Oklahoma Ag in the Classroom

May Page

Oklahoma Beef

Teachers getting up close to a beef herd during OAITC summer tour.

Beef cattle are central to the history of our great state. Many Oklahoma towns got their start as stops along the cattle drives. Learn more about cattle drives with Hit the Trail, and check out Ag Art for May, Frederic Remington's "Stampede."

  • Cattle are often grazed on land that can't be used for anything else because the terrain is too steep or hilly for building houses or too rocky or dry for growing crops. Cattle convert food that humans can't digest (grass) into protein that humans can eat.

  • Cattle grazing on rangeland keep the prairie healthy, just as the bison and other grazing animals did before this area was settled. Cattle grazing helps control prairie fires by keeping the grass short. Their hooves press grass seed into the soil and aerate it, which helps grass and other plants grow better. They also provide fertilizer in the form of manure.

  • Cattle and calves ranked number one among all Oklahoma agricultural commodities in 2015, with a value of $3.2 billion. Cow-calf operations are in the business of producing cattle. The finished product of a cow-calf operation is feeder cattle or a weaned animal weighing between 600 and 800 pounds, ready to go on feed. Cow-calf operations usually sell their cattle crop to feedlots, who are in the business of producing high quality beef cattle by fattening them with grain and protein concentrates. Depending upon the weight of the animal at placement in the feedlot, feeding conditions, and desired finished weight, the feeding period can last from 90 days to 300 days, though it tends to average about 140 days.

  • Oklahoma City's Stockyard City is the home of the largest stocker/feeder cattle market in the world. Since it opened in 1910, more than 102 million head of livestock have passed through its iron gates.

Oklahoma City Stockyards photo courtesy of Oklahoma State University

Beef-Related Educational Videos

handwritesWriting Prompt: You are a cowboy on a cattle drive. Write a letter home to your mother, letting her know what your days are like.

More facts about beef and hamburgers

More facts about cattle and calves

Sink or Swim: Muscle vs. Fat (Experiment from Scientific American's Take Science Home series)

Discussion questions and activities for this painting

More Ag in Art

Books

Patrick, Jean LS, and Alvis Upitis, Cows, Cats and Kids: A Veterinarian's Family at Work, Boyd's Mills, 2003. (Grades 4-6)

During the day and a half covered in this photo-essay, Shea helps her father "pull" a calf (assist a cow with a difficult birth), and Kendall spends a morning with him vaccinating calves. Later in the day, Catherine assists with spaying a cat and removing the dewclaws from some puppies. The author explains and clarifies these unfamiliar procedures without losing the flow of the narrative. The full-color photographs complement and complete the story.

Peterson, Cris, Amazing Grazing, Boyd Mills, 2002. (Grades 3-5)

Using the stories of three Montana ranchers, the book's main focus is rangeland grazing, the love ranchers have for their land, and their efforts to preserve and enhance the environment.

Townsend, Una Belle, Bob Artley and Yolanda Powell, Grady's in the Silo, Pelican, 2003. (K-3)

Based on the true story of Grady, the silo cow from Yukon, OK.

Wolfman, Judy, and David Lorenz Winston, Life on a Cattle Farm, Lerner, 2002. (Grades K-4)

This series entry introduces Adam Smith, who lives on a small beef cattle farm in Pennsylvania, and the narrative presents easy-to-understand information about raising these animals. The facts are general to all cattle breeds, although the Smiths raise 50 polled Herefords. Most of the animals are sold, so the concentration is on raising healthy breeding cattle. The descriptions of breeding, birth, vaccination, and castration are briefly explained for young readers. The simplicity will be appreciated by city children, while rural children may find it too limited. One detail is not quite correct. After cleaning out the barn, readers are told that "hay" was spread on the floor as bedding. Straw is usually used for bedding, and hay is used as feed. Sharp, clear, full-color photos appear on every page.

Background photo courtesy of Oklahoma State University

May Page

Oklahoma Ag in the Classroom

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Oklahoma Ag in the Classroom is a program of the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service, the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry and the Oklahoma State Department of Education.