Cows play an important role in society.
They provide milk and meat for those who consume meat and dairy products.
While most people know that their favorite cuts of steak come from a cow, they may not associate those cuts with the weight of a cow.
Here’s what you need to know about cows and how much they weigh.
How Much Does A Cow Weigh?
The average cow weighs between 1,300 to 1400 pounds.
According to the latest USDA livestock slaughter report, the average live weight of cattle was 1,373 pounds.
This was a 7-pound increase from the previous year’s weight.
A few factors like age, breed, feed type, and sex can influence how heavy the cow becomes.
This then impacts how much meat butchers can cut for their clients.
What Factors Influence How Much A Cow Weighs?
While cows may look similar, they all tend to have different weights.
Farmers try to keep them at decent weights for slaughter or just to keep them healthy.
Here are a few factors that can influence a cow’s weight.
One of the reasons some cows may weigh more than others has to do with their purpose.
In particular, cows tend to be either beef cows or dairy cows.
Beef cows are eventually slaughtered for meat while dairy cows produce milk.
Because it’s important to get as much meat as possible out of a beef cow, they tend to weigh more than dairy cows.
Dairy cows, on the other hand, don’t need to be quite as heavy.
Since they’re just producing milk, it’s more important for them to have a healthy diet.
If they put on too much weight, they could become ill which could impact their milk.
With beef cows, while farmers want them to stay healthy, since they’re going to end up being slaughtered anyway, their long-term health isn’t as important.
They’re not going to live to a ripe old age, so farmers tend to focus on fattening them up as much as they can in a healthy way.
Another factor that determines the cow’s weight is its sex.
Bulls tend to weigh far more than cows.
Like in humans, the average male is a bit heavier than the female.
A lot of that comes down to the muscle.
In the wild, bulls protect the herd from predators.
They need a lot of strength and power to either scare predators off or fight them.
Size also helps bulls intimidate one another when it comes to the breeding season.
A larger bull seems like more of a threat to other bulls.
They may not want to take him on to get access to the cows he intends to breed.
There are a few other factors that can influence competitiveness between bulls, but their size is definitely one of those factors.
While some bulls may just naturally be larger through genetics, others may eat more to try to keep up or surpass their size.
Female cows, on the other hand, aren’t as heavy.
They’re less concerned with having to compete with one another for mates.
Since they’re smaller, they tend to leave most of the protection of the herd to their respective bull or bulls.
That said, female cows will show defensive aggression to protect their young.
Since they’re not primarily built for protection, however, they tend to be smaller than bulls.
Cows are not all the same.
There are several different types of cows.
Because of that, some are better for beef cows while others are better for dairy cows.
Beef cows tend to be the following breeds:
Dairy cows tend to be the following breeds:
- Brown Swiss
- Dairy Shorthorn
The heaviest dairy cow is the Holstein-Friesian at an average of 1,600 pounds.
The heaviest beef cow is the Limousin with an average weight of 2,530 pounds for bulls and 1,650 pounds for females.
Clearly, different breeds tend to weigh a bit more than others.
Part of the reason may be evolution and animal husbandry.
Farmers looking to produce cows that start pretty heavy have likely influenced the evolution of cows over the centuries.
Beef cow breeds tend to be a bit heavier because they’re bred for meat.
Certain breeds of beef cows may weigh differently based on environmental factors and other factors influencing their weight.
4. Type Of Feed
The type of feed that farmers give to their cows can also influence their weight.
Cows eat a lot of food.
Half of their diet consists of grass.
They spend most of their time grazing in the feedlot or a pasture.
If the pasture has had a decent amount of rain, there might be a lot of grass available for the cows to eat.
This might mean that they eat more than they would normally.
As a result, they end up getting a bit bigger than normal.
On the other hand, if there isn’t much grass, they might not be able to eat as much.
As such, they may not weigh as much.
Besides grass, cows can also eat grains.
Farmers try not to feed them too many grains.
Part of that reason is that grains tend to become human food.
Grains are also a bit more expensive to purchase and feed to their cows en masse.
A farmer may not have it in their budget to give them a lot of grain.
As such, cows who get more grains than others might weigh a bit more.
Some grains are specifically grown for cows.
These are specialty grains.
They might also help certain cows grow heavier than those who don’t eat the specialty grains.
The amount of food is another big factor.
Some farmers might allow their cows to eat as much as they want.
They might have the budget to let them forage and eat as many grains as they want until they’re full.
Other farmers might not have such a large budget.
They may have to be mindful of how much they feed their cows to ensure they’re able to continue to feed them down the line.
As such, some cows might have more access to food which makes them heavier than other cows.
The environment the cows are in also determines how much they weigh.
In particular, if the cows are close to areas that are experiencing droughts or wildfires, this might impact their weight.
Wildfires can kill grass and reduce the amount of feed that’s available to cows.
Since they’re not able to graze as often and they have more competition among each other for the grass that is around, they might not put on as much weight.
Drought can also make that happen.
Without water, there’s less rain to nourish the grass.
As such, the grass diminishes and dies.
Since the cows aren’t able to eat grass, they won’t pack on as much weight.
Finally, environmental factors can cause stress to cows.
If they see a wildfire, for example, or smell the smoke, they can become stressed.
They might not eat or just lose weight because they’re stressed.
If they live close to a slaughterhouse, they might be able to smell what goes on there.
That can cause stress, too, which can impact their weight.
Even if a cow finds a nearby highway stressful, it can impact its weight.
The environment and the stress it can cause also influence the weight of cows.
A final factor that can influence the weight of cows is age.
Obviously, the older a cow is, the more it’s going to weigh.
That’s because it’s had more time to put on weight.
A calf isn’t going to weigh as much as a cow that’s several years old.
That said, not all ranchers wait for calves to grow up to slaughter them.
If they have clients that prefer tender meat, they’ll get that from a calf.
They won’t get much meat since the calf is still quite young, but they’ll get enough tender meat that will sell well.
Older cows, on the other hand, tend to give a lot of meat because they’re older and heavier.
They’ve had more time and more feedings to put on weight.
How Many Pounds of Meat Does A Cow Give?
The amount of meat that a cow gives depends on several factors.
For example, you might have a cow carcass that weighs 880 pounds, but it goes through a few processes that can make it weigh far less by the time the cuts of it hit the retail floor.
It’s better instead to consider how much weight certain cuts can get from a cow.
For example, an 880-pound cow carcass is going to give the following cuts per weight.
The chuck cut represents 26.8% of the total carcass.
It tends to weigh around 236 pounds wholesale.
Chuck is one of the cheaper parts of a cow because the meat is usually quite tough.
The more expensive types of meat tend to be tender or flavorful.
While you can find flavor in chuck cuts, it’s the toughness that makes it a bit more difficult to eat.
As such, chuck is primarily used in dishes like stews, braised dishes, and pot roast.
You can also slow cook chuck cuts to make them more tender.
Because the chuck cut represents a large section of the carcass, you can also find more tender areas within that area.
These areas are typically used for grilling.
They also tend to be a bit more expensive than the tougher parts of the chuck cut.
That all said, you can expect, on average, a chuck cut to weigh around 236 pounds from an 880-pound carcass.
Another popular cut from a cow is the rib cut.
It represents 9.6% of the carcass and weighs around 84.5 pounds wholesale.
Ribs are a popular cut because you can eat them with little preparation.
For example, all you need to do is cook the ribs and they’re ready to eat.
That said, a lot of people make special sauces for ribs.
The meat is usually quite tender which makes them a bit more expensive than other cuts.
Even if you have leftovers, you can still use rib meat in other dishes.
For example, they’re great for sandwiches like pulled-pork sandwiches.
You can also fit them into quesadillas or even a breakfast hash.
Because they offer great flavor and are quite tender, ribs are a popular cut of beef.
A smaller cut of the carcass is brisket.
It represents 3.8% of the carcass and has a wholesale weight of around 33.5 pounds for an 880-pound carcass.
When it comes to a classic barbecue, brisket is usually what’s on the menu.
It has a ton of flavor which makes it ideal for a barbecue.
You can smoke it or grill it to add even more flavor to the meat.
That said, brisket is also popular in other dishes.
For example, some people make it into corned beef or pastrami.
One problem you’ll have with brisket is that the meat can be quite tough.
You need to cook it at low temperatures for an extended time.
As long as you have your grill on low, you’re able to make an unforgettable brisket barbecue.
Another small part of the carcass is the shank.
It represents 3.1% of the carcass and weighs around 27.4 pounds wholesale for an 880-pound carcass.
Shank is another affordable cut of beef.
Part of the reason it’s affordable is that it’s lean.
People tend to use it in stews and soups as well as in dishes like beef bourguignon.
To get the most flavor out of shank, you usually need to braise or stew it.
This helps it becomes a bit more tender and makes it juicier.
You can also sometimes get shank with the shank bone.
Since bone marrow can provide plenty of flavor, too, a lot of people will also stew the meat with the bone.
One of the most popular parts of a cow is the loin area.
It represents 17.2% of the total 880-pound carcass and weighs, on average, around 151.4 pounds.
The loin area is usually further cut into a T-Bone steak or Porterhouse.
This is one of the most tender and flavorful parts of the cow.
As such, it’s usually quite expensive.
Since it’s already quite juicy, most people don’t marinate loin cuts.
Instead, some people simply grill or roast it.