Basics for Buying a Beef Steer


Alli Kelley


The age of of your steer at purchase will determine how long you need to keep it and what kind of care it will need from you. If you get a "bottle calf", this means it isn't yet weaned and you'll need to feed it milk-replacer (purchase from the feed store) from a bottle until it's old enough to be weaned. Weaning happens about 4 months, but this depends on where you get it from and on the condition of the calf when it's 4 months old. When you're purchasing, be sure to check if it's weaned or not. Most ads will specify something like "weaned" or "eating all hay" if it doesn't, just ask!

Health Care

You will need to get your steer some vaccinations annually. Most of the time, if you're purchasing from a reputable source, the calf will have received its first set of vaccinations. If you purchase your steer old enough, you may not even be keeping it for a year and won't have to worry about doing any vaccinations. If you do need to get some vaccinations, you'll want to schedule this with a vet or do it yourself (ONLY do it yourself if you know what you're doing or have help that does!) very soon after bringing it home if it hasn't been done, or once a year if you're keeping it for that long. Vaccinations keep your steer healthy and help it gain weight and condition. Most calf vaccinations are pretty standard (BRSV, BVD, IBR, Lepto 5, Pi3) but double check with your veterinarian on what vaccinations they recommend for your area and how often. Sometimes an ad will say something like "been given 8-way" or "received 5-way vax." Those are just different combination vaccines; I always check where they got it and what exactly was in it.

You'll also need to deworm your steer. Typically this is done in the Spring after everything has thawed out and in the Fall after everything is frozen. You can get dewormers that are a pour-on liquid, a feed, or an injection. Feeds are easiest if you have a way to make sure the steer eats what you put out for it. There will be various dewormers that target various parasites, I usually like to go with the most comprehensive or common one first, and then rotate from there. However, contact your veterinarian for recommendations on deworming schedule and method of delivery.

You probably won't be keeping your steer long enough to worry about trimming its hooves. I do recommend checking hooves and legs on a regular basis and making sure your steer is walking well (no limping or lameness) and that the hooves look healthy — no cracks, oozing wounds, etc. If you do see a problem, the course of action can vary. Generally if any of my animals appear lame, I like to identify the leg and do a thorough palpation and visual exam myself.

Please note, I am very familiar with working with livestock and know my way around the backside of a steer. I also work with my steers a lot so they are used to me being around and picking up their feet — this does get harder as they get older, but since I don't own a chute, it's super important that they can tolerate me while I health check them. Please do not attempt to do this with your own steer unless you know what you are doing or have someone helping you that does!

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