Beef on the Farm

Brown Swiss
Photo by Alison Wolfgram

The Robinsons raise beef cattle on their family farm in Fredericktown, Ohio. The cattle come out of their Brown Swiss dairy herd. Steer are preferred over bulls because of their calmer demeaner and placement of body mass. The majority of the body mass of a bull is up by its neck, where as, the prime cuts of meat develop in the back half of the steer.

Holstein bull
Holstein bull. See how thick his neck is.
He probably weighs 2,500 pounds!
Brown Swiss steer
Brown Swiss steer in the Robinsons' barn
Photo by Alison Wolfgram

How are the animals in the above pictures different? What factors contribute to their differences? What is the difference between a bull and a steer? A cow and a heifer? Dairy cattle versus beef cattle?

How does the food you eat affect how you feel? I bet you get jumpy when you eat sugar or caffeine. The same thing happens to cattle; the feed they consume affects how they act and taste. Beef cattle are fed corn and hay along with various vitamins and minerals. Corn provides energy and hay stimulates the rumen. The hay is scratchy; it tickles the cattles' thoats causing them to eat more, making them bigger, faster.

Dairy steer gain, on average, 2.8 pounds a day. It usually takes fourteen months to get the animal to its ideal weight of 1,300-1,400 pounds (the weight at slaughter time). Once a dairy steer surpasses 1,400 pounds the farmer begins to lose money based on the conversion of feed to body mass. The animal has to eat more to keep itself full plus even more to gain weight.

Have you ever driven through Texas, Nebraska, Kansas, or Oklahoma (the top beef producing states in the Union)? Did you pass any feedlots on your journey? The majority of the meat that you see in grocery stores, such as, Kroger, Jewel, Piggly Wiggly, Big Bear, Albertson's, and Winn-Dixie comes from cattle raised on feedlots. However this was not always the case. What do you know about cowboys?

Feedlot steer
Feedlot steer

Moo Wonder icon What happens once the farmer is ready to sell his or her cattle?

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