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Aug 23, 2004
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I've heard of the term "finishing" a cow. Can anyone explain to me what this is and how it is done? Perhaps I know of it but maybe by a different term. Can anyone give me some advice on what to feed each day to a herd of young black angus...5m - 1yr old?

Finishing is a term that usually means putting the desired fat or finish on a steer before butchering it.
I have some young cows and they just pasture. With all the recent rain in Texas there has been no need for anything else. I ocassionally take them some sweet feed and range cubes but that's just so they'll come closer for an inspection.
You'll note that TXshowmom didn't say anything about WHAT you finish them on. Just that you fatten them up before butchering, as opposed to taking them to auction. Calves can get fat on grass, OR feed OR a combination of both. The "traditional" method of finishing out calves is to put them on some type of grain based feeding program; and, there are many different types of feeding programs. Grain fed finishing is what the commercial feed lots do and where your supermarket beef generally comes from. In recent years "Grass Fed" finishing has increased. Grass fed finished calves are typically finished out on pasture only and typically by ranchers themselves. I'm not aware of any large commercial feed lots that provide a grass fed service or product. There is also another growing classification I'll call "All natural beef". Although I'm not currently aware of any offocials guidelines for this I think this is really just grass fed beef that has been grazed on pasture that has not had fertalizer, pesticides, or herbicides on it for some required amount of time, AND, the calves typically have never been treated implanted, wormed, or injected with anything.

There is strong debate between the "traditional grain fed" and the "grass fed" finishers. Without getting to detailed, and not wanting to start/re-start that debate here I'll just touch the main arguments I'm aware of in this debate.

Arguments FOR Grass Fed Finished Beef vs. traditional grain fed
- Its more healthy beef for the consumer (BIG debate on numerouse aspects of this topic)
- It requires lower cost input to finish-out the calf and hence is easier for ranchers to participate in direct marketing to the consumer (not much debate here)

Arguments AGAINST Grass Fed Finished Beef vs. traditional grain fed
- The beef is typically more lean and may require longer feeding periods to attain a USDA choice level grade.
- The fat can be, (but is not always) yellow vs. the white fat you see on supermarket beef. Genetics of calf and type of pasture play big here.
- The beef can have (but not always) what is refered to as a grassy taste. Genetics of calf and type of pasture play big here.
- Grass fed is a niche market

The terminology gets confusing, but here is the USDA definition of natural.

Natural Beef
The USDA defines the term natural as follows, "natural may be applied only to products that contain no artificial ingredients, coloring ingredients, or chemical preservatives; and the product and its ingredients are not more than minimally processed. "

Based on this the animal could have received hormones, antibiotics and his pastured fertilized with chemical fertilizers. Most people advertise as Natural and then add the no whatever to clarify what else is not done to the forage or animal. Natural does not imply grass-fed, they use that term separately and they too may or may not have had certain treatments, and even some people give a bit of grain - talk about muddying the water.

Thanks for the clarification Bill. I was aware of the defination you refered to but I wasn't sure if it applied to only post processing such as canning, packing etc., or not. None-the-less, a defination is a defination and if the USDA doesn't provide any caveats or additional related definations I would have to agree with you.

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