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Beef Cattle Finishing Advice


We've all heard, "Beef - it's what's for dinner." To get beef from the pasture to your plate, cattle undergo a finishing process. Since World War I, it has been common practice for farmers to send their cattle to feedlots to be finished to ideal slaughter size and weight. Feedlots enable cattle to be finished uniformly, generally with plentiful grains to produce high quality beef consumers expect.

Cattle transition to the finishing phase when they weigh 750-900 pounds. "Continental breeds (Charolais, Simmental, Limousin) should start on a finishing program at lighter weights in order to 'finish' at a weight acceptable to processors," says Mike Peacock, Southern States Manager of Beef Feed Sales. Farmers need to monitor body weight and rates of gain rather than relying simply on age when determining when best to process their cattle.

"The finishing phase typically lasts 120-180 days," explains David Baber, Southern States Feed Sales and Technical Representative." Three pounds average daily gain over a 150 day feeding period equals 450 total pounds of gain." Angus (and other British breeds like Hereford and Shorthorn) will finish at 1,300 pounds live weight, while continental breeds might weigh up to 1,450 pounds.

Cattle can be either grain-finished or grass-finished. Grain-finishing is more efficient and takes less time than grass-finishing. According to the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, "U.S. grain fed beef has earned a worldwide reputation for its quality, consistency and taste." Grain-fed beef has a rich flavor and tenderness associated with it. "Grass-finishing takes much more time, due to the lack of energy in grasses," remarks Baber.

Grain-finishing relies on high levels of energy to drive daily gain and minimize cost of production. The key is a properly formulated ration. Common ingredients used in grain feeding include: corn silage, ground corn, protein supplement, mineral with ionophore (Bovatec or Rumensin) and a small amount of hay. Baber suggests using Southern States Tender Beef™ and whole shell corn to put pounds of gain on rapidly. If you are looking to minimize your cost of gain, 50% Beef Supplement or 40% Pro Pass works well with ground corn or corn silage.

Depending on how you plan to market your beef, there are two additional certification options. Producers can choose to be USDA certified natural or organic beef. Natural beef can be grain or grass fed and prohibits antibiotic or growth hormone use. Organic beef mirrors the stringent natural beef requirements, however the cattle must consume 100% organic feed.

Contact your local Feed Sales and Technical Representative to develop a finishing program for your herd.


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