The beef project provides opportunities for youth to develop responsibility, decision making, patience and understanding by regularly caring for their project animals. In addition to feeding and health care, 4-Hers learn about nutrition, physiology, reproduction, marketing and the economic importance of the livestock industry as well as record keeping skills.


4-H Beef Projects

Market Steer Project

The 4-H market steer project is an interesting, popular and fun-filled project. This project can be carried out by 4-H'ers who do not have the space and other resources to be involved in a beef heifer project. This project can be either carried on with the beef heifer project or can be the only project the 4-H member chooses.The 4-H market steer project also provides opportunities to learn about selecting, feeding, caring for, managing and properly finishing and showing a beef steer. In addition, you will learn about carcass qualities and marketing your steer.

4-H members participating in the Market Steer Project for the first time should select a weaning steer that weighs 500 to 550 pounds in the fall and "background" the steer until it weighs 750 to 800 pounds. Then the steer should be fed a concentrate ration for 100 to 150 days until it reaches proper weight and "finish". A market steer should weigh 1,000 to 1,200 pounds and grade "choice" by show time.4-H market steer shows are held each spring and summer. In addition, many other 4-H steer shows are held during county fairs in the fall.

Raising two steers offers many advantages. Feeding one steer does not make good use of facilities and equipment. Calves also thrive better when fed with others. Most county, district and state market steer shows also allow for multiple entries.

Beef Heifer Project

The 4-H Beef Heifer Project is similar in some ways to the more common market steer projects you might be familiar with, such as raising a calf to maturity.However, while the market steer can only be sold for meat, the heifer can be retained and bred to bear a calf, sold as a breeding animal, or bred and then sold “ready-to-calf”.

While the return on the 4-H member’s investment may take longer with a heifer project, one has more choices and can establish a longer term association with an individual animal than is possible with a steer.

Beef Backgrounding Project

If one has access to relatively inexpensive surplus feed (hay or silage), has some underutilized pasture, or has a non-farming neighbor who wants to keep their fields open, then a backgrounding project might be an ideal way to participate in the beef program. A backgrounding project (also known a stocker operation), takes lightweight (450-600 pound) feeder steers and makes heavyweight (700-900 pounds) feeder steers out of them. This can be accomplished by feeding a low cost feed resource such as pasture or, after a good summer, surplus hay and silage. The 4-H member then has the option of selling the heavyweight steer to a cattle feeder, feeding it to market weight herself (or himself), or having it custom slaughtered for really lean beef.

A backgrounding or stocker project can be a lower investment, lower intensity experience compared to the showring market steer and when the feed is good, but truly inexpensive (say a unused pasture that has previously been mowed to keep the weeds down), then it can be profitable over a range of price situations. On the other hand, when expensive feed must be purchased and heavy feeders are going to be much cheaper per pound that light ones, then another project may be more suitable.

Beef Breeding Project

The most complex type of beef project is the breeding project. In this program the 4-H member keeps one or more cows and breeds them to produce calves for show, for sale as weaned feeders or for transfer to their own backgrounding , market or heifer projects. The cows may be registered purebreds or commercial grades and crossbreds, depending on the market and desired off-farm activities of the 4-H member.

For more information

Contact Brian Aukema at bja14 [at] (bja14[at]cornell[dot]edu).