The best beef cattle breeds for a small farm include Hereford, Simmental, Shorthorn, Gelbvieh and Devon. These breeds are all beginner-friendly, are affordable to purchase, are relatively docile and can be slaughtered at 18-24 months.
Whether raising beef cattle on a small farm for your own consumption or sale, you’ll want to raise a docile breed that’s easy to take care of alongside other livestock or pets you may have.
The US recognizes over 70 of the 250 cattle breeds in the world, and less than 20 of the 70 recognized cattle breeds have their genetics used in the country for beef production, making it crucial to make the right bovine selection.
You may be spoiled for choice when selecting the best docile US beef cattle breed. We are here to help. Here are ten docile beef cattle breeds you can raise and slaughter at 18-24 months of age for tender and mild-flavored meat.
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Herefords are highly docile white-faced cattle that are easy to take care of. They are hardy animals with good cold and heat tolerance, though their color sometimes necessitates sun protection.
The Hereford cattle originated from Herefordshire in England and arrived later in the US, where they became a prevalent breed.
A Hereford can be horned or polled, with a red body and a characteristic white face. The tail switch and underside are also white.
Herefords are famous for their docility, good mothering, easy calving, good milking, and longevity. They might be expensive and hard to find in some locations, but they are a safe bet for beginner beef cattle farmers.
Simmental is a Swiss cattle breed raised since the late 1800s in the US for their large size and fast growth rate—which generally means larger birth weights. They are highly adaptive to different climates.
Simmentals are among the top three most popular breeds of cattle for beef production. They are also one of the best dairy breeds since they are good milkers, which endears them to farmers because their calves grow pretty fast.
Shorthorns have a good disposition, feed conversion, mothering ability, and reproductive ability. They originated from England and came to America around 1783, becoming a popular breed among settlers for their adaptability, longevity, drafting, and good production of milk and meat.
In the early 1900s, the breed association made two distinctions of the Shorthorns—the low-cost Milking Shorthorns that are largely grass-fed and produce 3.6% butterfat milk (but they also have quality meat), and the Beef Shorthorns as beef producers.
Gelbvieh cattle originate from southern Germany as milk and beef producers and work animals. Artificial insemination brought Gelbviehs to the US around 1971. Most Gelbviehs are now hornless because of breeding with polled foundation cows in the country.
Gelbvieh cattle are famous for their ease of calving, fast-growing calves, high fertility, feeding efficiency, even temperament, and good mothering.
Also called German Yellow, most Gelbvieh cattle are yellow, but the color can range from black to cream to reddish. Mature Gelbvieh bulls weigh about 2,500 pounds, while the females weigh about 1,600 pounds.
Devon cattle are a rare breed from Devonshire and Somerset in England that came to the Americas when three heifers and a bull braved an Atlantic Ocean voyage in 1623.
They are fast-growing, docile, intelligent, adaptable, and cold and hot weather tolerant. Adult Devon cows weigh about 1,100 pounds, while the bulls weigh about 2,200 pounds.
The red-ruby-colored cattle may be raised mainly for beef (Beef Devon) or as a dual-purpose breed for milk and meat (Milking Devon).
Also called Aberdeen Angus, Black Angus is the most popular cattle breed in the US. A Kansas rancher brought the breed to the US in 1873 from its Scotland origin.
The naturally hornless and black-skinned Angus cattle are excellent at marbling, milk production, mothering, fleshing, and early development.
The Red Angus is another Angus breed to keep for beef. Most of the artificial insemination for beef cattle breeds used in the US and the world today comes from Red Angus cattle raised specifically as male breeding stock.
Red Angus cattle also have a Scottish origin by breeding native Aberdeen Angus cattle with large-bodied red English longhorn cattle, though only one in four calves had a red color.
Like the black Angus, the Red Angus was considered purebred before 1917, when registration for the red variety ceased. American ranchers later picked excellent reds and began breeding them for the same benefits and features as the Aberdeen Angus, save for the color.
Although they are kept mainly for milk production on large and small farms, Holsteins are a popular breed for meat production because they are early maturing and have high-quality beef.
A Holstein is a high-maintenance animal with a generous 6-year productive lifespan, making it ideal as a dairy cow for daily profits.
At birth, Holstein calves weigh about 90 pounds; mature bulls weigh about 2,500 pounds, and cows about 1,300-1,500 pounds. Holstein and Angus steers often have a greater carcass weight than other breeds.
Brahman cattle originate from India and are the world’s most common cattle breed loved for their resistance to diseases, pests, and parasites. They secrete an insect-repellent oil.
Brahmans are known for their hardiness against harsh weather and survivalist nature against inadequate food. You’ll typically find these on remote cattle ranches and farms where feed and rainfall are in short supply.
Charolais are a light-colored triple-purpose cattle breed from France kept for milk, meat, and drafting (animals trained to do work, especially pulling massive loads). They are one of the popular European-origin cattle breeds (Beef Taurus/Beef Bos Taurus) in North America.
The large-sized Chalorais cattle arrived in the US via Mexico around the 1930s and have become popular beef cattle for their heavy calves and cold hardiness.
Charolais cattle are good breeders, given the large size of their calves, but this also makes them have calving problems.
You must buy your animals from reputable breeders because some Charolais cattle can be unpredictable and aggressive.
10. Belted Gallowaya
Belted Galloway cattle were initially kept as a dual-purpose breed but are now mainly kept for beef only. They originate from south Scotland and are usually black and white, which makes them ideal as ornamental cattle.
The Galloway breed started as black-colored cattle but developed a characteristic white belt through their middle after acquiring Dutch Belted blood. They could also be dun or red-colored with the white belt retained.
Belted Galloways are medium to large-sized, making them ideal for the feedlot since they can produce a dressed carcass weight of up to 60% or more of their live weight.
You’ll want to keep a Belted Galloway for its hardiness, excellent mothering ability, and ease of management.
Some Galloways can be aggressive because they have an inherent dislike for dogs.
Other Notable Docile Beef Cattle Breeds
Dexter cattle arrived in the US from Ireland in the 1900s and make up the list of famous British breeds like Belted Galloways, Beef Shorthorns, and Devons. They are tiny animals that weigh below 1,000 pounds but are hardy, easy to handle, easy calvers, gentle, and highly fertile.
Limousin cattle originated from France and were mostly used as draft animals. Importation of Limousins into the US began around 1971, and there are over one million of the golden-red cattle in the country today.
Highland Cattle are native to Scotland and famous for tender and flavorful beef with excellent marbling. They are good mothers, hardy, docile, and highly reproductive. The medium-sized cattle weigh 900-1,300 pounds for an adult beef cow and about 2,000 pounds for bulls.