Improve Your Knowledge and Skills

  • Learn to manage Beef Cattle
  • Start your own Cattle Breeding business?
  • Improve your prospects for work in the beef industry

This course will build your confidence and knowledge, teaching you most of what you will need to know about breeding and managing beef cattle.

Beef Production is a Boom Industry

The beef industry has changed a lot in recent decades, and is likely to continue changing.
While change may be difficult to predict; the ability to adapt to industry change is far easier if you have a solid and broad based foundation in beef production.

This and any other course, should never be seen as the complete answer to understanding beef production both now and in the future; but it does provide a fundamental understanding of all those aspects of beef production which are needed to have a holistic and balanced perspective of the industry; to understand the things you read and otherwise encounter in the future; and to make properly informed decisions about how to better raise beef cattle.the biology, breeds,


This course is divided into 10 lessons, as follows;

  1. Introduction to Beef Production and Beef Cattle Breeds
    • Role of Beef Cattle in Agriculture
    • Beef Cattle Breeds
    • British Breeds; Angus, Hereford, South Devon, Sussex, Red Poll
    • U.S. Breeds
    • European Beef Breeds
    • Australian Beef Breeds
    • South African Beef Breeds
    • Beef Breed Selection Criteria; Horned or Polled, Colour, Gestation Period, Milking, Meat Quality, Heat Adaptation, etc
    • Parts of the Animal
    • Cuts of Beef
  2. Beef Cattle Production Systems
    • Systems of Production; extensive, intensive,semi extensive, semi intensive
    • Choosing a System
    • Cattle Handling Facilities
    • Materials Used in Cattle Handling
    • Identification; branding Ear Marking, Ear Tags
    • Dehorning
    • Castration
    • Dipping
    • Injecting Cattle
    • Drenching
  3. Beef Cattle Breeding
    • Heritability
    • Performance Testing
    • Selection
    • Progeny Testing
    • Stages of Calving
    • Pure versus cross breeding
    • Cross Breeding
    • Calving percentage
    • Management factors to improve calving percentage
    • Weaning Calves
    • Male Reproduction System
    • Female Reproduction System
    • Pregnancy and Parturition
    • Structure of Mammar Glands
    • Secretion of Milk
    • Growth and Development of Calves
    • Post Natal Growth of Calves
  4. Diseases in Beef Cattle (Viral and Bacterial)
    • Determining Animal Health
    • The Healthy Animal
    • Causes of Ill Health in Animals
    • Preventing Ill Health
    • Disease Types in Beef Cattle
    • Signs of Ill Health; Temperature, Pulse Rate, Respiration Rate
    • Other Signs that should be Noted
    • Viral Diseases in Cattle
    • Bacterial Diseases
  5. Diseases in Beef Cattle (Parasites, etc.)
    • Parasitic Diseases
    • Protazoal Diseases
    • Other Ailments; Boat, Cancer, Arthritis, Beef Measles, Dystokia, Coccidiosis, Liver Fluke, Mastitis, Lead Poisoning, Plant Poisoning, etc
  6. Nutrition for Beef Cattle
    • Feed Types; Water, protein, carbohydrate, fat, etc
    • Grain and Grain Feeding
    • Rations for Beef Cattle
    • Maintenance Rations
    • Supplementary Rations and Protein
    • Lot Feeding
    • Minerals
    • Common Macromineral Deficiencies
    • Common Trace Element Deficiencies
    • Vitamins
    • Water for Farm Animals
    • Proteins for Farm Animals
    • Build Up of Proteins
    • Biological Value of Proteins
    • Protein Content of Foods
  7. Commercial Herd Management
    • The Commercial Herd
    • The Breeding Herd
    • The Stock Herd
    • Production Systems; Cow Calf Herd, Beef Production Systems Using Dairy Stock,
  8. Feed Lot Management
    • Open Feedlot
    • Open Shed and Feedlot
    • Feeding Shed and Lot
    • Confinement Area Stalls
    • Managing Cattle in Lots
    • Problems with Feedlot Cattle
    • Feedlot Records
    • Pen Fattening
  9. Study Herd Management 
    • Time for Calving in Pedigree Herd
    • Feeding the Pedigree Herd
    • Fertility
    • Indicators of Fertility in Bulls
    • Indicators of Fertility in Cows
  10. Management, Economics and Marketing
    • Economics and Marketing
    • Profitability
    • Factors Affecting Gross Output
    • Factors Affecting Variable Costs


Duration: 100 hours



  • Visit 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;
  • Identify beef cuts on a labelled 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 state 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 (eg. 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 on a beef property you have visited;
  • 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 farm animals.
  • Explain the role of inflammation, including it's symptoms and causes, in animals.
  • Determine the taxonomic class of animal pests and diseases.
  • Explain the biological processes which affect and control the immune system in animals.
  • Explain the biological processes which affect and control tissue repair in animals.
  • Determine procedures for the management of wounds to animals, on a farm.
  • Explain the processes involved in cellular change in animals.
  • Diagnose simple health problems in farm animals.
  • 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. Equipment will include suitable machinery and tools;
  • In table form (or chart), distinguish between bulls, heifers and calves;
  • Describe three diseases affecting feedlot cattle;
  • List criteria for selecting cattle for a feedlot and state what characteristics of the cattle should be considered;
  • In table format with two columns, 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.


Grazing Beef Cattle

The beef breeding herds of countries which have large areas of farmland (eg. South Africa, South American and Australia) have largely been grazed on pasture. This contrasts with countries such as Britain where over 80% of beef produced is as a by product of the dairy herd.


Example (In South Africa during the 1980's)

Most South African beef comes from single suckling herds (ie. 1 calf per cow); producing weaners at 6-7 months of age, weighing 170 - 200 kg live mass. Herds are generally calved in September to November, to take advantage of summer grazing. The weaners are sold to graziers (ie. farmers who take weaners in for maturing on pasture). Alternatively, they are maintained and fattened on the breeder's farm, either on natural pasture or in feedlots.

Another term for profitability is GROSS MARGIN.

This is the difference between the costs incurred in rearing beef, and the money the farmer receives from selling his stock.


Factors Affecting Gross Output

Factors affecting gross output can include the following: 


Calving Percentage

The more calves a farmer has, the more he can sell. The profitability of the beef breeding herd depends mainly on the calving percentage.

Calving % = No. of calves produced per year X 100  divided into No. of cows mated

The ideal is for each cow in a herd to produce one calf each year, but this is seldom possible. The good farmer should aim at a calving percentage of 75-85%.

A good calving percentage depends on good nutrition for the cows, together with careful attention at calving time to prevent losses among newly born calves. The calving percentage gives a very good indication of the level of management being practiced. 


Sale Price

The number of weaners produced, and the price received for each weaner each year, will obviously have a great affect on profits. Obviously, the higher the market price the greater the profits if the farmer keeps his costs steady. 


Calf Mortality

This should be no higher than 3%. A higher calf mortality amongst suckling calves means that the calves are being stolen, taken by predators, or that the cows are short of milk due to poor nutrition. 



Bull calves have a higher birth weight, grow faster, and weigh more at weaning than heifer calves. They thus fetch higher prices. 


Weight/Mass at Weaning

This is important when weaners are being sold by weight. The weaning weight of a calf is a good indication of the milking capacity of the cow. Poor milkers produce poor, underweight weaners. 


Breed or Cross

This will be governed by locality, pasture type, weaner markets, and preferences of the farmer. The crossing of an exotic bull with indigenous cows however, will give benefits of hybrid vigour, better growth rates, disease resistance (especially laminitis and eye cancer), longevity and a better quality carcass. 



Calves offered for sale should be properly castrated, dehorned, and have had any necessary inoculations. Eye infections should be treated as soon as detected, and calves should be kept in a healthy condition. All calves and their mothers will benefit from general daily inspections, and more careful weekly inspections. 


Season of Sale

Calves may be weaned at 7 months of age, so for commercial herds calving in September or October, weaners will be sold in March or April. Calves weaned in March or April might also be held and sold throughout late autumn and winter. A farmer who buys these "long weaners" may put them straight to pasture without supplementary feeding. Early weaners bought at the end of summer may sometimes be lot fed and fattened for 4 months, then sold for slaughter. 


Replacement Costs

This is the cost of rearing replacement heifers for a herd. This cost can be offset by the sale of cull cows which will fetch a good price if they are in good condition. The pregnancy testing of cows after the end of the mating season is a sound practice, so that empty cows can be identified and sold off the farm. 

Stocking Rate

This factor is governed by the carrying capacity, type and condition of pasture, amount of fencing, management practices, and money available for investment. If land available is unlimited, the policy should be to aim for the maximum return per hectare, with a moderate stocking rate.

Factors Affecting Variable Costs of Producing Beef

These may include: 

  • Transport This is the cost of moving cattle to the market, and bringing purchased cattle to the farm.
  • Feed This is the cost of concentrates, maintenance blocks, minerals and salt. In temperate or cold climates these costs are more likely to occur in winter.
  • Veterinary Costs, Dips and Medicines This includes visits from a veterinary surgeon, pregnancy tests, inoculations, drenching/dosings, vaccinations, etc.
  • Forage Costs These include costs of grazing including providing hay, silage and other roughages; and when necessary grazing.
  • Labour These include all staff costs.
  • Equipment The cost of purchasing, operating and maintaining machinery and equipment including tractors, irrigation pumps etc.
  • Facilities Depending on the purpose of the herd, the climatic conditions and other factors, fencing, enclosures, handling facilities are all important cost considerations, both for initial purchase/outlay and for ongoing maintenance.




Just go to the top of this page for pricing and enrolment options. If you have any questions you can contact us now, by:
Phone (UK) 01384 44272, (International) +44 (0) 1384 442752, or

Email us at [email protected]

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