Acquired: Breeder (non-professional, hobby breeder),
Bred animal myself,
Worked with animal (didn’t own)
Posted Mar 05, 2013
Angus cattle have enjoyed a presence in the United States since prior to 1883 when the first American Angus Breed Society was formed as the American Aberdeen-Angus Breeders' Association, ten years after George Grant brought the first four Angus bulls to the Kansas prairie. Nearly 1,200 cattle alone were imported to America from Scotland (sometimes by way of Canada) between 1878 and 1883. Since that time their popularity has bloomed not only in America but worldwide, as Angus cattle are raised in more different countries than any other breed of beef cattle, and have been raised in climates ranging from the blistering cold north of the Arctic Circle to the heat and humidity of the tropics of South America. This has created a breed of great diversity, with the common themes associated with them being their black hides, smooth polls, quality tender and well marbled beef, and maternal excellence.
I bought my first registered Angus Cattle in 1997. Since that time I have exhibited them nationwide and have served on the National Junior Angus Board of Directors (the largest youth beef breed association in the world). My experience has taught me that there is more than just a single type of Angus cattle as there are regional differences based on the needs of their environments, as they have been bred for multiple disciplines with the ultimate goal being that of producing quality beef efficiently. They have served as the base maternal parent breed for many breeds, with the Red Angus and Lowline breeds descending directly from the same Scottish ancestry, and breeds such as Simmental and Gelbvieh have incorporated many of their genetics through breed up or appendix programs in order to add maternal, carcass, and calving ease to their genetics, not to mention the desire to add the black hide color and smooth polls, in which has become desirable in large part due to the success of the Certified Angus Beef program.
As a general rule, they are slightly lighter muscled than most of the continental breeds such as Charolais, Limousin, Simmental, Gelbvieh, etc.; which contributes to their marbling ability, longevity, and milk production. They are fairly heat tolerant if selected for the ability to shed in the hot months, and have very little issues with acclimating to colder climates if given proper time to transition and provided with adequate nutrition and relief from harsh winds and rain.
Their diet is largely dependent on the feedstuffs available in the their area (with portions depending on their size and efficiency), as in their inception in their Scottish homeland they would have been called to survive mainly on grass, and supplemented or fattened through winter months with Turnips, Hay, and Cake (which is descibed as a general term for processed grain, not dessert). They would typically have been grazed in favorable conditions and wintered in a yard or Byre (basically a barn type structure), in which it was not uncommon for them to be haltered and tied. Their diets and management would be similar with some differences, to the common practice in Iowa where I now reside, where they are grazed in warm months and dry lotted in winter months, although it is also common here to let them graze corn stubble that is left over from the harvest when snowfall allows. The diet is very different from turnips although it is now a coming popular method in croplands to utilize turnips or beets as a means to utilize a cover crop and reduce ground compaction, in which some cases they are being grazed. The diet is made up of a mixture of roughage such as hay or cornstalk bales and a protein source often corn (in the form of gluten pellets, silage, ground ear corn, flaked, DDGs, cracked, or whole kernel). Myself I provide them with access to corn stubble when possible and supplement them with hay, mineral, and corn gluten pellets through the winter, utilizing grazing whenever possible.
With the exception of cattle used for exhibition, they are typically not haltered and are expected to groom themselves with the only assistance to the process being the provision of clean bedding (when applicable) and control of external parasites in the form of pour-ons, IGR supplements, and in some cases cattle rubs which are typically hung at the height of an animals topline between to posts (which is essentially a long sock stuffed with absorbent material that is soaked with a parasite control product that is applied to the skin when the walk underneath it).
In regards to handling, they are large animals and always have the potential to be dangerous if threatened, but are typically of good disposition when it has been a priority of selection. Much of their handling ability is dependent on how they are raised and worked, and the effectiveness of the working facilities. Risk to injury can be mostly avoided by taking extra caution around mature bulls as they can be slightly more territorial and typically reach larger weights and sizes than females of the same genetics and raising. Also, using caution around cows that have recently calved as they may display protective behavior at that time regardless of their normal disposition; and being mindful of their flight zone when working with them, in which they are more likely to engage in defensive behaviors when they are surprised or if you are trying to work them from their blindspots, which is predominantly directly behind them. Also it is good practice to eliminate animals with flighty or bad dispositions, as in many cases it reduces their potential productivity and increases the risk of injury to yourself, your family, or your help.
In general I would recommend Angus cattle for most anyone, however not without encouraging them to do some research, getting some experience, and focusing on developing the needed infrastructure of raising cattle before acquiring any animals. As to profitability and cost of raising Angus cattle (or cattle in general) it is dependent on the environment and the abilities and experience of the individual. I strongly recommend that when starting from a clean slate that a person should work up to it if they desire to breed Angus genetics, starting with simpler projects such as raising smaller livestock, then developing feeder calves, which requires much less space and less animals than a cow/calf operation, and in most cases don't have to be wintered as they can be marketed during fair weather increase your profit margin by utilizing grazing without the expense of hay and feedstuffs which is required when carrying animals through winter. This option also lets you rest your pastures from foot traffic when grazing is not optimal. I would typically not recommend making purchases from a sale barn or raising bottle calves, lambs, or goats where you intend to birth and raise calves as a measure of biosecurity (alternatively buying healthy animals off of pasture, with proper vaccinations and deworming with time for such practices to provide proper protection prior to transport to your own operation). The best means of controlling disease in livestock is prevention! I have not known anyone to strike it rich by raising cattle alone, and would readily admit that the reproductive rate of cattle paired with cost of purchasing and maintaining a cowherd makes it tough get started. It takes time, investment, and commitment to develop a successful breeding cattle operation.
Feel free to check out the Triple Tree West Facebook page. If you have any questions or would like some guidance on getting started or maintaining a current cowherd don't hesitate to contact me (contact info is available on our Facebook page and our website), I would be more than happy to provide you with some pointers.