Introduction

Humans have managed cattle for thousands of years. Bos indicus was domesticated somewhere between 4,000 6,000 years ago, and Bos taurus was domesticated in Europe about 2000 years ago. This long tradition gives cattle management an important role in human culture that continues today; the lives and language of human herders in North and South America, Europe, Africa, and Asia revolve around the activities and business of managing cattle. Therefore, economic and social success depend on successful management techniques.

There are four main segments of cattle production of food (beef) for human consumption in the United States:

1) production of weaned calves from herds of brood cows,

2) growing weaned calves until they weigh about 350 kg,

3) finishing the growth process when the animals weigh about 550 kg, and 4) production of purebred males and females of specific breeds or other genetic criteria for use as replacements in the herds that produce calves.

Because the cost of feeding animals usually accounts for 40 80% of all operating costs, nutritional management is a topic of major interest to cattle producers. Nutritional management revolves around three major themes: 1) the nutritional needs of the animal in a given situation; 2) the availability of feeds to meet those nutritional needs; and 3) the economics, or profitability, of a given feeding system or production strategy. Successful beef cattle managers are highly skilled and motivated people who balance these nutritional themes with other variables such as weather, market conditions, and ecological concerns.

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