An average cow weighs 1,600lb, while an adult bull tips the scales at 2,400lb. Clearly their gender makes an enormous difference, but so does their breed, age, feeding regimen and environmental factors.
Asking how much a cow might weigh is actually difficult to respond to as the exact figure depends on many things. There is no all-encompassing answer.
When an article talks about live weights, they will invariably mention an average figure and not an amount based on their feed or whether they are pasture cattle or spend most of their time in feeding sheds. Whether they are bred for meat or milk is another crucial factor, with dairy cattle weighing less than beef cattle.
Table of Contents
Cows and Their Weights
Here is a list of the most common breeds of cattle and their weight ranges:
|Angus||1,000 to 1,400lbs||1,650 to 1,870lbs|
|Ayrshire||990 to 1,320lbs||1,410 to 1,985lbs|
|Brahman||1,000 to 1,400lbs||1,600 to 2,200lbs|
|Brown Swiss||1,300 to 1,400lb||1,800 to 2,500lb|
|Chianina||1,800 to 2,000lb||2,530 to 3,000lb|
|Galloway||1,000 to 1,5000lb||1,700 to 2,300lb|
|Guernsey||1,000 to 1,100lb||1,320 to 1,540lb|
|Hereford||990 to 1,210lb||1,650 to 1,875lb|
|Holstein-Friesian||1,500 to 1,700lb||2,000 to 2,300lb|
|Jersey||800 to 900lb||1,300 to 1,500lb|
|Limousin||1,430 to 1,875lb||2,200 to 2,865lb|
|Shorthorn (beef)||1,450 to 1,800lb||1,800 to 2,200lb|
|Shorthorn (dairy)||1,200 to 1,400lb||1,800 to 2,200lb|
|Simmental||1,320 to 1,760lb||2,425 to 2,865lb|
Several factors influence the weight of a cow, such as breed, age and gender. Even cows of the same breed and herd can be several hundred pounds apart, often due to food sources and individual genetics.
The three heaviest breeds are Chianina, Simmental, and Limousin.
Weights of Steers, Heifers, and Calves
The average weight of steers going to slaughter remains higher than heifers. In the UK in 2020, for example, around 26.8 percent of heifers had an average carcass weight (ACW) of under 660lb, 70 percent were between 660 and 880lb, and only 3.8 percent weighed over 880lb.
The weight of steers was spread slightly differently, with higher weights across the board and more concentrated around the upper levels. Nine-point-eight percent showed an ACW of under 660lb, just over 70 percent had one between 660 and 880lb, and 16.6 percent weighed over 880lb.
Most calves weigh around 82lb at birth, with bull calves putting on about 80lb in their first month. An average bull calf can weigh up to 1,300lb at the end of the first year! Heifer calves also gain weight quickly, although not quite at the same rate – they usually reach about 720lb after 12 months.
As mentioned before, the breed of cattle can be a determining factor in its weight. A Brown Swiss calf can weigh up to 160lbs after one month, while a Jersey calf “only” weighs about 95lb.
Increases in Cow Weight Over The Years
Surprisingly, the beef produced per cow has increased by nearly 20 percent over the last 20 years.
South Dakota State University Extension beef specialist Ken Olson points out that breeding the type of calf that will develop into a “heavy feeder” and provide heavy, quality carcasses is the foundation of a rancher’s business.
There is a steady upward trend over the last 20 years of steers and heifers putting on an additional 150 to 170lb at finishing today. That equates to about 14 percent larger weights. They spend about eight more days to get there, but their average daily gains are about 60 percent faster, and they’re more efficient.Ken Olson
To understand how much cow weights have increased, Olson provided expected progeny differences as one reason. The weight of Angus yearlings, a reliable indicator of mature weight, has increased by 96lb since the early 1970s. In that time, Average Angus heifer weights have increased by 240lb and steer weights by 300lb.
How much weight is lost during meat production?
The hot carcass weight is how much the carcass weighs after the internal organs, hide and head are removed. This process subtracts around 35 to 40 percent of the live animal weight. So a cow that weighs 1,400lb would have an 880-pound carcass (hot weight).
How much do the most familiar retail cuts weigh?
Using the 880lb carcass weight as an example, the loin weighs 150lb, and the brisket and shank weigh 61lb. You should obtain 85lb of round steaks and roasts, 90lb of chuck steaks and roasts, and 80lb of loin steaks and rib. There should be about 50lb of ground beef.