I generally send 1 footman and 11-14 weaponthanes on cattle raids. I have Thunderstone up, and Sureshot if I have it. If I get caught, I choose Plunder/Skirmish and usually end up OK.
Note that if you cattle raid an ally and they catch you and you fight, it terminates the alliance. I had this happen in one game where everyone close enough to cattle raid was an ally or paying me tribute (I know, I know, it's tragic--in lieu of flowers, you can send donations to the Chalana Arroy temple of your choice).
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