Ranchers take the responsibility of providing beef for our country seriously. They view their cattle and the land they graze on as their livelihood as well as their legacy to share with future generations. If you’ve ever wondered where American beef comes from, you’re in the right place. We’re going to take a look at the farming process, and how today’s cattle ranchers are using modern technology to continue the tradition of quality beef for America.
Beef farmers are generally down-to-earth people, with small herds. According to the USDA’s Economic Research Service, as reported by Beef Magazine, only nine percent of beef cattle operations have herds of 100 animals or more, representing 51 percent of the total U.S. beef inventory. In other words, huge farms are the minority.
When calves are born, farmers know the importance of keeping it with its mother. Most calves spend the first several months with the mama until they’re weaned at about six to ten months of age. Calves are usually born onto small operations, like the kind of herds you see along the highway or country roads.
After a calf has been weaned, they’re usually transferred to a feedlot. During that time they’re monitored carefully to be sure they have everything they need to grow into a healthy steer. That includes plenty of freshwaters, and a balanced diet of grain, vitamins and mineral supplements. A steer is considered finished when it reaches 18 to 22 months of age, and it’s at this time that the steer is brought to a slaughterhouse.
The slaughter process is subject to strict government oversight to ensure that the animals are always treated humanely, and the resulting product is clean, safe beef for the consumer. The USDA inspects all facilities and oversees the process from start to finish. Cattle are always inspected by a veterinarian before entering the food supply. You can be sure that the beef that ends up in your grocery or specialty store has been carefully monitored to ensure the best product for consumers.
Cattle are raised all over the United States, but the largest percentage of beef comes from the Midwest. The top states for the beef industry are Nebraska, Kansas, Texas, Colorado, California, Wisconsin, Washington, and Pennsylvania.
Cattle ranchers are people, just like you and I, trying their hardest to make it in a difficult industry. Such as Linda and Jim Link of Link Beef Farm, that was featured in Wisconsin State Farmer. The Links started their commercial herd in 1995. “I had been working with cattle for a long time and love animals, so we began the beef operation,” Jim said. “The 100-acre farm we’re on was actually one of the five dairy farms my dad owned years ago. It had been out of our family ownership for some years and we bought it from another owner.” The Links continue to explain how they expanded over the years until they reached their current 60 steer operation. “We keep the calves six to nine months then sell them at the Bloomington Livestock Exchange.”
Most cattle farmers today, like the Links, are following in the footsteps of their family before them. Farming is a business passed down from generation to generation, and they understand the importance of maintaining healthy land and good farming practices.
The way we bring beef to the table has changed from the way it was done even a decade ago. Although we still have cowboys and ranches, these modern cowboys are embracing technology just as much as any other industry. Today’s ranchers use drones, apps, and computers to make sure they’re bringing the best product to your table. Here are some ways technology has changed the way Americans raise beef.
Many of today’s farmers are using drones to monitor their ranch. After all, most farming operations are several miles across, and flying a drone over remote areas is much more efficient than walking or even driving. Ranchers have realized their drone can be used in many ways.
Kevin Kester, president of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) explained to Successful Farmer how his drone helps him keep track of his steers. “Last year, we were using the drone to image some areas where we were going to build the fence,” Kester said. “We noticed that if we just hover over the cattle, they’ll move away, not like they are scared, but just gently move. We learned we can move cattle in areas hard to get to. That saves a lot of horse and dog power.”
Drones have also been used to survey the land, observe and monitor water sources, and locate animals that have gotten out of the pasture.
The average person uses nine apps a day, and farmers are no different. Just like there are apps for any other hobby or industry, ranching has its fair share of apps available through Apple and Android. Some apps provide detailed weather information perfect for keeping an eye on the rain and crops. Additionally, some apps link to USDA soil surveys to provide up-to-date information on land for grazing, and apps that help cowboys manage the books on their ranch.
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