First-time cattle ownership for the small landholder

Page last updated: Thursday, 30 December 2021 - 11:12am

Please note: This content may be out of date and is currently under review.

Dietary requirements

It is essential to compare the feed requirements of your intended herd with your property’s grazing capabilities.

The feed requirements of cattle vary depending on their size, age and class (e.g. whether they are steers, heifers or bulls). Cows carrying calves need significantly more feed than dry cows.

Establishing healthy pastures is important to ensure the health of your herd. Pasture growth will vary depending on the soil types, rainfall and seasonal conditions.

In dry seasons, or outside the main pasture growth periods, you may need to supplementary feed your herd with hay or specialised grain.

Seek advice from your vet on the most appropriate feed and quantity.

For efficient grazing management, consider fencing off a number of smaller paddocks within the boundaries of the property so you can move cattle from one paddock to another.

This practice is known as rotational grazing and allows paddocks to ‘rest’ and regenerate between grazing.

Animal identification and movement

All livestock owners within WA must be registered and their stock identified in accordance with the Biosecurity and Agriculture Management (Identification and Movement of Stock and Apiaries) Regulations 2013 (BAM (IMSA) Regulations).

When you register, you will receive a certificate that shows your Property Identification Code (PIC), the properties registered to run on and your registered identifiers - a brand and an earmark.

All cattle must be fitted with an National Livestock Identification System (NLIS) electronic device. NLIS is a permanent, whole-of-life identification that enables animals to be tracked from property of birth to slaughter.

Any movement of cattle (one or more animals) between properties with different PICs must be recorded on the NLIS database.

You or your agent need to notify the NLIS database within 48 hours that the cattle are now located on your property, unless you purchase them from a saleyard where it will be done for you.

Any cattle being transported must also be accompanied by a national vendor declaration (NVD) waybill.

NVD-waybills are available by becoming accredited with the Livestock Production Assurance (LPA) program. The LPA can be contacted on 1800 683 111.

You will need to provide your PIC details at ordering and understand the requirements of accreditation. NVD/waybills are supplied pre-printed with the owner’s PIC.

Earmarking and branding of cattle is optional. If you purchase cattle that are already branded or earmarked, you do not have to re-identify them however you must have documentation to show ownership. 

More information on identification requirements are available on the NLIS and cattle webpage.

Cattle can be personally and financially rewarding but before deciding on starting a beef enterprise, do your research. Consider the capabilities and limitations of both your farm and yourself and choose the best breed and enterprise structure for you.