By Mandy Whitehurst
At birth, a calf weighs about 60 to 100 pounds. The calf is fed 2 quarts of colostrum immediately after birth and at least another 2 quarts within 12 hours of birth. The cow and calf are then separated from each other within the first few days after birth.
First Few Months
Usually, if a calf is going to be castrated, it will be within its first few weeks. Although not all calves are castrated, if the calf is going to be raised for meat, it is more likely that it will be castrated. In a the first few months of life, a calf will slowly wean off of its mother's milk and start eating grass. After weaning, the cattle will continue to grow by grazing in the pasture.
Once a heifer is a year old, it has usually reached puberty and can be bred. Usually she is bred at about 15 months old so that when it is time for her to give birth, she will be 24 months old and at full size.
Calves can be raised two ways, grain-fed or grass-fed. Grain-fed cattle are raised on a feedlot with plenty of access to hay, water, and grain. They are able to eat as much as they want, but are not forced to eat. They are fed until they reach 1000-1200 pounds, usually about 18 month old, and then slaughtered. On the other hand, grass-fed cattle have access to grass pasture and hay, but are not fed grain. These cattle are also raised until they reach 1000-1200 pounds, but it usually takes a little longer because they are not fed as many calories as grain-fed. Grass-fed cattle are usually around 3 years old when they are sent off to be slaughtered.
Once cattle are finished growing, they are sent to a slaughter facility to be humanely killed and butchered. These cuts of beef are then examined by the USDA and sold for consumption.