Go West Ranch

Q:  When we're talking beef, how much beef are we talking?

A:  We typically raise our steers from 1,000 to 1,400 pounds live weight.  Hanging weight, which determines the price you pay per pound, is usually about 60% of the live weight.  So, to determine an estimate of what you can expect to pay for your beef, ask us for a current price per pound and an approximate live weight on one of our steers.  Now, multiply the price by the live weight, then multiply that total by 0.6.  

The number you get will be the estimated price for a whole beef sold at hanging weight. (Half a beef will cost half this much, a quarter will cost a quarter as much.)

Generally, a whole beef will weigh between 600 and 840 pounds hanging; half would weigh 300 to 420 pounds; and a quarter, 150 to 210 pounds.

Q:  What is the difference between hanging weight and how much meat actually ends up in the freezer?

A:  It all depends on how you have the butcher cut it for you.  Typically, a carcass will lose between 25-40% of the hanging weight by the time it is packaged.  We recommend you ask the butcher about this before you buy your first locker beef, just so you will not be confused about the difference in hanging weight and cut and wrapped weight.

Q:  Where are your steers butchered?

A:  Our butcher, Jerry Haun, comes out to our corral with his mobile farm-slaughter unit, so our steers never have to leave the ranch they grew up on.  This keeps them very calm (they actually don't have a clue that anything's amiss) and they don't have to go thru the high-stress situations that most cattle endure on the way to the meat packer.  (Stressed animals retain a bad flavor in their meat when they are butchered.)  Our corral is not viewed by our cows as a "bad place" where bad things happen to them.  It is, in fact, one of their favorite places on the ranch, and they tend to congregate and lounge around inside it!  Their water trough and mineral/salt lick are located in the corral, and they love to rub and scratch themselves on the posts and panels and even the "headgate" (where we catch them when one needs hands-on attention).

Q:  How old are your steers when they are butchered?

A:  Their ages will vary somewhat, depending on whether they were among the first calves born the previous year, or the last, as well as variables such as available butcher dates, and just regular supply and demand issues.  We typically harvest steers by the time they're 18 months of age.

Q:  How are your animals treated differently than the ones that end up on the supermarket shelves?

A:  The majority of cattle produced in this country are simply regarded as money in somebody's pocket, and very little time or effort is expended in trying to treat these animals with dignity or gratitude for the return they give on investment.  A major difference in our product vs. what you buy in the store comes from the way we treat our cattle.  Our cows take good care of us, giving us big healthy calves every year, and we take good care of them.  

As you can see from our pictures, we have a good trust relationship with our cows.  When we have to work a bunch of cows, they're patiently handled with care to prevent injury from being run thru a chute.  Bad experiences with humans are long remembered by a cow, so we take extra steps to avoid hurting our relationship with them.  I'm enough of an animal lover that I'm always on the receiving end of a lot of good-natured ribbing about my "pet" cows, but enough of a rancher that when somebody else in the livestock industry sets foot in the corral, whether it's a veterinarian, brand inspector, or fellow rancher there to help me work cattle, they keep their comments to themselves when they walk away without feeling like they'd just spent half the day at a rodeo.

It is amazing to me to observe the difference in attitude and personality (and trust me, cows have both!) between the animals I have raised from birth and the cows we own that have been in business longer than I have, and have been around the block a time or two more than they would have cared to have been.  When I go out to check a newborn calf from a cow with previous owners, I typically have to keep a very wary eye on "mom", because she was "trained" before I got her to never trust humans, and it can be quite dangerous to get between one of these old girls and her calf!  However, the cows that have grown up here have been "trained" that humans are friends, protectors, and providers; I have pictures of me petting a newborn calf while his mom is licking him dry and encouraging him to get up and nurse.  

Talking softly to cattle that know your voice calms them, and our cows are so calm some will even talk back when spoken to!  Several cows and calves in our herd love to have their heads and backs scratched and will come over to the fence just to say hi and be curious.  We see, care for, and care about our cows as individuals.  Some are ear-tagged, but all are named, and we don't have to look at their numbers to know who's who.

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