Permaculture animal: Cattle

Cattle (cows, bulls, oxen, heifers, steers, bullocks or calves) are valued for their ability to provide large amounts of milk or meat. They can also be used for labour and when well-managed, in maintaining grasslands. Yet cattle are very large animals, expensive to purchase and they eat a lot of feed. Cattle bring many benefits, but be sure they’re right for you and your system before you commit.


There are dairy breeds (such as Jersey, Aussie Reds and Friesians) and beef breeds (such as Angus and the tropical Brahmas). The offspring from dairy breeds produce relatively little meat, and beef breeds are not suited to milking as they produce less milk and generally lack the right temperament. If you want a dairy cow but also some meat, mate your cow to a beef bull each year. Besides cross breeding, there are also some dual purpose breeds (such as Dexter).

Smaller breeds, or miniatures of standard breeds, are particularly well-suited to smaller-scale permaculture systems as they have lower feed and space requirements.