Despite its small area and intensively cropped landscape, East Java accounts for 30% of Indonesia’s beef cattle population. About two million households draw on family labour to raise cattle in backyard sheds and small enclosures, largely for cash income. The paper reports on a study in two contrasting sites – irrigated lowlands and rainfed uplands – to explore the constraints facing cattle producers in these environments and possible means to enhance their production systems and incomes. In particular, the paper focuses on the issue of feed supply and the local market that has emerged for agricultural by-products (rice straw, maize stover, and legume residues) and planted forage grasses. The research shows that intensive cattle production can provide a viable pathway out of poverty, even for resource-poor households.