animals are often less expensive and easier to find than registered stock, and if you are a beginner, buying cross-bred animals is a less risky way to learn about cattle.

However, if you enjoy keeping track of bloodlines, playing with breeding combinations, and having a herd of similar animals, you may want to choose pure-bred animals. Pure-bred animals may be more expensive than cross-bred animals, and if you make a mistake, you could lose more money.

3. Availability

If you have your heart set on a particular breed, but it is not readily available in your area, you will probably end up paying a lot of money to have your stock shipped in from out of state. Additionally, if the breed is unfamiliar in your area, you may have a harder time getting a fair price when you try to sell your calves. The least expensive way to get started in cattle is to choose cattle that are widely available in your area.

4. Your Property

If you don't have acres of grassy pasture, you may want to choose a smaller breed, such as a miniature breed of cattle. These cows do not eat as much and won't need as much space as a larger breed.

5. Your Experience

Some cattle are easier to handle than others are. Gentle, calm animals of any breed are best for beginning farmers. Additionally, animals of average frame size that have smaller calves (such as Angus or Angus crosses) will probably have easier, uneventful calvings. Larger cattle, like Charolais or Simmental are statistically more likely to have calving issues that a less experienced cattleman may not know how to handle.

Before you lay out the money for your first cows, keep these five things in mind. Make a decision based upon what you can afford, what you can manage, and what is practical for your farm.
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