So how many cattle are in a small-scale herd? To me, a small-scale herd is defined more by the experience than a number of cattle. If you raise cattle for fun or as part of other farm projects or even as a hobby, and someday hope to just break even on cash flow, then consider your herd small-scale. On the other hand, if you are feeding your family and making mortgage payments based solely on cattle proceeds, then you have grown beyond the small-scale size.
The size of a cattle herd is often characterized by the number of mama cows, not the total number of cattle. The reason being that the mama cows are the one constant in your herd. The bull may be around for a season or a few years, but is inevitably replaced to refresh the bloodlines. Steers are sold soon after weaning, as are any heifers not being kept as a breeding mama. The core of your herd, the breeding mama cows, define the size of your operation.
Our herd at TurkeyCrest Farm has a total of 22 mama cows, 10 of which are still heifers. One of the hardest aspects of managing our herd is deciding which cows to keep and which to sell. We have a few criteria that each heifer has to pass before being eligible to become a herd cow. The first is a calm and engaging temperament. Any heifer that is crazy in the alleyway and head chute is not a keeper. Another factor is confirmation and being a good mama. We like a medium framed cow with a good udder who easily calves and readily brings her new calf to the herd. We are also partial to Red Angus and Charlois/Red Angus mix, although we have a Baldy and a couple of Black Angus cows.
Above all, we have fun raising our cattle and managing the herd!