Beef cattle

Backgrounding is a beef production system that involves maximal use of pasture and forages from the time calves are weaned until they are placed in a feedlot.

Beef calf

On average, about 2.2 years elapse between breeding and the age at which heifer calves may be slaughtered. Producers may retain these calves for herd expansion or sell them, along with steers, to feedlot operators. The beef cow-calf business is well adapted to small-scale and part-time farmers who have land suitable for pasture and hay production.

Dairy Beef

Production of high-quality dairy-beef is relatively new to the beef industry and depends almost entirely on Holstein bull calves. Until recently, most Holstein calves were sold for veal. However, the high-quality meat produced when these animals are fed high-energy diets and harvested at a young age (12 to 14 months) has become popular with consumers.

Beef Cattle in feedlot

Beef cattle feeding is possible on small and part-time farms, but the cost of feeding drops significantly as the size of the operation increases. While it is a high-risk business, less land is required for a cattle feeding operation than for a cow-calf enterprise.

Steroid-based implants have been used in beef cattle production to improve average daily gain (ADG) and feed efficiency (FE) for over five decades. Often simply referred to as “implants,” they have grown in popularity because, depending on the strategy used, cattle that are implanted have a 10 to 15 percent increase in ADG when compared with cattle that are not implanted and an 8 to 12 percent increase in FE.

Figure 1. Conversion of glucose to acetate. Source: "Digestion: The Fermentative Processes"

This article explains how the use of ionophores--antibiotics that shift ruminal fermentation patterns--can improve cattle production efficiency.

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This illustrated guide includes plant layouts and facilities, regulatory agencies and utilities, management, and elementary feasibility calculations for the meat packing business.