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For this reason, cattle breeds that grow quickly and have a high ability to put on weight are particularly suited to meat production. There are different breeds that fulfil these criteria, however. Whereas some breeds have a high weight with a very low fat level, other breeds grow more quickly but do not reach the same weight. The meat from these cows is valued for its marbled meat, which shows the intramuscular fat content, however. There are also different breeds for milk production. Mainly male cows are fattened and slaughtered. There are also some breeds such as Fleckvieh, however, that can be used for both meat and milk production.
A special area of feeder cattle rearing is fattening veal. Fattening veal are male and female calves that are not needed for breeding purposes. Fattening veal are separated from the mother shortly after birth and have a life expectancy of just five to six months. The German order on the protection of animals and the keeping of production animals prescribes strict rules for the keeping of fattening veal, however. Calves over the age of eight weeks may not be kept on their own and must have sufficient space available to them. There are also rules regulating the administration of colostrum, the housing climate, the size of the compartment, the input of feed (straw, hay or maize silage) or the haemoglobin level of the calves’ blood.
In 2003, 49,789 million tonnes of beef were produced globally, most of that in the USA, which has a market share of 25 per cent. The next largest producers are Brazil (15.5%), the EU (14.8%) and China (12.09%). The USA is also the largest consumer of beef (25.6%), followed by the EU (15.3%), Brazil (13%) and China (12%).
The most important trading venue for futures contracts on live and feeder cattle is the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.