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Old 04/02/09, 09:32 PM
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 416
Age of butchering

Just wondering---if one gets a calf in the spring, can it be sent to the locker in the fall, rather than feeding it all winter and waiting until it is 18 months old??? If so, what would the meat be like?? Is that what is called baby beef?
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Old 04/02/09, 10:05 PM
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Well it's your choice. I usually wait one year at a minimum, your plan seems a bit short. You also gave us little info to work with? Breed type, what age is the calf when bought, bottle age, feeder age...Be glad to help, more info needed....Topside
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Old 04/02/09, 10:09 PM
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You can certainly butcher at any age you like but your carcass will be substantially smaller.
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Old 04/02/09, 10:37 PM
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It costs a certain amount to buy the calf, so you want to get as much out of it as you can. If the calf is growing well, and feed isn't too costly, might as well keep feeding, unless you can't use or sell the meat. How well it converts feed to beef depends on breed, etc.
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Old 04/03/09, 11:17 AM
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Originally Posted by MaKettle View Post
Just wondering---if one gets a calf in the spring, can it be sent to the locker in the fall, rather than feeding it all winter and waiting until it is 18 months old??? If so, what would the meat be like?? Is that what is called baby beef?
Hi Ma....

You can butcher a calf at any age.... It's just that yield percentage will not be as high on a calf that is still growing... While it is growing it is expending energy and nutrients in the building of bone, internal organs, etc..... As opposed to putting on muscle mass, post genetic mature frame size...... Your dairy types will be more lanky with a higher bone to meat ratio than beef type calves..... I would say that if you push the calf just a bit by feeding a hot ration.. (High Energy)... You will be pleased with the results, with either type calf..... One plus of butchering pre genetic mature size is that there should be very little waste back fat..... If following the early butchering method I would also recommend leaving bulls intact... The added testosterone will help him to put on muscle mass.. While not adversely effecting meat texture or flavor....

If you do decide to feed a hot ration... Build the calf up to it gradually..... Too much.... Too quick can and often does, cause problems..... You can sprinkle a little sodium bicarbonate (Ordinary baking soda).. Into the grain as a rumen acidity buffer..... You will also want to watch the manure.... If they are scouring.... Back down on the grain..... If the calf is passing too much undigested grain....That would be an indicator of too much grain in the diet too..... I am an advocate of feeding a mix of pulverized corn and soybean meal fortified with some added vitamins and minerals... IMHO... Pulverized grains are more completely and readily digested..... I would also supplement with some good quality long stem forage.... Or whole cottonseed to assist in slowing digestion in order to facilitate better grain absorption..... You can sprinkle a tad of dried molasses... Or liquid, into the grain mixture to increase palatability....

I would then just call the resulting meat tasty.. Rather than baby beef.....

Last edited by Cotton Picker; 04/03/09 at 11:25 AM.
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Old 04/03/09, 11:25 AM
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The economics do not favor butchering an animal at such a young age.
While the locker charges by the pound for the processing which would reflect the smaller weight animal, your cost to haul animal to locker and the fee to kill the animal may be same as for a finished 18 month old beef. So you have higher costs per pound in proportion to the yield of meat garnered.

To produce a good amount of meat in the spring to fall time frame one can buy a good feeder pig in spring and have a finished butcher hog in the fall which will yield from 140 to 160 pounds of actual meat in your freezer at reasonable cost.
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Old 04/03/09, 01:18 PM
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I disagree. The economics FAVOR butchering a steer at the young age.

Buying steers in spring for next to nothing, putting them on good pasture and then butchering them when the first snow falls is very economical. The only money you have in the animal is the base cost for the calf (next to nothing) and then the butchering fees. There will be a set kill fee and then a price per pound for meat.

The big advantage is that I haven't had to pay for grain or hay to sustain the animal through winter when the weight is melting off of them. I find the extremely low input costs more than offset the lack of meat and I can simply purchase TWO for the price it would take to feed ONE through the winter.

The meat won't taste exactly like what you get in the grocery store. Even when they age it the flavor won't be as strong. I happen to like the taste of young pasture-fed cattle though, and so do my customers.
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Old 04/06/09, 09:51 PM
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Thanks all. Ernie, I was thinking along your line while gazing at a group of baby calves with no mama in a barnyard as I was driving home. If butchering them early after being on grass all summer was more economical than feeding them all winter. Hmmmmm--will have to find out where these mamaless babies come from for next spring.
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Old 04/08/09, 01:36 AM
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This is what I have been thinking about for when we make the move to homestead w/ livestock. It would be just for us/family so how much beef do we need to yield? I'd be raising a pig & chickens as well as meat. I'd rather slaughter young and not have to hang-i've heard that beef under a year doesn't need to age for the 20 days or so?
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Old 04/08/09, 07:41 AM
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Meat doesn't NEED to hang at all. It just affects the flavor. I guess questions you'd need to answer for yourself are:

1. How much beef does my family consume in a year?
2. In what form do we consume that beef? Steaks? Hamburger? Chili meat? Stews?

If you like your beef cooked in sauces or stews then you may not go through the extra bother of having it aged. Some butchers will age it for you at no cost, but others tack on extra expense for the storage. I have my baby beef aged for about 2 weeks but I can't say I can really taste the difference.

In my family we don't eat a lot of steaks or burgers. Instead we eat a lot of fajitas, beef stews, meatballs, or chili. In those recipes the beef is heavily seasoned and you don't really get a lot of the flavor of the pure beef as it is.

I do want to caution anyone trying this approach that the meat will taste closer to veal than the beef you are used to in the store. It's softer and less flavorful. If you really enjoy tearing into a thick, juicy steak and savoring the beef taste then you probably won't like this method so much. All of the meat cuts are smaller and the flavor is very mild.
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