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How Cattle are Raised and Fed For Beef

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    How Cattle are Raised and Fed For Beef

    I have read a number of posts that say they favor beef that is grass fed, then finished on grain. Unless I misunderstood these posts, that's the way all commercially produced cattle that develop into choice or prime grades are fed. Here is a general description of the process.

    Male calves are castrated as soon after birth as possible because the younger they are, the less traumatic it is for them. Castration is the removal of the testicles usually by surgical methods. There is also nonsurgical castration by injecting a chemical into the testicles, and by emasculation, which entails crushing the spermatic cords with a clamping device. Once castrated, the male calf is referred to as a steer. Beef from steers is preferred over beef from bulls because castration improves the color, texture, tenderness, and juiciness of the meat. And cow-calf producers benefit from castrating bulls because the market pays a premium for steers, partly because of the better tasting meat and partly because of their quieter disposition and ease of handling in the feed yard.

    Beef calves typically nurse their mother for the first 6-7 months after they are born, until they weigh 400-500 pounds, when they are called feeder calves. Feeder calves are weaned and put on grass pasture for another 6-9 months, which is called back grounding. Back grounding enables the cattle to finish growing into adulthood, and develop the body structure and maturity to be fed grain that enables them to produce high quality beef. At about 12 – 18 months old and a weight of about 700 – 900 pounds, the cattle are taken off of pasture and put in feedlots for finishing. These are large pens where cattle are fed grain daily consisting mostly of corn, but also milo, barley, and oats. They are also given hay for roughage. They remain in feedlots for 6 - 7 months where they gain another 400 - 600 pounds and will produce choice and prime grades of beef. From there, at weights from 1,100-1,500 pounds, they go to a slaughterhouse. The feedlot not only makes it more economical to feed large numbers of cattle, that confinement keeps the animals from walking off some of the weight they are gaining. A lot of the lower grades of beef come from range cattle that have only been on grass pasture or in the woods, or from dairy cows that are marketed for slaughter because they no longer produce milk.

    I don't know if American Wagyu beef goes into a feed lot or not, but I suspect it doesn't. That's because this breed can produce high quality, well-marbled beef if it is fed grain while on grass pasture. But I think the key is to feed them all the grain they want daily during the months they are being finished. That's called feeding free choice. I have bought American Wagyu beef that was supposedly grain fed that obviously wasn't. When questioned they admitted the cattle were fed grain only a few times a month. Snake River Farms told me they feed them grain daily.

    I earned a good bit of my college money buying underfed range calves, and putting them on lush rye (in winter) and millet (in summer) pasture while feeding them ground corn free choice. The skinny calves gained weight quickly, and in three months I sold them on the auction market for a good profit. I did this every 3-4 months for two years while I was in high school. A popular way to feed a steer for slaughter on a farm is to feed it in a pen so it doesn't walk or run some of the weight off that you are trying to put on it. That's how I fed steers for slaughter.

    Attached are pictures.
    Last edited by RAmorris; August 28, 2015, 02:38 AM.

    Now that is an interesting and accurate post. Thanks for sharing!


      Very informative. Thanks for sharing RAmorris.


        Very cool, unfortunately ignorance far outreaches education. My family still raises cattle and it never ends with the questions of abuse and torture and all of that we MUST be doing. Unfortunately I gave up trying to educate anyone but my own family, stupid and stubborn seem to go hand in hand.


          You have just hit the ball out of the park!! This is much better information to disseminate to the uninformed masses, particularly the kids than a lot of the BS they get from TV, the PTA, and the rest of the Village Idiots! The same description could have been used on our family farm in North Central ND.
          Ten miles South of the Canadian Line. Just one difference in terminology it was called On Full Feed once they were warmed up so they wouldn't eat themselves to death. Thanks for the Memories, Dan


            I think the distinction some make is in the definition of the term "grain". In my home province of Alberta, Canada, we are known for having some of the world's best beef and if you ask people why, they say it's because it's "grain" finished. What they mean up here by "grain" is that it is finished with barley only and not corn.

            I have had beef in both countries and although I am highly biased because I love where I live, Alberta beef is superior to all non highly specialized Snake River or Wagyu type producers.


            • Danjohnston949
              Danjohnston949 commented
              Editing a comment
              You Sir live in one Beautiful part of the World. I agree with your definition of Feed Grain, in general screenings the cleanings from the grain elevator were ground with Barley, Wheat and in later years Corn. What was added in depended on what type of screenings were available. The resulting feed was called Chop or ground feed. Dan

            Most of my beef comes from Brasstown Beef, a family operation in North Carolina. They raise similarly to SRF, cattle are on pasture but have grain available. The beef is really good, expensive but not in the SRF range.

            Here's a link to their "About Us" page:http://www.brasstownbeef.com/#!our-story/c42f


              Good stuff RAmorris. Cover story in this month's Consumer Reports is on beef and safety has good additional info.



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