posted on Nov, 2 2018 @ 07:21 AM
Ugh...typed out a big reply to questions and then lost the whole dang thing! GRRRRR. (one feature I really dislike about ATS is that...you can't
back up and recover a post).
So, I'll try to type it AGAIN.
How old is too old for a cow? - Cows can indeed live to be 20 years old, although I don't think I've ever seen one. For us a cow is viable only as
long as she is able to produce calves. It's all about the calves. When a cow is no longer able to safely produce healthy calves they get culled from
the herd. Otherwise you're feeding an animal who isn't making money for you.
What does 'standing for a bull' mean? - Well, it literally means just that, the cow must be able to safely 'stand' for the bull to mount her. Bulls
are big, and they're heavy (2,300lbs in the case of our herd bull). As cows get older their hips get bad, just like you and I, so they might fall
down when mounted. If the cow gets injured then you've got bigger problems on your hands. Injured cows are expensive and dangerous. Not to mention
the fact it's pretty irresponsible to attempt breeding a questionable cow and possibly injure it.
How old is too old for consumption? - Well, never really, but it depends on the cuts of meat you process. Once an animal gets north of 3 years old
the large lean muscles are going to start getting tough (these are the steaks and roasts). The muscles start developing more fiber and sinew which is
what makes a cut of meat tough. A breed cow will produce calves much longer than this (usually 8-10 years) so they're well beyond this age when they
are culled. So what then? Well, if you have the majority of the animal processed into ground it's some of the best ground beef you'll ever eat (FAR
better than anything you get at the store) because all the steaks and roasts are ground up with the chuck. It's fabulous burger.
So what happens when a cow is too old? - One of two things happen, some people take them to auction (we don't), or some people take them for
processing. We usually take them for processing because it's the most humane thing to do. You never know what someone will do with a cow you take to
an auction. They may try to breed it and it could be injured or killed in the process. That's not really a very responsible thing to do with an
animal who has faithfully produced $50-75,000 dollars worth of calves for you. So, what we do is take them for processing. We pay to have them aged,
processed and packed (usually about 600lbs worth of packed meat). Then we donate the majority of the meat to local soup kitchens and homeless
shelters. We keep some just because it's so good.
On a side note, we also process some prime steers (2-3 year olds) for our own consumption too. With just about any animal you're always going to wind
up with ground beef, so what we do is keep the prime cuts off the steer and donate the ground. This is why we keep some of the ground off the older
cows (noted above).
On average we donate about 1,200 - 1,800lbs of meat to homeless shelters and soup kitchens annually.
One of two things happen with the calves. Heifer calves get sold to other breeders. We buy replacement heifers from outside our genetic pool.
Custom bull calves get sold to breeders. Steers get sold for beef to steer operations (we're a cow-calf operation).
I should probably explain that last piece. There are two basic types (beef) cattlemen; cow-calf and steer operations. Cow-calf operations breed
their own calves and sell the calves, keeping the breed stock. Steer operations buy steers from cow-calf operators every year and feed them out and
sell them to consumers. Some cow-calf operations will also feed out steers (sort of a hybrid operation). The beef you buy in the store is from steer
Dairy cattle is a completely different business, and about the only thing the two businesses have in common is the cow. Otherwise they are just
worlds apart. In fact, it's so different that I couldn't even tell you much about how it works. Well, I could, but I'll let someone else more
qualified do it.