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Beef Calves in a Pasture

Beef cattle producers may periodically consider retaining ownership of calves post weaning and growing them through the finishing phase for harvest as freezer beef. The following is information on example dietary rations and guidelines for growing and finishing beef cattle for freezer beef.

Grower Diets

Goals

  • Calf is weaned at 7 to 9 months of age (generally, 550 to 675 pounds).
  • Goal: Average daily gain of 2.0 to 2.25 pounds per day until 800 pounds.
  • Diet Composition: Commonly 60 percent grain or concentrate and 40 percent roughage on an as-fed basis.

Feeding Guidelines

  • Example Option 1: Feed 1.5 percent of the animal’s body weight per day of an 85 percent cracked corn and 15 percent cottonseed meal mixture and free-choice access to moderate-to-high quality long-stem hay.
  • Example Option 2: Feed 2.5 percent of the animal’s body weight per day of 50 percent soybean hulls and 50 percent corn gluten or distiller’s grains feed and free-choice access to moderate-to-high quality long-stem hay.

To start calves on either of these mixtures, gradually increase the amount of concentrate mixture being fed by 1 to 2 pounds every two to three days until the calf is on the full-feed amount. Feed calves two times per day. Make sure calves clean up feed provided in the trough before providing additional feedstuffs.

Finishing Diets

Goals

  • Goal: Average daily gain of equal to or greater than 3.0 pounds per day until 1,100 to 1,300 pounds, depending on animal size and breed composition.
  • Diet Composition: Commonly 80 percent grain or concentrate and 20 percent roughage on an as-fed basis.

Feeding Guidelines

  • Example Option 1: Feed 2.0 to 2.5 percent of animal’s body weight per day of cracked corn. Producers may consider adding 5 to 10 percent cottonseed hulls to improve feed texture and palatability. In addition to these ingredients, calves should be offered at least 0.5 percent of the animal’s body weight per day in long-stemmed roughage such as hay.

Increase the amount of grain in the diet by 3 to 4 pounds every three days until calves are on full feed. Providing long-stemmed roughage during this period is critical for proper digestive system function and animal health.

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