Whether raised for milk production or by a beef producer, cows are pretty large animals.
How long does it take for these animals to reach their full body weights?
How fast do cows grow anyways?
Cows grow exponentially, with the bulk of their growth concentrated early in life. Calves can gain weight at a rate of 1.5 pounds daily but slow down closer to maturity. An average adult cow’s mature weight is between 1,600 and 2,400 pounds when they reach their maximum size, but this can vary greatly.
Understanding the life cycle of a cow is important for both your purposes for your cow and animal welfare as they age.
Keep reading, and we’ll see what to expect from your herds!
How Fast Does a Baby Cow Grow?
A baby cow, or calf, can vary in weight directly after calving.
Some factors affecting birth weight include the type of cow you have and their health status.
The term “calf” is used until the cow or bull is a year old.
On average, most calves have a birth weight of about 82 pounds.
As mentioned, they gain weight at an average of about a pound and a half every day, although heifers may at a slightly slower rate than bulls.
When your calf is considered a cow, expect it to weigh a few hundred pounds or more.
At What Age Are Cows Fully Grown?
While you won’t call a cow a calf after they reach 12 months of age, this doesn’t mean they stop growing.
If you’re defining “fully grown” as cows reaching their mature weight, it takes about seven years to reach maturity.
For reference, if a cow is cared for during its entire natural lifespan, it can live up to 20 years, according to Compassion in World Farming.
However, dairy and beef breeds see a declining growth rate even as they get larger once they’re a year old.
This means your cow will continue to gain more mass.
If a farmer keeps beef cows rather than dairy cows for milk production, the time between being a calf and their full weight is usually dedicated to reaching market weight for beef with ample access to grass pastures and other food.
How they gain this weight is indicated by terms like “grain-fed beef” when you buy beef at the store.
Because cows often reach their target weights before they reach full maturity, cows kept for a beef cattle operation often don’t live this full seven years.
Most beef cows are slaughtered when they weigh between 900 and 1,350 pounds.
The animals may even be slaughtered as calves for certain cuts of meat since older cows make for less tender, leaner beef.
What Impacts a Cow’s Weight?
Not every cow will weigh the same, and a few factors affect this aspect of animal performance.
With these factors, you might notice some variance between the average weights we’ve discussed and the actual weights of your herd.
The most important thing affecting a cow’s size is its age and where they fall in its growth cycle.
Naturally, calves will have a lower body weight than full-grown cows.
As they age, they gain mass.
On the contrary, older cows may lose weight if they live to seniority, just as other aspects of animal performance start to decline with age.
Further Reading: Domesticated cow life expectancy
This is a natural part of the life cycle, but a sudden, unexpected, or drastic drop in weight is worth discussing with a professional as weight loss is a potential sign of illness.
Breed and Sex
The breed is another consideration playing a huge role in herd size.
Beef cows like Angus cows are typically bred to grow large, while this isn’t the focus for dairy herd improvement.
This is both thanks to the natural variation in size among cows and selective breeding to ensure herds meet the market requirements of the farmer.
For instance, dairy breeds aren’t bred to gain as much mass as a beef breed because the focus is on milk production, while beef breeds are meant to gain much more muscle mass to maximize beef production.
There’s also a discrepancy between the sexes.
You’ll notice bull calves start to outweigh heifers in the herd as the calves age.
Some cows seem genetically bigger than their peers.
This often leads to selective breeding of these higher producing lines than smaller herd members.
This is particularly common for a commercial operation.
Some genetic conditions can potentially lead to larger cows.
For example, Belgian Blue cows are prone to a condition commonly referred to as “double muscling,” which gives them a much higher muscle mass than cows without it.
Health and Nutrition Program
As with many other animals, the size of cows in herds also depends on their health status and nutrition.
If a cow is in great health and has a well-rounded nutrition program that meets all their dietary needs, they’re more likely to put on weight faster.
Conversely, if a cow has standing health issues or experiences malnourishment, you’re more likely to see a weight decline.
Keeping up with routine health care will help keep growth rates on track.
How Quickly Do Cow’s Horns Grow?
Cows aren’t the type of animal where every individual sports horns, so this growth rate won’t affect the whole herd.
If you have cows with horns, make sure to monitor horns for any signs of damage or anything other potential health issues which may come up.
Even when a cow does have horns, they can vary greatly.
As such, there’s no usual level of growth or even size for cow horn growth.
Once again, you may see more horn growth from certain cow breeds such as Texas Longhorns.
How Quickly Do Cow’s Hooves Grow?
A cow’s hoof grows about 2″ inches every year, according to the University of Kentucky.
The natural wear offsets this growth on the hoof as these animals go about their day.
Specifically, walking on the hard ground provides the friction necessary to naturally accommodate this hoof growth rate and keep the hoof at an appropriate length.
Related: Is riding a cow bad for its hooves?
On the other hand, modern farmers often need to trim their cows’ hooves as a part of routine health care.
This is because herds on farms spend a lot of time in grass pastures which doesn’t provide the friction their feet would normally get.