At a Glance

Young calves spend the first months of their lives in the pasture with their dam, a beef cow. At that stage they are called feeder calves (livestock fed on pasture). One year later, feeder calves become fed cattle.

Feeder calves come from beef-breed cattle. Unlike dairy cattle which are raised mainly to produce milk, beef cattle are bred and fed to produce meat. Their distinguishing feature is their genetic potential to produce a larger muscular mass, thus more meat around the bone!

Feeder calves are generally the offspring of cross-breeding. In the first months of their lives, they graze freely on pasture and get milk from their dam.

Traditionally, calves are born between January and April and are sold in autumn. Around the age of 7 to 10 months or a weight of 500 to 800 pounds (225 kg to 360 kg), feeder calves leave the “family nest.” A new life awaits them.

Did you know?

Before beef is served on your plate, about 18 months pass between the birth of a feeder calf and the time it arrives at the slaughterhouse. During those 18 months, generally two, sometimes even three types of producers (cow-calf, occasionally backgrounding operations, and feeders) will be involved in the production process. These producers perform the various feeding and growing operations and ensure the cattle are raised in good conditions.

  • Quebec has about 4,200 cattle farms spread throughout Quebec (cow-calf operations).
  • A typical specialized farm has 117 cows and produces 97 feeder calves per year.
  • 113,280 feeder calves are produced annually in Quebec, for a farmgate value about $132 million.

Feeder calf producers are also often called “cow-calf ” producers.

Beef production