A group of cattle along the fence line of a cattle feed lot.

There’s nothing better than grilling out on a hot summer night, especially when there’s large juicy steaks on the line. Most families buy their steaks from the grocery store or local butcher shop, but how does the steak get from get from farm to plate?

Most beef cattle are born and raised alongside their mothers until they reach about five to seven months. At this point the calves are too big to stay with their mothers and need more nutrients than milk can provide. The calves are given a few more months to grow and are then taken to a cattle feedlot.

Feeding numerous amounts of cattle became very popular in the 1950s, and feedlots started to develop. Many feedlots started in the high plains states because of the flat land and arid climate. Wisconsin isn’t as commonly known to have feedlots, but still has a few scattered around the state.

When cattle arrive at a feedlot, they are all given a health check to make sure they are very healthy. From the day they arrive, they are checked daily to ensure proper health and care. Many large feedlots even have their own veterinarian to keep an eye on the cattle.

A group of beef cattle eat a grain mixture along a cattle feed lot fence line.

Feedlot owners have the best interest of the cattle in mind as a healthy animal will produce a quality beef product. Cattle are fed a very balanced diet; about 80% of their diet is grain based and the other 20% is forages. This provides the cattle with the energy they need to grow and create delicious beef for consumers to enjoy on their plate.

To ensure that the diet is effective, cattle are weighed frequently. If their weight is not on track, their diet is adjusted to maintain efficiency in producing beef. After the cattle reach a certain age and weight, they are harvested to bring a quality beef product right to your table. In total, cattle spend about six months in a feedlot from the time they arrive to the time they leave.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has strict rules and regulations to keep cattle safe on feedlots. Feedlot owners and workers must follow these rules to ensure cattle are treated with the upmost care and placed in the correct size lot. They always have plenty of room to move, eat and grow. Due their natural herd instincts, cattle feel safe in a large group, helping them grow and thrive.

While there are multiple ways to get beef from the farm to your plate, feedlots provide the most efficient way to feed the global population. It can be a complicated process, but agriculturists are dedicated to providing you with quality beef for your next meal.