Brown Cow
‘Beef’ Cattle

There are many different systems for raising cattle for meat, the least intensive being the suckler herd. The calf is kept with its mother until weaned and then put on grass until it is heavy enough to be killed at about two years old.

At the other end of the spectrum, the most intensive method is where calves are taken from their mothers at birth and reared in pens on milk replacer and feed pellets. During the first week of their lives they are usually castrated and have their horn buds chemically burnt out. In the case of older cows a hot iron might be used and, theoretically at any rate, an anaesthetic.

To put weight on before slaughter they are taken to fattening sheds and fed on high quality cereals. There may be straw bedding but it is becoming common to use slatted concrete floors on which cattle find it difficult to stand, often resulting in lameness. Some farms keep up to 8,000 animals this way, cramming them into sheds to stop them from moving around and "wasting" energy in keeping warm. They gain weight quickly and are ready for slaughter at only 11 to 12 months old.

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