Beef Vs Dairy

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Posted in Cows
on October 24, 2013
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Here at The Pines we have dairy cattle (obviously) but we also have a number of beef cows that we raise. Our Dairy cows prefer the prime grazing in paddocks that are strip grazed and slashed regularly, while the beef can be grazed on slightly rougher terrain. So, what’s the difference between cows? It’s a bit like comparing a Swimmer with a Weightlifter; both have similar characteristics like broad shoulders and upper body strength; but both do very different things.

For starters, they are different breeds. Our Dairy herd are all Holsteins while our beef are a mixture of Hereford, Murray Grays, Black Baldys and a few crossbreds. The Dairy herd have been deliberately bred for milk production. This includes having the correct frame and conformation to produce and carry all that milk. Not only do dairy cows need a good sized udder with 4 correctly shaped teats, the udder also has to be attached correctly at the ideal height, the cows legs must be shaped and aligned correctly to allow them to walk comfortably, they must have the correct backline and rib shape/spacing to support the bulk of the cow, correct shoulder slope/angle/placement, neck muscle development and head placement. All these conformational things play a major part in milk production (Who knew it was so complicated, I sure didn’t!)

Beef cows are made for (sorry to the vegetarians or meat sensitive) …eating. They are bred for the capacity to grow tender, juicy, healthy and relaxed meat. We tend to buy young beef cows from markets and graze them on our natural pastures before sending them off to the butcher. I know less about Beef then I do Dairy but they are generally judged on their conformation in regards to their capacity to develop and carry the maximum amount of quality meat.

There is a whole world of Cow judging that goes on nationally and internationally and I am a complete novice. I’ve seen cows judged at local shows and in on farm competitions. I have read a few magazines about International Shows and still my knowledge is very limited. When asked about why I liked a particular cow I have been know to say, ‘She has a pretty pattern on her coat and matching white knee socks!'! However, every farmer has their ‘best’ cows and cows that are rated higher than others. I’ve heard cows described as ‘heavier’ and ‘finer’. Some cows are more ‘feminine’, some are ‘more typically dairy/beef’. If you have any interest in learning more about how cows are judged, hop along to your next local agricultural show (Kiama Show for our locals) and listen to the judges as they place their winners. Or there are a host of videos on You Tube.

More on our Beef coming soon....