How to Raise a Cow for Slaughter

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Raising cattle is less labor intensive than traditional farming.
Raising cattle is less labor intensive than traditional farming. (Image: Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com/Getty Images)

Raising beef cattle often yields a very high return on investment while also being less labor intensive than other forms of farming. Pastures are best for soil conservation. However, more and more commonly, farmers are switching to the factory farm method, which is essentially growing cattle like a plant instead of raising them. Some farmers keep a herd of cows to produce calves, while other operations called background, feeder or stocker farms purchase calves at about 4 to 500 pounds and raise them until they weigh about 700 pounds. Finally, the feedlot farmer purchases newly weaned or backgrounded cattle and raises them for slaughter.

Things You'll Need

  • Pasture
  • Fencing
  • Seed stock
  • Feed
  • Barn

Purchase weaned or backgrounded cattle. Most breeders produce their cattle in the spring to take advantage of spring grass. Others breed in fall to use fall grass. Either way, most cows are weaned at 6 to 8 months. Look at the animal's condition and health. Buy cows with a uniform frame size to be raised successfully together.

Put the cattle out to pasture. This involves leaving the cattle in a large fenced area and allowing them to graze. Although hotly debated, free-range cattle are thought to produce the best beef due to the lower stress levels they encounter.

Provide sufficient balanced nutrition to confined cattle. Confined cattle need feed, either produced locally or commercially purchased. Typically, a 650- to 800-lb cow will need to gain about 2.5 pounds per day by consuming 15 pounds of dry matter. Nutritional supplements providing vitamins, minerals and additional protein should be added according to the feed manufacturer's instructions. Cattle weighing 800 lbs will need about 20 pounds of dry matter each day. Dry matter includes hay, alfalfa, straw and grass. Cattle are commonly fed corn to fatten them up quicker, although it isn't part of their natural diet.

Manage the cows' health. Cattle are subject to many diseases. Make sure you have a skilled and reliable local veterinarian. Cattle will also need vaccinations against certain diseases. Calves vaccinated prior to purchase need booster vaccines periodically.

Sell your cattle to slaughterhouses, markets or other farmers, or slaughter them yourself and sell the beef to butchers.

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