Beef Cattle

Learn better management of beef cattle; develop your career or job prospects; improve your farm operations.

Course CodeBAG206
Fee CodeS2
Duration (approx)100 hours
QualificationStatement of Attainment

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The beef cattle course offers knowledge into the key principles of intensive and extensive beef cattle production systems, herd management, breeding, nutrition and health and disease management.

This popular course gives students the opportunity to learn the principles of beef cattle management, breeding and  production. While no one course can be expected to deal in comprehensive detail with all aspects of the beef industry, this course provides a detailed overview of the necessary subject matter for students who are already in the industry or those who are new to the industry. Elements such as nutrition, production, reproduction, and disease recognition, control and treatment, are dealt with in detail.

Course Aim:
It is aimed at helping people gain the foundation knowledge to start their own beef cattle enterprise or to expand the theory knowledge of an existing beef cattle producer.

Make informed decisions about the management requirements of beef cattle. On completion of this course you should be able to understand and explain the principles and practices of beef cattle husbandry and management.

Lesson Structure

There are 10 lessons in this course:

  1. Introduction to beef cattle and beef cattle breeds
    • The role of beef cattle in agriculture
    • Scientific classification
    • Examples of breeds worldwide
    • British Beef breeds - Angus, Hereford, South Devon, Sussex, Red Poll
    • U.S. Developed Beef breeds - Santa Gertrudis, American Brahman, Amerifax, Beefmaster
    • Eurpean Beef breeds - Salers, Charolais, Simmental, Gelbvieh
    • Australian Beef breeds - Braford, Beefmaster, Droughtmaster, Murray Grey, Australian Lowline
    • South African Beef Breeds - Salorn, Tswana, Tuli, Africkander,
    • Breed selection considerations - horned vs poll, colour, gestation length, birth weight, mothering ability, post weaning growth, meat quality etc
  2. Beef Cattle Production Systems
    • Various systems of production - extensive, intensive, semi-intensive
    • Choosing a suitable system - considerations include size, climate, soils, transport, markets etc
    • Cattle handling facilities
    • Materials used in cattle handling
    • Cattle identification - branding, ear marking, tattooing, ear tags
    • De-horning - chemical and mechanical methods
    • Castration, dips and dipping, and injecting cattle
  3. Beef Cattle Breeding
    • Heritability, performance testing, progeny testing, selection
    • Pure versus cross breeding - advantages and disadvantages
    • Calving percentage
    • Management factors to improve calving percentage
    • Weaning calves
    • Factors affecting calf weaning
    • The anatomy of the male reproductive system
    • The physiology of the male reproductive system
    • Fertility problems in the male
    • The anatomy and physiology of the female reproductive system
    • Fertility problems
    • Pregnancy and partition
    • The structure of the mammary glands
    • Secretion of milk
    • Growth and development
    • Post natal growth
    • Compensatory growth
  4. Diseases in Beef Cattle - Viral and Bacterial
    • Determining health status of the animal
    • Signs of a healthy animal
    • Causes of ill-health
    • Injury, poor nutrition, poisoning, parasites, hereditary conditions etc
    • Preventing ill-health
    • Correct feed and nutrition, insect control, parasite control, vaccinations, control stress etc
  5. Parasitic and Other Diseases in Beef Cattle
    • Some parasitic diseases
    • Other ailments of cattle - actinobacillosis, anaplasmosis, arthritis, beef measles
    • poisoning, pink eye, milk fever, bloat etc
  6. Nutrition in Beef Cattle
    • Feed type - roughages and concentrates
    • Carbohydrates, protein, fats
    • Grass or grain feeding
    • Rations for beef cattle - maintenance or production rations
    • Maintenance rations
    • Procedure for calculating a ration
    • Supplementary feeding of protein
    • Lot Feeding
    • Minerals
    • Common macromineral deficiencies
    • Common trace mineral deficiencies
    • Diagnosis of trace mineral deficiencies
    • Vitamins
    • Water for farm animals
    • Protein
  7. Commercial Herd Management
    • The breeding herd
    • Production systems
    • Cow-calf herd
    • Beef production systems using dairy stock
  8. Feed Lot Management
    • Lot feeding - types of feedlot
    • Managing cattle in a feedlot
    • Feedlot Records
    • Article on pen feeding in South Africa
  9. Stud Herd Management
    • Time of calving
    • Feeding
    • Fertility
    • Indicators of fertility in bulls
    • Indicators of fertility in cows
  10. Management, Economics and Marketing
    • Profitability
    • Factors affecting gross output
    • Factors affecting variable costs

Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted to the school, marked by the school's tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.


  • Describe the nature and scope of Beef Cattle Production
  • Compare different beef production systems
  • Discuss beef cattle breeding and its significance to production
  • Develop a sound, but general introduction to animal health
  • Describe significant parasites that infect cattle and determine appropriate management of these and related problems
  • Recommend appropriate provision of feed for commercial beef production
  • Develop a management strategy for a commercial beef herd
  • Explain feed lot management for beef production
  • Explain Stud herd management for beef production
  • Determine significant management requirements for a beef production enterprise, in order to attain and sustain a viable economic performance

What You Will Do

  • Visit, contact and/or research a range of enterprises which may include farms, agricultural shows, and suppliers of farm products in order to research, photograph, describe and specify facilities in the places visited as a basis, or part basis, of assignment questions
  • Identify beef cuts on a labelled diagram of a steer's body
  • Judge a beef animal according to commonly recognised commercial standards
  • Choose two breeds suitable for beef production in specified climates
  • Observe and report on common cattle husbandry tasks, including dehorning, castration, dipping, vaccination, and drenching
  • Explain methods that are used to control beef cattle movements
  • Prepare a production schedule or timetable of husbandry practices for a typical beef cattle property in your locality for a period of 12 months
  • Attempt to determine the nature and scope of beef cattle breeding in your state or country
  • Explain the differences between and advantages of pure breeding and cross breeding
  • Describe and explain management and other factors that can affect calving percentage and calf weaning
  • Visit, contact and/or research a supplier of health care treatments for cattle to determine what products (e.g. dips, medicines etc) are available
  • Describe a significant viral disease, including its identification, symptoms and control
  • Interview someone working in the industry to determine the significance and nature of disease problems in beef cattle
  • List parasites and related organisms that are significant to beef cattle in your region
  • Report on the preferred food requirements for beef cattle on a beef property you have visited
  • Explain common health problems affecting animals, including the circumstances under which animals contract health problems, and methods used to prevent the development of ill health
  • Analyse physical indicators or symptoms of ill health in animals
  • Explain the diagnostic characteristics of the main types of animal pathogenic microorganisms
  • Explain the methods used in the treatment of pests and diseases in farm animals
  • Diagnose simple health problems in farm animals
  • Develop guidelines for assessing general signs of ill health in beef cattle. These guidelines should consider diseases and nutritional factors
  • Compare the management of beef cattle in feedlot with the management in a paddock
  • Explain the management of a stud beef herd on a property you visited
  • Explain the legal requirements and regulations concerning beef cattle
  • Distinguish the following terms of grades of beef: prime, choice, good, standard, utility

The Beef Cattle industry has changed a great deal over recent decades.
Quality beef is increasingly in high demand; but the way beef is raised and marketed is continually changing

Anyone involved in raising beef cattle, needs to recognise and be in tune with changes in their industry; but in order to do that, you first need a broad based and sound foundation of knowledge; which is exactly what this course has been designed to deliver.

The Breed You Grow can make a Big Difference

Different breeds have different characteristics, and depending upon what we want the cattle for, we may find greater benefit in one breed than another.

Today cow breeds can be broken up into four purpose types: Beef (meat), Dairy, Draft, and Multi-Purpose (Beef-Draft, Dairy-Draft, Beef-Dairy and Beef-Dairy-Draft). Many of the older breeds were breed as duel-purpose or multi-purpose cattle. Today we see most of the newer breeds specialise in one purpose, however they are more efficient at this specific purpose, i.e. beef cow breeds still produce milk but are nowhere near as efficient as the dairy cow breeds.

Some breeds tolerate certain conditions better than others; while other breeds are more desirable because of the characteristics that are found in the milk or meat.

Most people assume that the naming of cattle species and breeds is a single system, which every cattle expert in the world will subscribe to. This is not so. There are in fact many different authorities around the world who manage the naming of cattle, and these different “experts” don’t always agree with each other.

Commercial breeders and farmers also manage a range of systems for classifying and registering breeds of cattle. These systems attempt to keep records of the parentage of progeny, and assign names to breeds. These breed registries are at times also known as a “herd book” or “stud book”. They may be managed by government bodies or industry bodies; and may or may not work together with other breed registries across regional or international borders.

  • Sometimes the same breeds may end up being known by different names in different countries.
  • Sometimes new breeds are developed, but may not be formally registered.
  • Most developed countries tend to have widely accepted authorities for registering breeds of cattle in their country, and as a result, the naming of breeds tends to be relatively consistent at least within that country. Sometimes a breed known by one name in one developed country though, may be known by a different name in another developed country. Despite seeming confusing, the use of both may be valid, depending upon the country you are using the name in.
  • Good breed registries will commonly issue registration papers showing details of the animal’s parentage.
  • There are considered to be over 800 credible breeds of cattle registered around the world.

Comments from an ACS students:

"I find that I can apply my knowledge directly on the property. All assignments are relative to real life" C. Rowland-Jones, Australia - Beef Cattle course

"When I first started, I had no experience of cattle or farming, but due to a change in direction in my career path, I needed to get some experience and this course has helped tremendously.' Sarah, Australia - Beef Cattle course. 


This course give you the sound fundamental knowledge needed to confidentially work with beef cattle and understand the various breeds suited to your region - it will benefit:
  • Farmers
  • Cattle breeders
  • Stock agents
  • Those wanting to work in the field
  • Those working in the field wanting to improve their career prospects or better run their farms
  • Hobby farmers
  • Those looking to try out a single unit and then work towards a qualification


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Alison Pearce

University Lecturer, Quality Assurance Manager, Writer and Research Technician. Alison originally graduated with an honors degree in science from university and beyond that has completed post graduate qualifications in education and eco-tourism. She has m
Marius Erasmus

Subsequent to completing a BSc (Agric) degree in animal science, Marius completed an honours degree in wildlife management, and a masters degree in production animal physiology. Following the Masters degree, he has worked for 9 years in the UK, and South
Dr. Gareth Pearce

Veterinary scientist and surgeon with expertise in agriculture and environmental science, with over 25 years of experience in teaching and research in agriculture, veterinary medicine, wildlife ecology and conservation in the UK, Australia and New Zealand
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