In our last post, we talked about a cow-calf farm. The goal on a cow-calf farm is to have a new crop of calves every year, and to sell the calves sometime around 4-8 months old. Once the calves are sold, they typically go to a feedlot.
The goal at a feedlot is to, well, feed the calves a lot. We want to get the calves to grow to around 1000 pounds to be ready to sell for beef. (Then they are called “finished” cattle.) On a grain-fed farm, this will usually be around the time the cattle are 18 months old.
This steer is just about finished. I took this photo about 6 weeks ago, and he has probably been sold already.
Okay, so now that we know how cows can eat grass and get the nutrients they need, let’s talk about what exactly they do eat.
Our beef cows are on pasture (grass) for as much of the year is possible. Here in southwest Indiana, that usually means they are eating grass as their primary food from May through September. Give or take. It really depends on the weather and how well the grass grows.
During the winter, we feed them hay. We grow our own hay and bale it during the summer. We store the hay in large round bales inside our barn to keep it dry and out of the weather until we need to feed it to the cows. Here is my 6’4″ husband John standing next to one of our hay bales. Each bale weighs between 1200-1500 pounds. John moves them around with a tractor and can stack them three high in our barn.