canadian rocky mountain beef

Canadian Rocky Mountain Beef


What makes Canadian beef special? To understand this you need to take a look at the Canadian beef industry, so discover The Canadian Beef Advantage.

Specialization in beef cattle production has been an evolving characteristic of the Canadian cattle industry since the early 1960's, with cow/calf ranching and cattle feedlot finishing becoming two distinctly separate operations. The industry has also concentrated in the regions with natural feed and land advantages for beef cattle production.


The Government of Canada (PFRA) completed a major benchmark study in 1996, comparing the environmental conditions in Canada, the United States of America, and the European Union. This study compared agriculture sustainability (measured by energy use and soil degradation), conservation of natural areas, water quality, soil quality (measured by manure use and chemical use).

This study indicates that: Canada has a less energy-intensive agricultural production system than the USA or Europe; Canada and the USA provide a high level of protection to a greater proportion of the natural landscape than Europe; Canada and the USA rely more on sustainable natural grass pasture and less on grain-based feeding systems than Europe; Canada produces less manure per unit of agricultural land area than the USA or Europe; Canada and the United States under-apply fertilizer, which may lead to long-term soil degradation, but avoids potential water pollution; Canada applies pesticides at about 50% of the rate of the USA, the next lowest user, and 20% of the rate of France, the biggest user; a smaller percentage of the total number of mammals and birds present in Canada are considered "threatened" than in the USA or Europe, and; Canada has higher water quality in its main rivers than the USA or Europe.

In summary, these comparisons demonstrate that Canadian production systems for red meat, grains, and oilseeds create relatively less environmental impact than those of the USA and the European Union.

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Cattle Breeds

Beef cattle producers originally based their herds on the early maturing and relatively easy finishing breeds such as Herefords and Aberdeen Angus. These breeds dominated the beef herds for many years, and these purebreds continued to dominate the commercial cow/calf ranch industry up to the early 1970's. About twenty years ago, the later maturing, faster growing, and generally more heavily muscled breeds such as Charolais, Simmental, and Limousin began to be introduced. Presently, most commercial cow herds have incorporated the best features of both types of cattle through planned cross-breeding programs. They have produced fast growing, and well muscled cattle that still exhibit high quality "beef-eating" characteristics. These cattle produce excellent quality, high yielding carcasses.

It should be noted that Canada's entire beef cattle herd are based upon Bos taurus (Hereford, Angus, Charolais, Simmental, Limousin, etc. - beef breeds) animals. There are no Bos indicus (Brahma, Cebu - draft breeds) cattle in Canada's beef herd. This is important, as research completed by the United States Department of Agriculture research (Wheeler et al, Journal of Animal Science, 1994, 72:3145-3151) indicates that "meat produced from Bos indicus cattle was less tender than meat from Bos taurus cattle, regardless of marbling score." Both the United States and Australia use Bos indicus cattle for beef production in arid regions. This analysis suggests that Canadian beef is more tender than beef from either the United States or Australia, as Canada does not include Bos indicus (draft) cattle in its beef cattle population.

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The nature of Canada's cow/calf ranching operations has changed significantly over time with an emphasis on intensive and specialized use of resources in beef production.

The established practice of most cow/calf ranches in Canada is to breed their cows in June and July. Calves are born in March and April of the following year. This means that the young calves, almost all of which are raised outdoors, are not subjected to cold winter weather. The calves graze with their mothers on pastures and grasslands throughout the spring, summer, and fall seasons.

The average weight of calves at weaning in the fall (October or November) is about 250 kilograms. Weights can range from 160 to 320 kilograms depending on age at weaning, the genetic background of the calf, and grass condition during the summer grazing season.

The lighter calves (160-225 kilograms) typically are left on pasture after weaning for an extra 120-150 days, before they enter backgrounding and high-energy feeding programs for slaughter between 18 and 24 months of age. The medium-weight calves (225-275 kilograms) are normally placed on a lower energy backgrounding feeding program after weaning before being placed on a high energy grain feeding program for slaughter between 14 and 18 months of age. The heavier calves (275-320 kilograms) are normally placed on a high energy grain feeding program after weaning for up to 240 days, and are ready for slaughter between 12 and 14 months of age. The barley-based rations that predominate in Western Canada's grain feeding operations give our beef its distinctive and desirable white fat and bright red muscle colour.

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Backgrounding is the process of feeding high forage (silage, alfalfa hay and straw) feeds to increase the weight of smaller calves up to 350 kilograms. This type of animal is fed to gain weight at a relatively slow rate so that it will grow and not become too fat. This phase can occur either in the feedlot or on grass pasture (with supplemental feeding).

At least one half of the calves produced in Canada each year are backgrounded before they start on a high energy feedlot finishing program. After weaning, the light calves that are being backgrounded are fed forages and grain through the winter in order to gain weight at 680 grams to 1 kilogram per day. In the spring, the smaller of these calves remain on pasture or are put into feedlots to gain weight at a rate of about 1.2 to 1.4 kilograms per day.

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High Energy Finishing

Along with the trend to larger and more specialized cow/calf ranches, the Canadian cattle industry has evolved toward more specialization in the grain feeding of slaughter cattle. Feedlots range in size from a few hundred head capacity to very modern operations feeding over 70,000 animals at one time. Historically, most cattle were fed in small feedlots on diversified farms that also grew feed grains and wheat for human consumption. Since the land and water resources and climate in Canada are very suitable to cattle feeding, many feedlots have become larger and more highly mechanized over the past fifteen years to specialize in cattle feeding. It is estimated that over 80% of the cattle grain fed in Canada are produced in feedlots with capacities over 1,000 head. This produces uniform and high quality beef products.

Feedlot owners purchase calves or feeder cattle from either cow/calf ranches or backgrounding operations. Only a small portion of the calves produced in Canada are fed to slaughter weights by the original owner of the ranch where they were born.

In the feedlot industry, there are two basic types of feeding systems. The system used depends on the weight of the animals when they are placed on the finishing program. A multi-stage feeding system is used for those steers and heifers that enter the feedlot at lighter weights. These cattle are started on a higher-forage/lower-grain feed ration to initially gain weight at about one kilogram per day. They are fed at this level for a few weeks following which the proportion of grain in the feed ration is gradually increased to between 85% and 90%. Heavier feeder cattle begin at these high percentage grain feed rations. Cattle will gain weight at about 1.7 kilograms per day on these high energy rations. Virtually all cattle in feedlots are fed high energy grain feed rations for a minimum of 120 days. This ensures that sufficient marbling is produced, and the fat is firm and white.

The average live weight at slaughter for steers is about 590 kilograms, while the average weight for heifers is about 550 kilograms. Approximately 98% of the youthful animals (excluding cull cows and bulls) produced for slaughter in Canadian feedlots graded CANADA A, AA, AAA, and Prime - the highest quality categories within the Canadian grading system.

Canadian Rocky Mountain Beef - Delicious, healthy, nutritious, wholesome, and a unique eating experience!

Calving Weights
(February - April)
British Breeds = 35 - 40kg.
Cross Breeds = 40 - 50kg.
European Breeds = 50 - 60kg.
Weaning Weights (October - December)
160 - 320 kg.
Smaller Calves
(160 - 225 kg.)
Medium Calves
(225 - 275 kg.)
Large Calves
(275 - 320 kg.)
Go to pasture in Winter and Spring 120 - 150 days  
Go to background feeding: 100-120 days Go to background feeding: 100-120 days  
Go to high energy feeding: 100 - 150 days Go to high energy feeding: 100 - 150 days Go to high energy feeding: 180 - 240 days

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