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]

Breed Location of Origin Description
Adaptaur Australia A tropically adapted Bos taurus breed, developed from crosses between Herefords and Shorthorns.
Afrikaner cattle South Africa Afrikaners are usually deep red with long spreading horns. They have the small cervico-thoracic hump typical of Sanga cattle.
Angus Scotland Pure black, sometimes with white at udder. Polled.
Australian Braford Australia Developed for resistance to ticks and for heat tolerance by crossing Brahmans and Herefords.
Australian Brangus Australia Polled breed developed by crossing Angus and Brahman
Australian Charbray Australia Developed by crossing Charolais and Brahman and selected for resistance to heat, humidity, parasites and diseases.
Beefmaster Texas Developed by breeding the Brahman, Shorthorn, and Hereford.
Belted Galloway Scotland Black with white band around middle, stocky, fairly long hair, polled. Very hardy and thrifty.
Belgian Blue Belgium Grey roan, or white with grey on head. Extremely muscular. Fast-growing if well-fed.
Belmont Red Australia A composite breed using Africander (African Sanga) and Hereford-Shorthorn
Black Hereford Great 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'Aquitaine Aquitaine region of south-west France. Pale brown, paler round eyes and nose. Muscular. Fast-growing if well-fed.
Bonsmara South Africa Developed from 5/8 Afrikaner, 3/16 Hereford and 3/16 Shorthorn animals.
Boran Eastern Africa Usually white, with the bulls being darker (sometimes almost black).
Brahman India Large, pendulous ears and dewlaps, hump over the shoulders
Brangus United States Developed by crossing Angus and Brahman
British White Great Britain White, with black (or sometimes red) ears, nose and feet; polled (hornless). Hardy and thrifty.
Caracu Brazil
Charolais Charolais France Wholly white or cream, lyre-shaped pale horns, or polled. Fast-growing if well-fed.
Chianina Italy Dual purpose, originally large draft breed, later selected for beef.
Corriente Mexico Hardy, 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 Lageano Iberian Peninsula 400 years old longhorn breed with around 700 individuals that live close to the plateau of Lages, Santa Catarina, Brazil.
Dexter Southwest of Ireland Very small, black or dun, dark horns. Sometimes has a dwarfing gene leading to very short legs. Hardy and thrifty.
Droughtmaster Australia Developed by crossing Brahman cattle with taurine breeds, especially Beef Shorthorn. Tolerant of heat and ticks.
English Longhorn Midlands 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 Cracker Florida, USA Small, criollo-type descended from cattle brought to the Southern U.S. by the Spanish Conquistadors. Adapted to subtropical climate, parasite-resistant. Endangered breed
Galloway Galloway region of Scotland Black, stocky, fairly long hair, polled. Very hardy and thrifty.
Gascon cattle French Pyrenees Grey, hardy, maternal breed. Good growth and conformation of calves. Suitable for all farming systems, bred pure or crossed with a terminal sire
Gelbvieh Germany Red, strong skin pigmentation, polled. Superior fertility, calving ease, mothering ability, and growth rate of calves.[8]
Han-u Korea
Hereford Herefordshire, England Red, white head, white finching on neck, and white switch.
Highland Scotland. 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 Grey Hungary. Robust, easy-calving and long-lived. Horns long, curved and directed upward. Slender and tall. Well adapted to extensive pasture systems.
Irish Moiled Northwest of Ireland. Red with white back and belly, or white with red ears, nose and feet. Polled. Hardy and thrifty.
Limousin Limousin and Marche regions of France. Mid-brown, paler round eyes and nose. Fast-growing if well-fed.
Lowline Australia Developed by selectively breeding small Angus cattle.
Luing The 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-Anjou Anjou region in West France. Red-and-white pied.
Mocho Nacional Brazil Polled
Murray Grey South Eastern Australia Grey 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.
Nelore India Exported to Brazil, where it has become a dominant breed.
Nguni South Africa Extremely 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 Devon Devon, Cornwall and Somerset: the West Country in the south-west of England. Ruby-red, white tail switch, white horns.
Piedmontese Piedmont Bred both for beef and dairy production; double muscled. White colored and possessing myostatin genes.
Pineywoods Gulf coast, USA Landrace heritage endangered breed, lean, small, adapted to climate of the deep south, disease-resistant. Short horns, various colors, often spotted
Pinzgauer Austria A 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 Angus Scotland Colour variety of Angus: solid red. Polled.
Red Poll East Anglia in England Red with white switch, polled (hornless), dual purpose.
Red Sindhi Sindh in Pakistan Red Sindhi cattle are the most popular of all Zebu dairy breeds. In Pakistan, they are kept for beef production or dairy farming.
Romagnola Italy Bred primarily for beef production; often used as draught beasts in the past. White or grey with black pigmented skin and upward curving horns.
Romosinuano Colombia
Salers France Red. Hardy, easy calving.
Santa Gertrudis Southern Texas Developed by crossing red Shorthorn and Brahma
Simmental Western Switzerland Yellowish-brown, white head. Fast-growing if well-fed. Dual purpose (beef, dairy).
Shorthorn/Beef Shorthorn Northern England Red, red with white back and belly, or white.
Square Meater New South Wales, Australia Small, grey or silver, polled; similar to Murray Grey.
Sussex South-east England Rich chestnut red with white tail switch and white horns. Also used for draught until the early 20th century. Hardy and thrifty.
Tabapuan Brazil
Tajima Japan Black Wagyu bred for internationally renown beefs such as Kobe and Matsuzaka.
Texas Longhorn Texas Various 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.
Wagyū Japan Black, horned, and noted for heavy marbling (intramuscular fat deposition).
Welsh Black Wales Black, white upswept horns with black tips. Hardy.
White Park Great Britain, Ireland. White, with black (or sometimes red) ears, nose and feet; white horns with dark tips. Hardy and thrifty.

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