Products from Beef Production
Typically, we think of beef cattle being produced only for meat production for human consumption. Obviously, the meat is processed into many nutritious products, including, steaks, roasts, hamburger, sausages, etc. However, there are several valuable byproducts from the beef animal that also serve mankind. These include leather goods, fertilizers, cosmetics, drugs, hair products, perfumes, gelatin products, glues and animal feed byproducts, to name a few.
Byproducts from each 1,000 lbs steer are worth $96 ($3.4 billion annually for the U.S.) and benefits the consumer with health, clothing and nutritional products.
Segments of the Beef Industry
The beef industry encompasses all segments from conception of the animal to the delivery of food to the consumer's table. The cow-calf production sector involves breeding of cows with bulls or artificial insemination, conception, gestation, birth of the calf and lactation periods until weaning of the calf from the cow. The calf is weaned at approximately 500 to 600 lbs. live weight or about 6 to 8 months of age. From this age, the calves are usually fed on grassland until they weigh approximately 750 to 800 lbs. live weight when they are called stocker cattle. Stocker calves are placed in a confinement feedlot for approximately 90 to 120 days until they reach a live weight of 1100 to 1250 lbs. On some farms, depending on the availability of feed, weaned calves may be placed directly into a confinement feedlot for growing and finishing, skipping the grassland phase.
In today's specialized beef industry, one producer may operate a cow-calf business producing weaned calves, another producer may background the calves on forage or pastureland, and still another may finish the stocker cattle in the feedlot. Some cattle businesses manage all three sectors of beef production; however, these are typically relatively small production units. Often, several large producers from the various phases form alliances to enhance the flow of cattle through the process. Also, there are specialized heifer replacement operations with the objective of producing genetically superior females to be placed into breeding herds to supply better calves for beef production.