The beef program at California State University, Fresno involves purebred herds, a feedlot, a stocker enterprise and a commercial cow-calf operation. The purebred herds and the feedlot are part of the agricultural laboratory on campus. The commercial cow-calf herd is maintained at the San Joaquin Experimental Range in the foothills north of Fresno. Students are involved in the day to day care, management, and marketing of all the animals. In addition, students are able to gain additional experience in student projects in the stocker and feedlot phases of the beef industry.
The Fresno State Beef Unit raises purebred cattle for breeding purposes. The three breeds raised here are: Charolais, Angus and Hereford. The cattle are sold to other cattle producers as breeding stock or kept as replacements for our program.
The Charolais breed came to the United States from France in about 1930. They are solid white and larger in size than the Angus or Hereford. They are polled, or without horns.
The Angus cattle breed originated in Scotland. Angus cattle are pure black and are also polled. Angus were first brought to the United States in 1873.
The Hereford breed is red in color with a white face, chest, underline and tail switch. They are either horned or polled. Hereford cattle originated in England. They were brought to the United States in 1817 and are well known for their adaptability to different climates and fleshing ability.
Our beef herd consists of about 80 head of cattle. All breeding is done by Artificial Insemination (A.I.) and the semen is purchased from sire selection companies around the nation. Sires are selected for their desirable traits. These traits may include, hardiness to disease, fleshing ability and maternal characteristics.
A cow’s gestation is approximately 283 days or 9 months. Cows are bred so that they calve at the same time; this is usually in late fall or mid spring. The cows will give birth in the pastures and are carefully watched by the students working at the unit. As soon as the calf is born, it is weighed and ear tagged for identification. A calf normally weighs 60 to 100 pounds at birth. The calf will stay with its mother until it is about 7 months of age.
Heifer calves will be kept as replacements for breeding and bull calves are castrated and will move into the feedlot when they reach approximately 700 pounds. Some select bulls may be kept or sold to other producers for breeding.
The cattle at the Beef Unit are kept either in pasture or in the feedlot. Once they reach the feedlot, they are fed hay and a concentrate containing corn, ground hay, vitamins and minerals to keep them healthy. At maturity, a cow can weigh anywhere from 1250 to 1800 pounds. A mature bull can weigh 2000 pounds or more, depending on the breed.
Beef cattle that are used for show are very carefully selected for their best overall traits. The cattle are cared for by the students who will show them. They are fed a very special diet to promote excellent body condition and hair quality. The cattle are kept in the barn prior to showing and are groomed and washed daily and taught to lead with a halter. The cattle are shown by the students at different fairs, contests and competitions throughout the year.