Management considerations for "natural" calves

July 20, 2008 07:00 PM
 


If you are thinking about raising cattle for the "natural" market , don't wait to make that decision when you sell calves this fall. Producers need to make that decision soon, while the calves still are out on pasture, advises Karl Hoppe, NDSU Extension Service livestock specialist at the Carrington Research Extension Center. That's because what producers feed, implant or apply on their animals could affect the cattle's eligibility to be sold as "naturally" raised.

In today's marketplace, the generally accepted definition for natural beef is "never-ever,” which means producers have not treated the cattle with antibiotics or hormone growth implants. A few companies consider cattle as being naturally raised if they didn't receive antibiotics or implants for a certain time period before they were slaughtered or if tests on the meat show no traces of antibiotics or hormones.

Because of this variance in standards, producers should check with the companies where they intend to market their cattle to determine what criteria they would need to meet to sell their animals as naturally raised, Hoppe says.

Producers also need to remember that raising cattle naturally doesn't mean the animals can't be immunized. Producers actually are encouraged to immunize their calves to ensure the animals have minimal health problems.

Keeping accurate records of which animals receive antibiotics or implants and making sure they are separated from other animals going to market as naturally raised cattle also are important pieces of any natural beef program, Hoppe says.

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