Alliance for the Future of Agriculture in Nebraska
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Alliance for the Future of Agriculture in Nebraska
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Beef Farming and Ranching

Herd of cattleNebraska is known as the Beef State because of its major role in producing beef to feed the world. Nebraska's farmers and ranchers have been raising cattle for many generations and today ninety-seven percent of America’s cattle farms and ranches are family operated. Cattlemen and women take the responsibility of providing the utmost care for their animals very seriously. The top priority of Nebraska farmers and ranchers is to raise healthy cattle, which is the foundation for a safe, wholesome and nutritious food supply.

  • The Nebraska beef cattle industry is the state’s single largest industry.
  • Nebraska ranks first nationally in commercial cattle marketing.
  • Nebraska produces more beef per square mile than any other state.
  • Beef cattle can be raised in a variety of ways. The majority of cattle that are harvested are corn fed and come from one of the many feedlots in the state. A calf is weaned, or taken from the cow, at about six to eight months of age.
  • Genetically superior male calves are separated out for use in breeding programs and those that are not superior are typically castrated and fed until they reach market weight. Castration occurs when the male animal is no longer able to reproduce. A castrated male bovine animal is known as a steer. Learn more about the beef production lifecycle here.
  • Heifers that will not be kept in the herd for breeding will be fed and harvested once they reach market weight.
  • Heifers that will be kept in the herd for breeding will reach sexual maturity by 15 months of age and are bred to deliver their first calf when they are 24 months of age.
  • Following the first calf, the female (now called a cow), is rebred after a two to three month period and another calf delivered around nine months later. The average cow will stay productive in a breeding herd for seven to nine years.
  • Feedlot cattle are commonly fed in open fence-line bunk feeders with the producer delivering the feed daily. They use a tractor and feed wagon, or mechanical feed delivery systems to a stationary feed bunk.
  • Beef is a great source of zinc, iron and protein – which are all important for immune system function, brain development, oxygen transportation, and muscle growth and maintenance.

For additional information on beef farming in Nebraska, check out these organizations: