Thursday, March 26, 2009

Introduction to raising beef

By David Burton

University Extension

Beef cattle producers usually raise beef for themselves, their family and friends according to Eldon Cole, a livestock specialist with University of Missouri Extension.

“Sometimes it is a planned process but once in a while the beef results from an accident like a broken leg, failure to breed or another injury,” said Cole.

Under normal conditions, the animal is fed a concentrate mixture for at least 75 to 90 days.

There are some who prefer “grass finishing,” in which case the steer or heifer is given high quality pasture or stored forage and harvested when the desired harvest weight is reached.

When more marbling is desired the grain feeding could continue to 120 to 150 days.

“Concentrate feeding should allow the animal to gain at least three pounds or more per day while the forage feeding will see slower gains in the two pound range,” said Cole. “It is strictly a matter of choice which method to follow.”

Cole says it is important to remember that grass finished cattle will average about a five to seven percent lower dressing percentage.

“We normally think steers are the ones most often finished, but heifers work just as well. The heifer will have more fat cover and typically will have more marbling (intramuscular fat) than a steer of similar genetic makeup,” said Cole.

Young bulls, harvested before 12 to 14 months of age, also make nice, lean beef.

Bulls are typically fed concentrates rather than being on a grass finishing regime.

Harvest weights also are a personal choice and may range from 800 to 1200 pounds or more.

“A lot depends on the preferred size of cuts, number of persons the beef will be shared with and how empty the freezer is. The average dressed weight will be 60 percent, plus or minus two to four percent,” said Cole.

After harvest, the beef should be allowed to age 14 days at least before processing. This aging process improves the tenderness and flavor of the beef, both concentrate and forage finished.

“Economics may not always favor raising your own beef, but the satisfaction of having done it and knowing what went into the process will keep farmers doing it,” said Cole.

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