Why are steers better than bulls?

We are still awaiting the arrival of a dozen and a half new feeder calves this week. It looks to me like we pay a premium for feeders over bottle-fed calves, at least in per-pound pricing, but it is worth it to us in terms of time spent on the animals and potential loss. Not only that, we do not have a barn we can designate for the cute little guys. I wish! Then again, if I was bottle-feeding the babies, I would become too attached.

The guy we bought them from has been a terrific asset to us. He is knowledgeable, helpful, and goes out of his way (literally) to help Mike when it comes to two-man jobs. I just don’t have the upper body strength that is required for some things.

For other things, I’m not quite ready to come forward with the ‘want to’. For example, we have a lot of bulls that need to be steers. I hope my city friends remember the difference. I don’t want to be there for their transformations and I don’t want to know exactly how they do it either. I could help, if I had to, though. For those that are curious, check out this site.

Castrating the young bulls is important for several reasons…so I’m told.

Photo Courtesy: dsc.discovery.com

The fiestiness of bulls that we picture charging a red cape is calmed with castration. For that reason buyers prefer steers over bulls and reflect that preference in their purchase price. Mature bulls also form their own herds of about twelve members and vie for position as the lead bull for the group. Reducing the numbers to steers can prevent some of the dominance games, like Frack and Bruno still practice from time to time, and their subsequent injuries. Mature bulls have even been known to jump a fence to get to a cow on the other side, something your neighboring farmer may not appreciate much if his prized registered cow is about to be inseminated. And believe it or not, bulls have a stronger susceptiblity to infection than steers.

Ok, so now you know what I’ve learned and in this regard, reality really bites. For one thing, I have to face the fact that no matter how much I tell myself we are raising breeders, a good number of the calves are bound to be t-bone steak at someone’s summer barbeque next year. I know that my four calves will not, they were specifically chosen with breeding in mind (they are Charolais and Guernsey males and females).

This is Regal Dancer. She's a prize-winner and will be auctioned June 27. Photo courtesy of: usguernsey.com

This is a Jersey cow. Photo courtesy of: sites.ext.vt.edu

A couple of the others will also make good breeding pairs as replacements in the herd or will be sold as breeders to some farmer wanting his own replacements. Frick and Frack, our beautifully marked Jersey bulls might even sell to a local dairyman. That’s a job Frack would love, since I don’t think he has tired of trying to mount Bruno.

An alternative to physically cutting the bulls; however, is what Mike and the seller plan. While there is much discussion about tetanus susceptibility in banded bulls, the method is commonly used in this area.

As squeamish as I am about the whole idea, I can imagine how the typical city fella would cringe at the thought. It is just one of the not-so-pleasant aspects of farming, but a necessity all the same.

Nevertheless, I plan to avoid the cow shed that day. Maybe it’s a good thing I’m laid up with my bad ankle. When it comes to castrating the bulls, I’ll happily leave the ball in Mike’s court (so to speak).

About cattlebaroness

I am a graduate of the University of Kentucky with a BA in History, nearing completion of a Master of Arts in American history. Born and raised first on military bases around the world, then in Orange County, CA, I moved to Kentucky when my children were small. I now live on a small family farm and am learning about farm life, planting and our newest addition to the landscape--cattle. Until a month or two ago, all I knew about 'cows' were that they came in brown, black and white and that some are raised for milk and others for meat. I am a quick study out of necessity.
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