Beef Cattle

The beef cattle industry is made up of two distinct segments. The cow-calf industry is land based, largely in the western and southeastern areas of the United States, relying on range and pasture as the major feed input. Because it is land based, requiring a major capital investment, most cow-calf producers are small in size (eg, 50 cows), although a few are very large (eg, 20,000 cows). The feedlot industry, on the other hand, is made up of large feedlots (5000 to 200,000 head onetime capacity) located primarily in seven states (Texas, Nebraska, Kansas, Colorado, Iowa, California, and Arizona). These feedlots are often integrated with grain or feed companies (24). Some are integrated feedlot and meat-processing companies, and a few are integrated feed, feedlot, and meat-processing companies. Many feedlots custom-feed cattle on contract for absentee owners and investors. A third, less important, segment backgrounds cattle between weaning and a yearling age on pasture, crop stubble, and aftermath (eg, corn and sorghum stalks) and on various by-product feeds. Because of the diversified nature of the beef cattle industry and because many cow-calf producers derive a significant portion of their income from other farming enterprises or off-farm income, genetic and other new technologies are slow in becoming established. On the other hand, nutrition, health, and other technologies are rapidly applied by the feedlot industry, similar to the poultry industry (Fig. 6).

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