Beef is produced in every state and territory in Australia however, nearly 50% of the national herd is located in Queensland. The national beef herd stands at around 28 million head but can fluctuate depending on the season.
The Early Years
The gestation period of a cow is very similar in fact to humans, that is, around 275-285 days, depending on the breed of cattle.
The majority of cattle have just one calf at a time. There are a very small percentage of cattle that will have twins (around 0.2%).
Calves need to be tagged on the ear with the National Livestock Identification (NLIS) ear tag and if a farmer has chosen to use Hormone Growth Promotants (HGPs) the implant inserted.
Weaning is when a calf comes off its mother’s milk on to grass.
Weaning occurs between 4 – 10 months of age, depending on pasture availability. At around this time, male calves are desexed.
This is done for ease of management of male cattle as well as for optimising meat quality.
Steers (castrated males) and females (heifers) will be split into groups, based on their role on the farm, breeding or meat production.
The groups will rotate around the paddocks of the farm throughout the year to ensure sustainable pasture production and optimal nutrition at all times for the cattle.
Tailored for the Market
Farmers will grow their cattle for specific target markets including sending animals to a feedlot to continue growing, or direct to an abattoir for meat production.
Heifers retained for breeding will be mated at around 15 months, which means they will give birth around 2 years of age.
The majority of cattle in Australia processed for beef are between (12 and 24 months old). Most farmers target one or two markets, so their cattle are bred to the size and age that suit these markets.