Hero Image

Best Management Practices

Ranching Infrastructure                                                                                                                                        

On average cows require 15 gallons of water a day and growing steers and heifers require 5-10 gallons a day
Ranching infrastructure provides for the safety and well-being of livestock and aids in managing the lands natural resources. Infrastructure includes ranch roads, fences, corrals, and water systems. For more information on ranching infrastructure click below. 


Grazing Management                                                                                                                                           

Photo Credit: Sarah Klopatek
Photo Credit: Sarah Klopatek

Grazing management is an essential part of ranching.  Having a grazing management plan can help land managers manipulate vegetation to improve livestock performance without negatively impacting the rangeland ecosystem. Grazing management plans can vary substantially depending on soil type, rainfall, proximity to riparian areas, and the time and labor resources available to the rancher.  For more on grazing management practices and developing a grazing management plan view the resources below.


Animal Welfare                                                                                                                                                

One of the first steps to develop a heard health program is to develop a working relationship with a veterinarian.  To Find a veterinarian in your area visit the Find a Veterinary Directory on the California Veterinary Medical Association web page.

In addition to following your veterinarians herd health recommendations you will be responsible for administering the vaccinations and overseeing your cattle's day to day health. To ensure heard health and animal welfare look to join the Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) program.  The BQA program originated in the 1990's with the overall goal of improving animal husbandry. Today, BQA is considered to be one  of the most trusted beef educational programs in the entire beef industry. Some program specifics include how to properly vaccinate animals, how to decrease animal stress, and how to ensure animal health when shipping and receiving.  To learn how to improve animal husbandry on your ranch visit the BQA webpage.

Niche Market Antibiotics Use and Herd Health                                                                                                 

When it comes to heard health management there are some differences between conventional and niche market beef programs. For example, in a conventional beef programs, under veterinary guidance, cattle can be treated with antibiotics for illnesses (i.e. pinkeye, BRD, ext) and be allowed to enter the food chain after the drug specific withdrawl period has ended.  However, in many niche programs, such as USDA Organic or American Grassfed, compliancy dictates that cattle can never be treated with antibiotics.  This brings about both a financial and ethical quandary, when my cattle are sick, should I treat them with antibiotics?

The answer is…it depends, it depends on what your veterinarian recommends.  There will be times, even in the best managed niche practices, when cattle will need to be treated with antibiotics.  Once treated, animals need to be removed from the program. Many producers have a “kick out” herd for animals that do not meet the labels specific specifications. Animals in this heard can then be marketed under a different label or be marketed as conventional cattle.  To help ensure animal health and label guidance it is recommended to keep detailed animal health records. For animal health record examples click here.  

Regardless of what niche market you choose to participate in, proper vaccinations is a key element in ensuring heard health. For more information on heard health management and vaccinations view the PDF's below.