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Close up of a cow with ear tags with an overlay stating ‘Backyard Biosecurity, it’s up to all of us’ and ‘Agriculture Victoria’
Edition 6: Cattle
In this edition:

In this edition we will cover some of the things you need to know to successfully manage a small cattle herd.

Owning and managing a small herd of cattle can be fun and rewarding and hard work on occasions. Before starting your herd it is good to understand the needs of cattle and what sort of challenges you might face.

Think about what your motivation is for wanting a herd. Is it to manage your excess pasture, for financial gain, or maybe showing cattle? This can help you decide whether breeding cows are best for your property, or that maybe buying and selling steers would be a better option.

Assess your level of cattle knowledge and skills, and the amount of time you have available when considering what type of enterprise you will embark on.

Remember, they are large animals and can be dangerous!

Cattle snapshot
Feeding and Nutrition
Highland cattle standing in field eating grass.

It is important to ensure you are feeding your cattle adequately.

Did you know?

  • Adult cattle require at least 1 hectare of land per head, however this will vary widely on quantity and quality of pasture available.
  • At certain times of the year, cattle need to be supplementary fed to ensure they are receiving adequate nutrition.
  • Cattle eat roughly 2.5 percent of their body weight each day in dry matter
  • For a 600 kg cow, this means she will eat 15 kg of dry matter which is 75-100 kg of green standing pasture.
  • Like all animals, for good health, cattle need a diet consisting of the right amount of energy, fibre, protein and vitamins and minerals.
  • Cattle drink up to 50 litres of water per day.
  • When cows are lactating, they can drink up to 80-100L/day.
  • Watch out for blue-green algae blooms in summer in drinking water as they can be harmful to stock.

Before purchasing your first cow, ensure you have enough land and a plentiful, clean water supply, and the ability to provide supplementary feed.

The Feeding Livestock website brings you reliable, science-based information and specialist tools to help you plan and manage feeding of your stock. We’ve put all the key resources in one place for easy access, including our popular Drought Feeding and Management of cattle and Drought Feeding Management of Sheep books.

Depending on seasonal conditions, you may need to supplementary feed your cattle with hay, grain and/or pellets. Grains and pellets need to be introduced gradually over a period of 7-10 days and stock monitored to avoid animal health issues such as grain poisoning (acidosis).

If you are purchasing stockfeed, ensure the supplier provides a Commodity Vendor Declaration (CVD), and inspect the stockfeed on arrival to ensure it matches what you ordered. If the feed is damaged or contaminated, it is recommended to dispose of it. Store stockfeed in a manner that prevents contamination by livestock, vermin, feral and domestic animals, and other feed.

If you are hand rearing young poddy calves that need milk, follow the instructions on the bag of milk replacer to make sure they are fed an adequate amount.  Ensure they have access to water and hay at all times.

Restricted Animal Material
Image with a red crossed circle of label on feed stating 'This product contains restricted animal material - DO NOT FEED TO CATTLE, SHEEP, GOATS, DEER OR OTHER RUMINANTS'.

Ensure you do not feed ruminants (cattle, sheep, goats, deer, buffalos, camels) Restricted Animal Material (RAM).

RAM is any material that consists of, or contains, matter from an animal (including fish and birds). It also includes eggs, untreated cooking oils, poultry litter and other manures.

Pastures which have had manures and poultry litter applied must not be accessed by ruminants for at least 3 weeks before grazing.

Ensure you do not mix RAM and non-RAM feed, and ruminants do not have access to feeds containing RAM for example chicken or dog feed.

All stockfeed products should contain a statement on their packaging or invoicing whether they do or do not contain RAM if you are ever unsure.

Watch animation on ruminant feed ban

Handling and management
Image of 5 cows with ear tags standing, facing the camera

Having cattle on your property is an investment and you will need suitable yards and fencing. Yards are important for managing and monitoring livestock health.

Good fencing is important for confining livestock to where they need to be, for managing grazing of pastures, and ensuring they do not access environmentally sensitive areas such as waterways.

You can find handling and management resources on Agriculture Victoria’s website.

Cattle are large, heavy animals that can move quickly. There are risks to your health and safety when working closely with cattle that you need to understand. Even the most experienced farmers get hurt.

Learning ‘low stress cattle handling techniques’, having well-designed and maintained stock yards and handling equipment and knowing how to use them, and only breeding and/or keeping cattle with good temperament, can help reduce the risks.

Children and visitors to your farm not familiar with cattle handling should be kept at a safe distance from cattle and certainly not be permitted to go into yards with them.

Worksafe Victoria has a guide to managing risks in cattle handling.

Woman wearing a hat standing in front of a horse

Have a listen to this AgVic Talk podcast, where Sarah McLean, a young beef farmer near Warrnambool, talks about a near miss while working in the cattle yards that prompted her to think more carefully about farm safety.

Health and disease
Person using a stethoscope on a black cattle with ear tags

Livestock owners have a duty of care to their animals, which includes providing treatment when sick and injured, providing sufficient food, water, shelter, and adequate fencing.

All livestock owners also have a duty to help protect Australia’s valuable livestock industries from exotic animal diseases, that is, diseases that we do not have in this country. More than 70 percent of Australia’s livestock products such as meat and wool are exported overseas. Those overseas markets are vital for the social and economic well-being of our livestock industries.

Australia is extremely fortunate to be free from many exotic animal diseases such as foot-and-mouth disease, lumpy skin disease and mad cow disease, which are found elsewhere in the world. An outbreak of foot and-mouth disease would result not only in potentially serious impacts to the health and welfare of many livestock, but also the immediate closure of most export markets which would have a devastating impact on our farmers and rural communities. We encourage you to learn about the symptoms of these important diseases know what to do if you have any concerns about your livestock.

Keeping Australia free from these diseases is a top priority for Agriculture Victoria. Having a Property Identification Code (PIC) is an important way that you can help us to be prepared and manage emergency animal diseases. PICs are also used to support livestock owners during emergency relief and recovery activities.

Anytime you see something you are unsure of when it comes to your cattle health, contact your local vet, your local Agriculture Victoria office or telephone Agriculture Victoria on 136 186. If you suspect a case of an emergency animal disease, report this immediately to the Emergency Animal Disease Hotline on 1800 675 888. More information about emergency animal diseases can be found on the Agriculture Victoria biosecurity website.

Cattle diseases

There are a range of diseases that can impact the health and welfare of livestock. Diseases are generally caused by bacteria, viruses, toxic plants, internal and external parasites and nutritional and metabolic issues.

Common diseases which cattle owners should be aware of and monitor for are:

Your veterinarian is an excellent source of information to discuss prevention and management of these conditions. If any of these conditions are suspected or observed in your cattle, seek veterinary attention.

Internal parasites

Many internal parasites can affect cattle, including gastrointestinal worms and liver fluke.

All cattle, even well fed and cared for animals are potentially at risk of being affected by internal parasites. However young cattle are most at risk due to their under-developed immune systems. Other at-risk animals include first-calf heifers and sick or severely stressed animals.

You should have a good understanding of the internal parasites that your herd are at most risk of being affected by and have a regular drenching program in place to manage internal parasites. All animals in the herd are given the drench, whether or not they are affected. Read the instructions on the drench carefully and be aware of withholding periods of different drenches if you are considering selling your cattle.

Drench products can be purchased from your local farm supplies store. Make sure you store and administer drench products according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Giving the correct dose is vital to effective parasite control. Drenching cattle usually involves using a drench gun that delivers the correct, predetermined dose into the animal’s mouth so you must also have the right equipment, in good condition, to drench cattle. Drenching can also be carried out using a pour-on product that is applied along the back-line of the animal. Talk to your animal health advisor to get the right product for your herd.

Your veterinarian should be consulted on how to develop and implement a program to manage internal parasites in your herd, and what to do to avoid drench resistance.

o	Person wearing a stethoscope standing in front of multiple cattle

Vaccination is an effective way of minimising the impact of a range of bacterial and viral diseases such as black leg, pulpy kidney and tetanus and many other important cattle diseases.

A vaccination plan customised to your farming enterprise and region should be implemented with the assistance of your veterinarian and/or stock health advisor. The main recommended vaccine is either a 5-in-1 or a 7-in-1 vaccine.

If you are breeding cattle, a disease to consider vaccinating for is vibriosis. Vibriosis is one of the most significant infectious venereal diseases affecting cattle in Australia, causing infertility and abortion. All bulls should be vaccinated against this disease. For more information visit Bringing new bulls home from sale.

You can purchase vaccines from your veterinarian and local farm supplies store. Make sure you store and administer vaccines according to the manufacturer’s instructions and maintain good hygiene practices. Administering the correct dose at the right location on the animal is vital to effective vaccination. Vaccinating cattle usually involves using a syringe with a needle that delivers the correct dose, usually under the skin (subcutaneous), so you must also have the right equipment, in good condition, to vaccinate cattle.

If you are unsure about how to safely and effectively vaccinate cattle, or don’t feel up to administering drench or vaccines yourself, please speak to your veterinarian or local livestock agent for assistance.

Poisonous plants
Cow with ear tag eating a bunch of carrots being held by a hand

Some pastures grazed by cattle contain potentially toxic plants. Plants may be toxic in small amounts or have a cumulative effect over time.

Good farm management includes learning to recognise plants in your area that are toxic to livestock, as well as how to remove poisonous plants from pastures or control the conditions under which poisonings are more common.

Many weed species that occur in paddocks may cause issues if cattle eat them. Some important examples include:

In some circumstances, several pasture species including Kikuyu, Brassica species, Phalaris, and Paspalum can cause problems.

It is recommended NOT to throw garden cuttings into a paddock where cattle can access them - as many garden plants may be poisonous to livestock, and lawn clippings may contain chemical contaminants such as organochlorines.

Rules and regulations

Apply for or amend a Property Identification Code (PIC) online


Victorian law requires people to have a Property Identification Codes (PIC) for the properties on which they intend to graze or keep any number of livestock.

Register for a free Property Identification Code (PIC). Make sure you keep your details up-to-date. Update your PIC if you make changes to livestock on your property, change your phone number or email address or sell your land or relocate.

Use National Livestock Identification System (NLIS) tags


In Victoria all cattle, sheep and goats must be tagged with an approved electronic NLIS tag before leaving a property. This includes animals being given away or kept as pets.

Record livestock movements on the NLIS database


When cattle and sheep are moved between properties with different PICs, the person receiving the livestock is required to register the movement on the NLIS database within 48hrs. Visit property to property movements of livestock for more information.

Movement Documentation


A movement document such as a Livestock Production Assurance National Vendor Declaration (LPA NVD) or a similar document must be completed by the owner or person responsible for the husbandry of the cattle when they move. Visit movement documentation for more information.

Become Livestock Production Assurance (LPA) accredited


Livestock Production Assurance (LPA) is industry’s on-farm quality assurance program. Producers must be LPA accredited to access sheep, goat and cattle LPA NVD forms.

Livestock legislation in Victoria


Anyone who owns, manages, or works with livestock must comply with certain laws, standards and Codes of Practice. Visit livestock legislation in Victoria for more information.

Update your farm biosecurity plan

Remember to review and update your biosecurity plan. The templates were covered in Newsletter 2: Biosecurity.

Your farm biosecurity plan is a tool to help identify key risks on your farm and document how you will manage them. Farm biosecurity planning is not a one-size-fits-all process. Every farm is different with each facing a unique set of challenges and risks and business owners having different levels of tolerance of those risks.

There are no right or wrong answers when developing a farm biosecurity plan – the only bad biosecurity plan is the one you don’t have.

In the next edition of Backyard Biosecurity, we’ll take a look at building a safe home for your bees in your backyard.

If you are enjoying this newsletter series, then why not forward to a friend?


Agriculture Victoria

Further information
  • Become a Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) member. MLA membership is free to levy-paying producers of grass or grainfed cattle, sheep, lambs and/or goats.

  • Join the BetterBeef Network, which provides opportunities for beef producers to access the latest beef research messages and participate in courses that increase skills and knowledge.

  • Becoming LPA accredited - The Livestock Production Assurance (LPA) program is the Australian livestock industry’s on-farm assurance program covering food safety, animal welfare and biosecurity

  • Visit the Agriculture Victoria Health and welfare web page.

Contacting Agriculture Victoria

Call 136 186 from anywhere in Australia for the cost of a local call (except for mobiles and public telephones).

If you are deaf, or have a hearing or speech impairment contact the National Relay Service on 133 677 or

All contact points can be found at:

Don't forget to check out Agriculture Victoria's social media sites for up-to-date information and news.



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