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Cattle for milking and meat were brought by the European settlers. Herds of cattle were in Canada by 1824. Today, cattle farming is a big part of the economy in Saskatchewan.

A herd of cattle are grazing.

A herd of cattle is a group of cows.

Cattle are raised on land that is not suitable for growing crops on. They graze the land and provide us with nutritious food. The farmer moves them from one pasture to another to prevent over-grazing, which is excessive grazing that will cause damage to the grassland.

A bull and a cow are standing next to each other as they graze in a pasture.

This bull and cow are grazing in a pasture.

Industry Overview

In 2020, there were roughly 2,610,000 beef cows on Saskatchewan farms. The average herd size was 148 head of cattle living on approximately 14,100 Saskatchewan farms! Approximately 27% of all farms in Saskatchewan are beef cattle operations.

An illustrated beef farmer stands in a pasture with cows standing behind him.

Saskatchewan has 14,100 beef farms in Saskatchewan, which are home to 2.6 million cows!

Some beef farmers sell their meat directly to people who then work with local butchers or processing facilities to have the meat cut and processed into different cuts such as steaks, ribs, or ground beef. Beef farmers can also work with large production companies to transport their beef from the farm to the processing facility where the meat is processed into many different cuts and products, and then packaged. After being processed, the meat is taken to grocery stores and then the end consumer will purchase it to cook the meat and eat it.

A woman reaches for a package of meat in the meat aisle of a grocery store.

The beef is processed into different types of cuts and packaged, sent to grocery stores, and sold to the end consumers who cook the meat and eat it.

There are also many byproducts made from animals in processing facilities. Byproducts are materials leftover from food production. Byproducts are not the primary goal of the agricultural system, but can be just as important. Making these byproducts also produces less waste, and is a way of recycling waste from processing animals. These products are processed, packaged, and sent to retail stores for customers to purchase.

An illustrated lightbulb is shown next to sketches of a recycling sign, a map, water drops, a wheat sheaf, and power lines.

There are many creative ways to recycle the waste created from processing animals for meat.

Who is Who?

A male red and white newborn calf stands in a pen.


A male that is has had its reproductive organs removed is called a steer.
A brown and white coloured calf is standing in a pasture.


A female or male newborn is called a calf.
A red coloured heifer cow stands in a pasture.


A female that has not had a calf is called a heifer.
Did you know?


A male that breeds the cows is called a bull.
A light brown cow and a newborn calf are in a pasture together, while the calf drinks milk from the mother.


A female that has given birth to a calf is called a cow.

Animal Care

The Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Beef Cattle is followed in Canada. These science-based guidelines help to make sure the cattle receive proper care and handling. The farmer makes clean water and nutritious food available for the cattle. Cattle get sick just like humans, and antibiotics are given to cattle to prevent and control diseases.

A cow has its head down to look at the camera that is taking its photo.

Ranchers want to ensure their cattle are well taken care of.

Cattle are very special animals that eat grass, hay, low-quality grains, and other plant products that people cannot eat. A pasture is a field of grasses and other types of plants that is grown to feed animals. When cattle eat grass, it is called grazing. Cattle graze on land that can’t be used for other food production because it is too steep or hilly, or too dry or too rocky for growing crops. Cattle’s grazing helps keep the weeds from growing. Keeping this land in grass or pasture helps prevent soil from washing away.

A herd of cattle are grazing in a pasture, while two ranchers are riding their horses in the pasture to check the cattle.

Ranchers are out checking their herd of cows to make sure they are all happy and healthy.

Animal Housing

Beef cattle live outside all year long. In the summer, their coats protect them from the sun and the heat in the pasture. During the winter, their coats grow thick to protect them from the cold and snow. Cattle are not in the pasture in the winter and move into large outdoor pens. Farmers must check on their herds daily to keep them healthy. If it is calving season, the farmer must check on the cows multiple times a day in case a cow needs help giving birth.

A cow and her calf are standing in a pasture, next to some other cows.

Some cattle need assistance giving birth to their calves.

Three calves are in a barn to keep warm.

These calves are keeping warm during the winter in the barn.


All cattle must have an ear tag which contains a unique number to tell the cows apart and to keep track of each animal’s history. Farmers also keep track of when the cow was born, how many calves they may have had, and if they were sick and needed to be treated. This number is used for food safety and traceability if needed.

A calf with a clearly marked ear tag are shown.

This ear tag has a unique number to track data about this specific calf.

Lots of new technology is being used in the ranching industry including self-driving functions in some tractors and cameras on machinery to give better vantage points while operating it. Some farm equipment has digital thermometers to take temperatures of grain and hay. Some ranchers are using cameras in barns to monitor cattle and drones to track cattle while they are in the pasture.

The use of drones is taking off on ranches! 


Beef cattle provides us with many types of delicious meat, but also many other products that are byproducts of processing cows.


Beef provides us with zinc, iron, and protein. Zinc helps build strong bones and fights disease. Iron gives us energy. Protein builds muscle and helps repair body tissue.

A superhero is flexing his muscles.

You can build your superhero muscles with the protein that is in beef.

A rare steak sits on a plate with herbs and butter.
The red juice in meat isn’t actually blood! Very little blood remains in muscle tissues of an animal. That red liquid is water mixed with a protein called myoglobin.