One Steer’s Journey

What exactly happens to a baby calf when it grows up?  Some calves go on to be breeding bulls, replacement heifers, or finished for beef.  This story will follow one of our steer calves that we kept to provide beef for our family.

Did you know Americans eat about 50 billion hamburgers annually?  I don’t know about you but I love ground beef- it can be used for so many different dishes including hamburgers, tacos, chili, lasagna, and so much more.  Our family decided a few years ago that we should keep one steer annually and finish him for beef (which is about a two year process).  We made this decision based on the availability of processors in our area and the increased cost of beef in the store.  We also knew that we were raising quality cattle and surely they would taste good (and they do)!

Steer 402 is our 2nd steer we have finished for beef.  He was born on October 7, 2014.  His dam was a red commercial cow we owned that was 1/2 Hereford and 1/2 Santa Gertrudis and his sire was a registered Black Angus.

DSCN9477

Steer 402 with his dam as a newborn calf.

Got Milk?

Got Milk?

He was such a cute calf and had one of the best moms in our herd, she produced so much milk!  For the next 6 months, he stayed with mom and grew.  We castrate all our bull calves when they are a few months old and start their first round of vaccines.  All calves are weaned between 6 and 8 months of age.  This particular calf crop (fall 2014) had about half bull calves and half heifer calves.  After weaning, some calves are sold either as feeder calves or replacement heifers and others may be kept back for various reasons.  We usually keep a couple of replacement heifers from time to time and then of course we have started keeping one steer.  Steer 402 was kept in the spring of 2015 when all of his half-siblings were sold.  He got to move into the bull pen to keep our bull company (the bull pictured is his sire, later he would get a new bull friend).

Steer 402 in August 2015

Steer 402 in August 2015 eating grain.

From weaning time until finishing time, life is very easy for 402.  He lounged around mainly eating forage (grass or hay) and was supplemented with grain for extra protein and energy.  It usually takes close to two years to finish cattle on a pasture with some supplementation.

Winter 2015

Winter 2015

You can tell by the above photo that he did a lot of growing between August and the winter of 2015.  In the winter, the bull is brought in to breed the cows from December-March and the steer gets to rejoin the herd at that time.  After the bull is finished breeding, the steer goes back to the bull pen until he is ready for processing.

May 2016

May 2016

July 2016

July 2016- Here 402 is pictured with his new bull friend, Boomer!

Not a whole lot of difference from May 2016 to July 2016 except for fat cover.  This is period of time towards the end of finishing where the steer starts to lay down fat.  Fat helps with marbling and flavor.  Careful though because you do not want the steer to become overly fat.  I made an estimate based on 402’s frame size that he would finish around 1,200 lbs.  We walked him across the scale on the day he went to the processor (August 8, 2016) and he weighed 1,100 lbs.  He will dress out around 55-60% of his live weight and then all the bone is removed for the various cuts of beef (we like everything boneless).  We will take home around 400 or so pounds of beef once the bones are removed.  We now have to wait two weeks while the beef ages before it is cut and we can pick it up to fill our freezers.  It will take our family an entire year to eat this much beef!  We get steaks, roasts, stew meat, ground beef, and so much more from this one steer.  We are very thankful that we can supply calves into the beef industry for you to eat as well as for us to eat.

Beef, It's What's For Dinner!

Beef, It’s What’s For Dinner!

Now, go and enjoy some beef today! 🙂

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About Lauren Langley

Co-manager at 3B Cattle Company, Livestock Extension Agent at NCSU/Alamance County, NCSU Alumni
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