Cows are generally bred in the summer because farmers try to time the birthing of calves for the spring. This is so that the calves can be born outside and both cow and calf benefit from fresh pasture and decent weather.
In Canada, the majority of beef farmers use natural breeding methods by letting bulls live in the pasture with the herd of cows. The remaining 10% use artificial insemination. Heifers (young females) are normally bred at 12 to 17 months of age, and ideally they should calve (give birth) for the first time by 24 months of age.
After a gestation (pregnancy) of nine months, the cow (mature female) will usually give birth to one calf that weighs around 30 to 45 kg, depending on the breed. Cows may be kept in calving areas during the calving period, so that farmers can keep a close watch over cows and calves during this critical period. Cows will remain active in the breeding herd for about seven years.
A calf is weaned at six to seven months of age, and at a weight of about 227 kg. For the next stage of the beef production cycle, the beef animal will typically be brought to a finished market weight of approximately 550 to 700 kg in specialized feedlots. Visit the virtual beef feedlot tour to learn more about this aspect.