Raising Feeder Steers

Save money and eat better by raising grassfed feeder steers.

  • Herd of black angus cattle on the farm.
    Photo by Joseph Stanski
  • Texas Longhorn cattle, or herds with Longhorn genetics in the mix, are rangy and valued for their reproductive abilities and overall hardiness in beef operations.
    Photo by Terry Wild Stock
  • Chris Corsino, of Four Mile River Farm in Connecticut, with his grassfed herd.
    Photo by Terry Wild Stock
  • Scottish Highland cattle can do extremely well in pasture-based management systems.
    Photo by Ottmar Bierwagen
  • A Jersey steer at Toy Cow Creamery Farm, Bastress, Pennsylvania.
    Photo by Terry Wild Stock
  • The Shorthorn is arguably the most influential breed in the history of agriculture.
    Photo by Joseph Stanski
  • Though the Milking Devon is rare, the breed is known for rich milk, good meat and plenty of draft power, all in a compact size.
    Photo by The Livestock Conservancy

Raising beef steers appeals to people for multiple reasons. While it is easy to do, it is important to understand a few basics before jumping right in. Having correct information will help you decide what breed is best for your property and how old you want the steer to be at purchase and slaughter. It is also vital to understand the nutrition behind raising grassfed beef, so you can keep your feeder steers healthy and productive.

Breed of steer

The breed of the steer you choose to raise will make a difference. Most breeds we are familiar with are specific for dairy production or beef production. A few of the breeds that are specific to beef production are Black Angus, Red Angus, Hereford, Limousin, and Charolais. Those are the more common breeds — check out LivestockConservancy.org for a list of heritage cattle breeds.

Beef breeds have been bred specifically for beef production. This means that producers have selected for traits that are good when raising cattle for beef, as breeding has occurred over numerous generations. This includes traits like high rate of gain, good marbling, good feed efficiency, compact body structure, calving ease, etc.

Dairy breeds are cattle that have been bred specifically for traits that are desirable in cows producing milk: high milk production, high milk fat percentage, high milk protein percentage, calving ease, etc. While these cattle are not bred to have high efficiency for turning feed into meat, they can make excellent feeder steers when fed the proper nutrition. While a female dairy cow is going to shuttle more nutrients to her mammary glands and produce high milk fat and high milk protein, a dairy steer can use those same traits to produce well-marbled beef.

The process will be slower and less efficient than it would be with a beef steer, but the outcome can be affordable, nutritious, and delicious.

All about age

The age of the steer you purchase will depend on a few factors, all related to how you want to manage your property and animals. There are two stages to raising feeder steers: growing and finishing. The growing stage is exactly what it sounds like; the steer is still growing structurally. The finishing stage happens when the steer is finished growing structurally and will start to put on fat and muscle weight more quickly.

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