Colorado Reader: The Story of Colorado Beef 2022-2023: Issue 3 | Page 3

Explore The Beef Life Cycle

The journey of raising beef is one of the most complex of any food . This is because the nutritional needs of a beef animal change during its life .
As the animal moves through its life stages , one thing remains the same . Cattlemen and cattlewomen raise beef animals in a safe , humane , and environmentally-friendly way . They make the best use of natural resources , like land , water , and energy . They protect those resources not only for today , but also for the future . The result is a delicious and nutritious food . You can feel good about eating beef .
Source : BeefItsWhatsForDinner . com

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COW-CALF FARM OR RANCH : Raising beef begins with ranchers . These ranchers have a herd of cows . The cows give birth to calves once a year . Calves can be born any time during the year , but most are born from January to May . About 40 percent are born in the fall . When a calf is born , it can weigh between 60 to 100 pounds . For the first six months of its life , each calf will live off its mother ’ s milk and eat grass .
WEANING : Calves are weaned or separated from their mother ’ s milk at six to ten months of age . At this weaning stage , they weigh between 450 and 700 pounds . These calves continue to eat grass . They may also eat a small amount of feed . This feed is plant based and gives the calves extra energy and protein to help them grow .
STOCKERS AND BACKGROUNDERS : After weaning , the calves may be sold to ranchers called stockers or backgrounders . These ranchers continue to care for the calves . The calves grow and thrive by eating grass in pastures . The calves also eat additional feed , which includes vitamins and minerals . This additional feed makes sure the animals are getting all of their nutritional needs .
AUCTION MARKETS : After weaning and / or during the stocker and backgrounder phase , many calves leave the farm or ranch where they were born . They may be sold at livestock auction markets , online auctions , or through a company cattle buyer . The calves are typically between 6-12 months of age at this stage .
FEEDYARD : Mature cattle are often moved to feedyards . Here cattle typically spend four to six months . They are free to eat at feed bunks . The feed is a carefully balanced diet made up of roughage and grain . Roughage can be hay and grass . Grains include corn , wheat , and soybean meal . Veterinarians , nutritionists , and caretakers work together to provide individual care for each animal .
PACKING PLANT : Cattle reach market weight around 1,200 to 1,400 pounds at 18 to 22 months of age . They are then sent to a packing plant ( also called a processing facility ). United States Department of Agriculture ( USDA ) inspectors oversee safety , animal welfare , and quality standards . Their goal is to make sure all standards are met . There are strict standards from the time animals enter the plant until the final beef products are shipped to grocery stores and restaurants .
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