03.07.2017

Where does your steak come from?

One of our cowboys passed a couple bikers on his horse and they yelled at him about how cruel he is for riding a horse. Instead of getting mad, he asked them if they eat meat. They said yes and mentioned the steakhouse where they dined the night before. Our cowboy continued on with his day, but do you think they knew where that steak came from? Do you know?

How is the beef that you eat at a restaurant or buy at the grocery store raised?

We have a cow-calf operation. That means we breed our cows to have calves. The female calves that meet certain conditions stay on our ranch and become breeding cows themselves. The bull calves (which are castrated and then called steers) and rejected female calves are what we sell and you later buy and eat!

How it works.

Our cows are bred in the spring to calve the following spring. So a cow that is bred in May has a calf born right around the first of March. Just like human babies, calves are sometimes born early or late. DG and his cowboy crew ride their horses to check the first calf heifers every day during calving season. They tag the new calves and watch the heifers that are in labor. If there’s trouble they help out by pulling the calf. Often though, just by watching and giving the heifer time rather than rushing in to help too early, she gives birth naturally. That’s what you want because it keeps the heifer from getting overly stressed and tired, and then she can take care of the calf afterward.

Heifers that successfully calve their first year usually go on to have calves without trouble in the future. Our cattle are spread out so far that we actually don’t check them daily for calving trouble. Basically, they did it okay once, so now they’re on their own.  Beef cattle are pasture raised.  Depending on the ranch and where it’s located that means the cattle can be raised in fields on a farm or in our case they are on federal grazing permits covering hundreds of thousands of acres.  We check our cows enough that they are all usually seen at least weekly, but they’re in such big pastures and we have quite a few, so it’s impossible to check every one each day. We focus our daily efforts on the first calf heifers and as they get older I’d say that nature is in charge and there’s some natural selection going on. Only the strong/fittest survive.

Another thing that’s important to calving is that we choose bulls based on their birth weight and weaning weight in addition to their milk production and certain other factors. The purpose of looking at their birth weight though, is to avoid genetics of really large calves at birth because that causes problems for delivery. This isn’t full-proof especially since we don’t know the birth weight of our females, but it’s the best you can do on a large scale cow-calf rangeland operation.

So now that you know about calving on the desert, in the summer we take our cows to the mountain for green grass so the calves grow. In the fall they’re weaned from the cows then fattened at a feedlot before getting killed and delivered to restaurants and grocery stores. I don’t know specifically which restaurants or stores buy our beef, but a hamburger or steak that you eat will definitely have been raised by ranching operation like ours.  If you see a rancher you should be grateful and appreciative of the work they do to raise beef. They care about the animals they raise and use–such as horses which can be a tool of the trade. We aren’t cruel and inhumane. The biker who told our cowboy he was mean for riding a horse was just unaware of how the process works.

And now for a couple pictures of baby calves on the range over the weekend…I helped DG trail them to new grass and water.

Comments

  1. Interesting, I had no idea. Beautiful property

  2. Rachel Marie says:

    Very interesting!

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