Best Age To Slaughter Beef Cattle

best age to Slaughter Beef Cattle

A complicated problem in breeding is to determine when your cows are ready for slaughter. Many people, as well as many sources, offer different and messy times. These misleading calculations of time can cause you to undue economic damage. So, what is the best age to slaughter beef cattle? This article will give you an answer.

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What happens if beef cattle are slaughtered too early or too late?

In fact, if beef cattle are slaughtered early, there is no problem. The calf’s meat will still be delicious, but the economic efficiency will not be high, and we all want to maximize profits.

So what if the cow is slaughtered too late? The quality of meat will definitely decrease. The meat from an old cow will be tougher; the nutrient content of the flesh will also drop a little. The cost to maintain old cows is also unnecessary and wasteful.

So too early or too late will not be beneficial, we need to determine the best time to slaughter cows.

When are cows ready for slaughtering?

Before answering the question of how old are grass-fed cows when slaughtering, I’ll show you a few ways to check if your cows are fat enough.

Your cows will show some signs that they are ready to be slaughtered. You can check their bone structure (measuring hip height) in conjunction with weight-based.

To measure the hip height, first, you lay a carpenter’s level across the cow’s back directly over her hip bones (hooks), then measure to ground level. Of course, this is done when your cow is standing on a level surface.

measure cow's hip height

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.

cattle frame scores based on hip weightcattle frame scores based on hip weight - Female

Looking at two tables above, the point is that the frame score of your beef cattle won’t be changed a lot through time.

It means that 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.

We will continue to have two tables, based on the frame score to know the corresponding maximum weight of grass-fed cows.

frame scores

With the frame score that you check on your beef cattle, and based on the two tables above, you will know how much weight your cows need to achieve. Now you can maximize the amount of meat at the age you decide to butcher them.

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

So, what is the best age to slaughter beef cattle?

Normally, 36 months is the maximum age of a cow that you raise for slaughter. It is because the profits you earn from over-36-month beef cattle will no longer be guaranteed.

So, which exactly the age of cows will be the most economical for slaughtering?

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 will last up to 24 months. However, the research results show that the 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. So it is better to stop in December to start a new litter.

Raising cows with shorter time (compared to normal period) help us benefit in costs and allow livestock to cycle faster, increase productivity. The study also showed that slaughtering cows for 12 months will help reduce the greenhouse effect and contribute to environmental protection.

But you know what, 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


Okay, so now that you know how to see if your beef cattle are mature enough, as well as can answer the question of how old are beef cattle when slaughtering. However, as I stated, those time figures are for your reference only. Consider yourself for your cows, as well as monitor their health and fitness to make the right decision.

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