Beef cattle

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A young bull of the Blonde d'Aquitaine breed.
Japanese wagyu bull on a farm north of Kobe

Beef cattle are cattle raised for meat production (as distinguished from dairy cattle, used for milk production). The meat of adult cattle is known as beef. There are three main stages in beef production: cow-calf operations, backgrounding, and feedlot operations. When raised in a feedlot, cattle are known as feeder cattle. Many such feeder cattle are born in cow-calf operations specifically designed to produce beef calves. While the principal use of beef cattle is meat production, other uses include leather, and products used in shampoo and cosmetics.

Breeding and calving[edit]

Besides breeding to meet the demand for beef production, owners also use selective breeding to attain specific traits in their beef cattle, such as leaner meat [1] or resistance to illness.[2] Breeds known as dual-purpose breeds are also used for beef production. These breeds have been selected for two purposes at once, such as for both beef and dairy production, or both beef and draught. Dual-purpose breeds include the Brown Swiss and many of the Zebu breeds of India such as Tharparkar and Ongole Cattle. The original Shorthorn was also a dual-purpose breed, but it diverged into two groups through selective breeding.

Most beef cattle are mated naturally, whereby a bull is released into a cowherd approximately six weeks after calving period. However, beef cattle can also be bred through artificial insemination.[1] Cattle are normally bred during the summer so that calving may occur the following spring.[1] However, cattle breeding can occur at other times of year, such as late summer to early fall. Owners can select the breeding time based on a number of factors, including reproductive performance and seasonal cattle pricing.[1]

Cattle Maintenance[edit]

Cattle handlers are expected to maintain a low stress environment for their herds, involving constant safety, health, comfort, nourishment and humane handling. According to the Canadian National Farm Animal Care Council, beef cattle must have access to shelter from extreme weather, safe handling and equipment, veterinary care and humane slaughter.[3] If an animal is infected or suspected to have an illness, its owners are to report it immediately to a practicing veterinarian for either treatment or euthanasia. Due to the density of herd populations, illnesses can spread very quickly between cattle.[4] Owners are expected to monitor their cattle’s condition regularly for early detection and treatment, as cattle illness can threaten both cattle and human health [3] as witnessed with Mad cow disease. On average, cattle will consume 1.4 to 4% of their body weight daily.[5] Cattle weighing 1000 lbs. will drink an average of 41 L a day, and approximately 82 L in hot weather.[6]

Cattle Processing[edit]

A steer that weighs 1,000 lb (450 kg) when alive will make a carcass weighing about 615 lb (280 kg), once the blood, head, feet, skin, offal and guts have been removed. The carcass will then be hung in a cold room for between one and four weeks, during which time it loses some weight as water dries from the meat. When boned and cut by a butcher or packing house this carcass would then make about 430 lb (200 kg) of beef.[7]

Beef cattle breeds[edit]

BreedLocation of OriginDescription
AdaptaurAustraliaA tropically adapted Bos taurus breed, developed from crosses between Herefords and Shorthorns.
Afrikaner cattleSouth AfricaAfrikaners are usually deep red with long spreading horns. They have the small cervico-thoracic hump typical of Sanga cattle.
AngusScotlandPure black, sometimes with white at udder. Polled.
Australian BrafordAustraliaDeveloped for resistance to ticks and for heat tolerance by crossing Brahmans and Herefords.
Australian BrangusAustraliaPolled breed developed by crossing Angus and Brahman
Australian CharbrayAustraliaDeveloped by crossing Charolais and Brahman and selected for resistance to heat, humidity, parasites and diseases.
BeefmasterTexasDeveloped by breeding the Brahman, Shorthorn, and Hereford.
Belted GallowayScotlandBlack with white band around middle, stocky, fairly long hair, polled. Very hardy and thrifty.
Belgian BlueBelgiumGrey roan, or white with grey on head. Extremely muscular. Fast-growing if well-fed.
Belmont RedAustraliaA composite breed using Africander (African Sanga) and Hereford-Shorthorn
Black HerefordGreat Britain.Black, white head. A hybrid produced by crossing a Hereford bull with Holstein or Friesian cows; used to obtain beef offspring from dairy cows. Not maintained as a separate breed, although females may be used for further breeding with other beef bulls.
Blonde d'AquitaineAquitaine region of south-west France.Pale brown, paler round eyes and nose. Muscular. Fast-growing if well-fed.
BonsmaraSouth AfricaDeveloped from 5/8 Afrikaner, 3/16 Hereford and 3/16 Shorthorn animals.
BoranEastern AfricaUsually white, with the bulls being darker (sometimes almost black).
BrahmanIndiaLarge, pendulous ears and dewlaps, hump over the shoulders
BrangusUnited StatesDeveloped by crossing Angus and Brahman
British WhiteGreat BritainWhite, with black (or sometimes red) ears, nose and feet; polled (hornless). Hardy and thrifty.
CharolaisCharolais FranceWholly white or cream, lyre-shaped pale horns, or polled. Fast-growing if well-fed.
ChianinaItalyDual purpose, originally large draft breed, later selected for beef.
CorrienteMexicoHardy, small, athletic, criollo-type, descended from Iberian cattle. Used in rodeo sports, noted for lean meat. Short horns,various colors, often spotted. Also called Criollo or Chinampo
Crioulo LageanoIberian Peninsula400 years old longhorn breed with around 700 individuals that live close to the plateau of Lages, Santa Catarina, Brazil.
DexterSouthwest of IrelandVery small, black or dun, dark horns. Sometimes has a dwarfing gene leading to very short legs. Hardy and thrifty.
DroughtmasterAustraliaDeveloped by crossing Brahman cattle with taurine breeds, especially Beef Shorthorn. Tolerant of heat and ticks.
English LonghornMidlands of England.Red or brindle, with white back and belly. Very long cylindrical horns usually spreading sideways or downwards, often curving and even eventually making a circle. Medium size, hardy.
Florida CrackerFlorida, USASmall, criollo-type descended from cattle brought to the Southern U.S. by the Spanish Conquistadors. Adapted to subtropical climate, parasite-resistant. Endangered breed
GallowayGalloway region of ScotlandBlack, stocky, fairly long hair, polled. Very hardy and thrifty.
Gascon cattleFrench PyreneesGrey, hardy, maternal breed. Good growth and conformation of calves. Suitable for all farming systems, bred pure or crossed with a terminal sire
GelbviehGermanyRed, strong skin pigmentation, polled. Superior fertility, calving ease, mothering ability, and growth rate of calves.[8]
HerefordHerefordshire, EnglandRed, white head, white finching on neck, and white switch.
HighlandScotland.Small, stocky; black, red, dun or white. Very long coat and very long pale horns, upswept in cows and steers. Very hardy and thrifty.
Hungarian GreyHungary.Robust, easy-calving and long-lived. Horns long, curved and directed upward. Slender and tall. Well adapted to extensive pasture systems.
Irish MoiledNorthwest of Ireland.Red with white back and belly, or white with red ears, nose and feet. Polled. Hardy and thrifty.
LimousinLimousin and Marche regions of France.Mid-brown, paler round eyes and nose. Fast-growing if well-fed.
LowlineAustraliaDeveloped by selectively breeding small Angus cattle.
LuingThe isle of Luing /ˈlɪŋ/ and surrounding islands in the Inner Hebrides, Scotland.Rough coat, red-brown, polled. Bred by crossing Beef Shorthorn with Highland. Very hardy and thrifty.
Maine-AnjouAnjou region in West France.Red-and-white pied.
Mocho NacionalBrazilPolled
Murray GreySouth Eastern AustraliaGrey or silver polled cattle developed from a roan Shorthorn cow and an Angus bull. Easy-care versatile cattle that have been exported to many countries.
NeloreIndiaExported to Brazil, where it has become a dominant breed.
NguniSouth AfricaExtremely hardy breed developed by Nguni tribes for harsh African conditions. Originally derived from the African Sanga Cattle, although quite distinct. Three subgroups are recognised, Makhatini, Swazi and Pedi.
North DevonDevon, Cornwall and Somerset: the West Country in the south-west of England.Ruby-red, white tail switch, white horns.
PiedmontesePiedmontBred both for beef and dairy production; double muscled. White colored and possessing myostatin genes.
PineywoodsGulf coast, USALandrace heritage endangered breed, lean, small, adapted to climate of the deep south, disease-resistant. Short horns, various colors, often spotted
PinzgauerAustriaA breed of cattle indigenous to the Pinz Valley, near Salzburg, Austria. Reared and used as dairy cattle in Europe although they are well adapted to drier landscapes of there USA, Australia and Southern Africa where they are kept for beef production or dual purposes. Solid red with very distinctive white blaze from wither, down to tail tip and underside.
Red AngusScotlandColour variety of Angus: solid red. Polled.
Red PollEast Anglia in EnglandRed with white switch, polled (hornless), dual purpose.
Red SindhiSindh in PakistanRed Sindhi cattle are the most popular of all Zebu dairy breeds. In Pakistan, they are kept for beef production or dairy farming.
RomagnolaItalyBred primarily for beef production; often used as draught beasts in the past. White or grey with black pigmented skin and upward curving horns.
SalersFranceRed. Hardy, easy calving.
Santa GertrudisSouthern TexasDeveloped by crossing red Shorthorn and Brahma
SimmentalWestern SwitzerlandYellowish-brown, white head. Fast-growing if well-fed. Dual purpose (beef, dairy).
Shorthorn/Beef ShorthornNorthern EnglandRed, red with white back and belly, or white.
Square MeaterNew South Wales, AustraliaSmall, grey or silver, polled; similar to Murray Grey.
SussexSouth-east EnglandRich chestnut red with white tail switch and white horns. Also used for draught until the early 20th century. Hardy and thrifty.
TajimaJapanBlack Wagyu bred for internationally renown beefs such as Kobe and Matsuzaka.
Texas LonghornTexasVarious colours, with very long, tapering, upswept horns – extending as much as 80 inches (2.0 m) tip to tip. Very hardy in dry climates. Light muscled, so bulls often used for first-calf heifers.
WagyūJapanBlack, horned, and noted for heavy marbling (intramuscular fat deposition).
Welsh BlackWalesBlack, white upswept horns with black tips. Hardy.
White ParkGreat Britain, Ireland.White, with black (or sometimes red) ears, nose and feet; white horns with dark tips. Hardy and thrifty.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Template:Publisher= University of Guelph, Animal Sciences
  2. ^ Template:Publisher=RealAgricultureOnline
  3. ^ a b Template:Publisher= Agriculture Canada
  4. ^ Template:Publisher= Agriculture Canada
  5. ^ Template:Publisher= Ministry of Agriculture Alberta
  6. ^ Template:Publisher= Agriculture Canada
  7. ^ Template:Publisher= Oklahoma Food Safety Division
  8. ^ "Breeds of Livestock". Gelbvieh. Archived from the original on 4 November 2008. Retrieved 2008-11-11. 

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