Saturday, May 7, 2011

Q & A Saturdays

I'm starting a new feature on the blog to answer common questions my city friends have about agriculture. This week, I reached out to my Facebook and Twitter contacts and came up with this question to answer:

Q: Does the average beef animal spend its entire life on a feedlot?

A: Definitely not. There is a common misconception that calves are born on the feedlot and stay there until they are slaughtered. The reality is a much better picture. On farms like mine, baby calves are born in the spring and graze on big, open pastures. We move our cows and calves to a lake pasture when they are a month or two old to give them more room. They live like this for a few more months until the babies are weaned from their mothers at about 6 months of age for the health and well being of the mother and calf. After weaning, most calves are sent to back-grounding operations, which we also run on our farm, to be fed high roughage diets like silage. From 6 or 7 to one year of age, cattle live in back grounding pens which are generally very open and heavily bedded for the comfort of the cattle. At one year, cattle are sent to the feedyard where they will be kept for 4-6 months, or until they reach finished weight.
One of our back grounding pens for calves 6-12 months
The dams(mothers) and sires(fathers) of these feedlot calves will stay on a farm like ours for as long as they are producing calves. They live out their lives in wide open pastures, being bred and having a new calf every year.
One of the calving fields where the cows raise the young calves

So there you have it, folks. The average beef animal destined for your plate will only spend 4-6 months of it's life in a feedlot, where they are well looked after by pen-checkers and managers. If this question & answer has left you with more questions, please comment and ask!

1 comment:

  1. Great explanation! Love your idea for Q&A Saturdays and look forward to more.