What is a Beef Farm?
A Beef Farm successful operator is first and foremost a good steward of the land or learns to be one right off, stewards take care of things. Stewards of the land use it to grow things and keep it sustainable for future generations. This includes being careful to prevent erosion and keeping it fertile so it grows plants well now and into the future. A good Beef Farm steward is always concerned about water quality and wildlife.
A Beef Farm must have enough pasture land to sustain the planned size of beef cattle herd. A pasture is visualized as a field full of grass that cattle eat on their own.
For sustainability it is preferable for a beef farm to have ample crop land that is fertile and fairly level. It will be used to grow crops that are harvested and fed to the beef cattle.
Forage on a Beef Farm
Forage on a beef farm is any plant that cattle can consume as feed or food. Most often it will simply be pasture or hay. Hay is forage or grass that has been cut, dried and packaged for storage and easy handling. This packaging is in the form of bundles that are called small square bales, large square bales or rolls. These bundles of hay will be stored on the beef farm for feeding later.
The beef farm factory is the herd of cattle. A herd is usually thought of as a cow-calf group of cattle that are kept in a pasture on the beef farm or ranch. Below is a brief explanation of the animals that may make up the herd of cattle.
- A bull is a male of the cattle species that has not been castrated. He is also referred to as a sire or male parent, the father. A beef farm will usually maintain about one bull to each 25 cows.
- A cow is a female bovine that has had a calf. The bulk of the beef farm cattle herd will be made up of cows that are old enough to produce a calf each 12 months. A beef cow usually has her first calf at about 2 years of age and a calf each 12 months thereafter. The cow is also referred to as a dam and is the female parent of the calves.
- A calf is the new born bovine and continues to be called a calf as long as it is nursing or drinking milk from its mother. This is usually from the time of birth up until about 6 to 10 months of age when the beef calf is weaned.
- A stocker is a weaned calf managed as a growing animal after weaning. On average a stocker is kept on pasture with good forage and allowed to grow for several more months. From stockers the next step is on to what is called either Grass Fed or Grain Fed.
- A weaned calf may also go into a backgrounding program. In backgrounding the weaned calf at about 6 to 10 months old is put in a lot and harvested feed is brought in. The calf is allowed to grow for several months before being sent to the feedlot for grain finishing.
Most all Grass Fed animals are kept on grass pasture with ample lush forage that allows them to gain about two pounds per day until harvest time. To provide a good product they should be harvested while still gaining at least two pounds per day. Grass fed beef is claimed to be healthier than grain fed and is more expensive.
Grain Fed animals are kept in a smaller more confined area called a feedlot. Feedlots are facilities where all the feed the animals eat is brought in and placed in easily accessible feed bunks. Their diet is feed that is high in grain content that allows them to gain weight very quickly. Due to adequate amounts of a well balanced ration many will gain over four pounds per day in the feedlot.
Whether Grass Fed or Grain Fed the optimum time for harvesting beef farm animals is considered to be when they reach about 1100 to 1200 pounds.