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Beef Farming

Commercial Cattle show held in Stockman's Arena at Canadian Western Agribition, November 2001
Regina Leader-Post

Beef production is one of Saskatchewan's most important agricultural sectors, generating approximately $1 billion in annual farm cash receipts. Census data indicate that in 2001, 25.7% of all farm operators in Saskatchewan were involved with cattle. In any given year, there are 3.3 million acres of tame or seeded pasture and 13 million acres of natural land for pasture. This land base supported 1.5 million beef cows in 2004, or approximately 28% of Canada's cow herd.

The industry is comprised of purebred and commercial cow-calf operations, and stocker and finishing operations. Cow-calf operations tend to be mixed farming or extensive Ranching operations. While there are over twenty-five breeds of cattle in use, the majority of the commercial cow herd is comprised of cross-bred animals, the norm being crosses between “British” and/or “Continental” breeds. Most of the cow herd is bred to calve in the spring; the calves are weaned in the fall. The majority are sold at weaning, and typically exported to Alberta, Ontario or the United States. Calves that remain in the province are back-grounded in stocker operations or finished in feedlots. A typical winter backgrounding program would involve feeding 230 kg steers to 385 kg, gaining 1 kg per day. These cattle are marketed in the spring as “short yearlings.” An alternative program is to grow the animals at a slow rate of gain over the winter (0.7 kg per day), and then grass the cattle over the subsequent summer. Such animals are typically marketed in the fall as “long yearlings.”

Intensive feedlot operations range in size from 500 to 30,000 head, and are filled with weaned calves and/or yearling cattle. Most are finished on barley-based diets. Common finishing weights are 500 kg for heifers and 580 kg for steers. A typical yearling finishing program would consist of feeding a 375 kg steer to 580 kg at a rate of 1.6 kg per day. Targeted carcass characteristics include high lean meat yield, a minimal marbling score of traces (Canada A), firm, white fat cover, and a bright, cherry-red colour to the meat. At present, there is one major beef processor in the province, XL Foods, Inc. at Moose Jaw. There is also growing interest in natural and organic beef production. Although currently under severe stress due to the “BSE” crisis, the Beef Industry is one agricultural sector that holds significant promise for expansion and job creation in rural Saskatchewan. (See also Beef Industry)

John McKinnon

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This web site was produced with financial assistance
provided by Western Economic Diversification Canada and the Government of Saskatchewan.
University of Regina Government of Canada Government of Saskatchewan Canadian Plains Research Center
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Diversification de l'économie de l'Ouest Canada et le gouvernement de la Saskatchewan.