There are several different ways of running a cattle business. Every one of them is good, but the best one for a particular farmer will depend on where the farmer is.

The three ways which we will examine here will consider the example of a FARMER WHO IS RUNNING CATTLE UNDER GOOD COCONUTS 20 YEARS OLD, and he or she has buffalo grass pasture with sensitive weed as a legume. The farmer has an area of 15 hectares, and is a good manager.

Approximately the same profit can be obtained from each of the three different methods; the work of livestock officers is to advise farmers which one is best at any particular location.

This example comes from Hog Harbour on Santo, where many farmers run cattle.

METHOD 1 - Breed and feed the calves until they grow big.

The farmer feeds all the cows and one bull on 15 hectares. The steers are fed until they reach 250 kg carcass weight.

Such a farmer would be feeding 5 cows and one bull.

If the calving percentage is 80%, 4 calves, 2 heifers and 2 bulls, will be born each year.

The farmer sells the two heifers at weaning, when they are 8 months old. In order for a steer to reach a carcass weight of 250 kg, it takes 4 years on the kind of pasture we are using.

So 6 steers over one year old will also be in the paddock Every year the farmer sells:

2 steers, each with a carcass weight of 250 kg. If the price is 120 vt/kg carcass weight, the farmer will get:

120 vt x 250 x 2 = 60,000 vt.

2 weaned heifers 8 months old, with a live weight of about 140 kg. At 60 vt/kg live weight, the farmer will get:

60 Vt x 140 x 2 = 16,400 Vt.

Total earnings every year are 76,400 vt. Every two years the farmer has to keep one of the heifers to replace a cow which should be sold. The price for an old cow is about the same as the price for the heifer.

METHOD 2 - Breed and sell all the weaners.

This farmer runs cows and one bull, but sells every calf at weaning time, or at about 8 months old.

This means one bull and 12 cows are run on the property.

If his calving rate is 80%, 10 calves will be obtained every year.

The farmer must hold on to one heifer every year to replace an old cow. when the heifers are ready to bear calves, an old cow can be sold. The price for an old culled cow of about 160 kg carcass weight is about the same as for a weaner heifer.

If the price is 60 vt/kg live weight, and the heifers weigh 140 kg at 8 months, or weaning, the farmer will get:

METHOD 3 - Buy young steers and fasten them.

This way, the farmer doesn't have any cows or a bull. Weaner steers (steers which are 8 months to I year old), are bought.

Afterwards, they are fed until they reach a carcass weight of 250 kg. This means the farmer must feed the steers for another 3 years, until the steers are nearly 4 years old.

So, the farmer buys 15 young steers 8 months to one year old every three years. Using this method, the farmer might buy 5 young ones and sell 5 old ones every year; it doesn't mean they must all be bought and sold at the same time.

In one year; the farmer must spend:

60 vt x 160 x 5 = 48,000 vt.

These must be fed for another three years until they have reached 250 kg carcass weight.

In the same year the farmer will sell to the abattoir 5 large steers which have been fattening, each one 250 kg carcass weight. This will yield:

In any one year; therefore, the farmer will receive:

150,000 vt - 48,000 vt = 102,000 vt.

which is the Best Method?

Let us take a look at the three different methods again.

The examples all refer to farmers who are good managers and have access to markets, that is, they can sell cattle to the abattoir; to regional butcheries or for feasts.

Method 1

This is a method used by many smallholder farmers. It needs good management of the stocking rate. It is a good method when the market, such as an abattoir or regional butchery, is close at hand.

A farmer who uses this method has plenty of work to do. The young bulls must be castrated, all the young calves must be weaned at the right time, and the steers must be well looked after until they get big.

If, at weaning, the steers can go on to a good improved pasture, they will grow quickly.

Method 2

This is a good method to use in a difficult area, where the market is a long way away.

It is good because the farmer only has to move small weaners to a barging or trucking point (it is hard work moving large cattle). This method will only work well if the farmer has a market for the weaners at a plantation or a good smallholding with improved pasture on Efate or Santo, or if there is a reliable local market close at hand. If a farmer wishes to try method no. 2, there should be a good quality bull, so that other farmers will want to buy the calves, in order to fatten them.

With this method, there is no need for much open improved pasture, but the stocking rate has to be carefully watched to avoid overstocking.

Method 3

This is a very good method for a farmer who is close to an abattoir or regional butchery, and can easily truck the large animals at sale time.

Cattle which graze on open improved pasture without too much shade will put on weight much more quickly than those grazed under old coconuts, as in the example. (See pasture improvement section for discussion).

This method is good on Santo or Efate for farmers near a road. It doesn't need a high level of management.

It doesn't matter too much which method a farmer follows, as long as he or she plants improved pasture and controls any weeds, production and profits will grow.

The prices used in this example are average prices for Santo. If the price in a particular area is different, the given figures must be changed.