What Is The BEST Age To Slaughter Beef Cattle?

Best age to slaughter beef cattle

A complicated problem in beef cow breeding is determining when your cows are ready for slaughter. Many ranchers, as well as many experts, offer different and messy timelines.

These misleading calculations of time can inadvertently cause you undue economic damage by missing out.

So, what is the best age to slaughter beef cattle? This article will give you an answer.

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What Is The BEST Age To Slaughter Beef Cattle?

The best age to slaughter beef cattle depends on how they are raised.

Grass-fed beef cows are ready at around 28 to 30 months of age while grain-fed beef cows are ready around 15 to 16 months.

What Happens If Beef Cattle Are Slaughtered Too Early Or Too Late?

If beef cattle are slaughtered too early, there is not a huge problem other than the fact that the calf will not have much meat.

The meat of young cattle will still be delicious, but less meat means the economic payout will not be as high as that of older beef cattle.

On the other hand, if a cow is slaughtered too late, the quality of the meat will definitely decrease.

The meat from an old cow will be tougher with a beefier flavor and the nutrient content of the flesh will also drop a little.

Additionally, the cost to maintain old cows is also unnecessary and wasteful. So, too early or too late is not financially beneficial.

When Are Cows Ready For Slaughtering?

Cow Measurements

Besides age, there is another way to check if your beef cows are ready to be slaughtered and that is by determining if your cows are fat enough.

One way that your cows show some signs that they are ready to be slaughtered, is based on their bone structure (measuring hip height) in conjunction with their weight.

Finding Frame Score

To measure the hip height, you first lay a carpenter’s level across the cow’s back directly over the hip bones (hooks), then measure to ground level.

Of course, this is done when your cow is standing on a level surface.

Now, based on the number you just measured, along with the current age and gender of beef cattle, compare the two tables below to determine their frame score.

Looking at the two tables above, if you have a 12-month-old cow with a hip height of 47 inches, then its frame score will be 5.

At 20 months of age, the hip height of that cow will only hover around 49.8 inches. And the same goes for other frame score levels. You can check with your cows for a sure comparison.

Using Frame Score To Find Max Weight

Frame Scores

Based on the frame score you found, you will use that score to figure out the corresponding maximum weight of grass-fed cows that need to be to be slaughtered.

With the frame score, you will know how much weight your cows need to achieve and that will help you maximize the amount of meat at the age you decide to butcher them, and thus maximize your profits.

To keep track of the weight of cows, I recommend that you should buy a good livestock scale!

What The Research Says About The Best Age For Slaughtering Beef Cattle

Normally, 36 months is the maximum age for a cow to be slaughtered because the profits you earn from over-36-month beef cattle will no longer be guaranteed.

But what age is the most economical?

After three years of research and data collection, researchers at SRUC in Edinburgh concluded that 12 months is the best age to slaughter beef cattle.

Usually, the cow-raising period lasts up to 24 months. However, the research results show that any extra farming time after 12 months will only reduce the profit of the farmers.

It is possible that continued feeding will push the cow’s weight to its highest level at 24 months. However, the growth rate for the following year will be slowed down.

The research points to raising beef cows with a shorter, 12-month time frame (compared to a standard 24-month period) to help increase profits, and lower costs, thus cycling the herd faster and increasing productivity.

The study also showed that slaughtering cows at 12 months of age will help reduce the greenhouse effect and contribute to environmental protection.

But, it still depends on the type of cow you raise.

Also, each farm will have a different cattle diet for slaughter, so the exact time for your cow may not be the same as the general reports.

You can adjust and calculate a reasonable time for your cows, but 36 months is still a milestone you should not pass.

Did you know:Differences Between Hereford vs Angus Cattle


1. How much profit does a beef cow make?

The profit from a beef cow varies from year to year and depends on individual ranch costs as well as beef cattle weight. In 2020, ranchers earned a profit of an average of about $51 per cow.

2. What percent of a cow is steak?

After the slaughter process, roughly 60% of a cow is extracted from a slaughtered beef cow and makes it to market and consumed as steak.

3. How many beef cows do you need to make a living?

For a beef herd, you need at least 150 cows to make a living. For a dairy herd, you only need 60 to 80 cows to make a living.


Okay, so now that you know how to figure out if your beef cattle are mature enough, you can answer the question of what the best age to slaughter beef cattle is.

However, as I stated, those time figures are for your reference only. Consider your beef cows, and monitor their health and fitness to make the right decision for you and your herd.

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