Beef production in a feedlot begins with a diet made up of forages and nutrients and is changed slowly from a high roughage diet to a high energy grain diet where about 90 per cent of the diet is grain-based. Grain-finishing produces tender, marbled beef and significantly reduces the overall environmental footprint for beef production. The cattle have plenty of room to move around in the open-air feedlot pens and have free access to feed and water. Cattle are monitored daily to ensure their health and dietary needs are being met. Cattle will typically spend 90 to 200 days in a feedlot where they are fed nutritionally balanced rations until they reach the optimum weight for being sold to a processing plant and processed into beef.
The development of feeding rations is a very precise science. Feed for cattle must supply enough energy, protein, minerals, and vitamins to meet the nutritional requirements of the age of the cattle being fed.
It takes approximately 2.7 kilograms (6 pounds) of dry matter feed to produce 0.5 kilograms (1 pound) of weight gain in a beef animal.