What do cattle eat?
In Ireland, beef production is a grass-based system. It is considerably cheaper to produce a beef animal in a grass-based system than in a grain-based system. However, did you know that it takes 2 years to have a beef animal ready for slaughter on high production farms, and on other farms, it requires 2 and a half years.
There are 7.2 million beef cattle in Ireland in 2019 (CSO).
Springtime is a very busy period on Irish farms. Over 80% of the national herd are calving! Farmers must ensure calves drink their mother's milk. This makes them strong and healthy and helps build up their immune systems.
All calves born must be tagged under legislation, with an individual, unique tag number. This tag must be registered with the Department of Agriculture (Family Farm).
Cows and calves graze grass throughout the summer months. In fact, they usually do not need any other food source. Grass is the main feed in Irish agriculture. Because of our weather and quality soil, we have very good conditions for growing grass. Summer is a busy time on the farm! The farmer must make silage and hay which will be used as feed for livestock during the winter months.
Silage is fermented grass which cows like to eat. Many older cattle will graze grass throughout the summer months to ensure they are fit for sale in the autumn (Family Farm).
By autumn, calves are now between seven and ten months old and are being weaned. This means they are big enough to fend for themselves without their mother. They are now called weanlings. Beef animals are now usually finished with their supplements which consist of cereal based mixes. As the winter is coming, cattle must be treated to prevent sickness and irritations. When the cold, wet winter months arrive, cattle are housed in warm sheds. While in houses the farmer feeds them hay, silage and/or a cereal based meal mix every day. There are feed barriers to keep their feed clean. Suckler cattle like to sleep on straw beds. The farmer makes sure these are regularly cleaned and bedded (Family Farm).
Breeds of Beef Cows
Beef is an excellent source of protein. An average steak contains 50% of the protein an adult needs in a day. All age groups need protein to grow, develop and maintain healthy muscle development.
Beef contains vitamins B2, B3, B6 and B12 which helps to maintain a healthy body. Beef also contains zinc which is essential for a healthy immune system.
Did you know that many Irish women and children are not eating enough iron. An average portion of lean red beef contains half the dietary requirements of iron you need in a day.