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Farm and Forest Beef Cattle

Beef Cattle Facts Angus beef cattle

A calf weighs about 80 pounds at birth. The calf drinks mother's milk and eats grass for the first six months, until it is weaned from its mother. It weighs about 400 pounds at this time. 

From then on the calf eats grass and hay in the field until it is a year old, when it weighs around 700 to 800 pounds. 

A cow's diet is mainly grass and hay, with some feed supplements. Ruminate animals like cows and deer have a complex three or four part stomach that allows them to digest grass. They "chew the cud", which means they re-chew the food they've already chewed slightly and swallowed. 

Yearlings are usually sold at a sale barn and trucked to feedlots. They are fed grain and hay in the feedlot, then sold to a packing house when they weigh around 1000 to 1100 pounds. 

A cow that weighs 1000 pounds will make a carcass weighing about 615 pounds. The carcass makes about 432 pounds of meat. 

The packing house cuts out the various pieces of meat from the cow's carcass. Popular cuts include steak, roast and ground beef for hamburger. 

Other products besides beef are made from the beef carcass. Leather, made from the hide, is used to make a variety of items, from clothing to basketballs. Eight pairs of cowboy boots can be made from one cowhide. 
Gelatin, made from bones and horns, is used in making candies, marshmallows, ice cream and photographic film. 

Bones are used to make glue and fertilizers. Blood meal, a fertilizer, is made from blood. 

Beef fat, called tallow, is an ingredient in soaps, cosmetics, candles, shortenings, and chewing gum. 

Many medicines, including insulin and estrogen, are made from the glands of the cow. 

Source: The Missouri Beef Industry Council's Beef-a-Gram. Adapted for the Atlas by Hank Dorst. Photo: USDA.