Genetics Difference Between Show Steers & Show Bulls.

What’s the difference between steers & bulls?

When I visited a cattle farm in Texas for the first time,  the people working at the farm were using words like bulls & steer for sale. Initially, I was puzzled like any common man would do! Later on, the difference was explained to me. The cattle farm or agricultural community commonly uses these terms like steers & bulls. We usually don’t come across these words. And it may seem to be simple to us but there is a huge difference. 

Steer term is used for the bull that has been neutered. Their testicles have been removed and they cannot breed anymore. Whereas bull term is used for the male animal which contributes to breeding.

Why do bulls have to undergo castration process?

Usually, bulls are categorized under aggressive animals. Because they tend to establish their dominance by fighting with other bulls and have a high temper. It becomes difficult for workers to manage the bulls from fighting and keeping them away. So the superior genetic breed is allowed to reach maturity, while others are sent for castration. Bulls attain their maturity at least by 2 years, then they can be employed for breeding purposes. 

(As one bull can mate with multiple cows, they are maintained in small numbers.)

How to figure out the difference between steers & bulls?

Anatomical difference – 

As steers have been castrated, due to low testosterone hormones they don’t develop the typical male characteristics like – The hump in the back and muscular crest in the neck region. Bull can be identified even in the herd full of steer due to its muscular build and a huge hump. Also if you take a side view of the animal, bulls have a scrotum while steers don’t have one or it just has an underdeveloped sheath.

Behavior difference – 

In bulls, the testosterone hormone drives the animal to be aggressive and provokes it for mating. The aggressive nature of bulls can cause harm to the caretakers and lead to chaos. Especially when bulls sense the estrus cycle/heat period of cows, they try to establish dominance in the herd. This is to portray themselves as the best amongst the rest of the bulls. Steers are the complete opposite in these behavioral terms. They will be meek one’s you can find in the room.

Meat difference – 

Usually, bulls are reared for breeding while Steers for the meat. Bulls can also be used for meat but the testosterone in their body affects the meat quality in terms of tenderness & palatability. So steers are preferred for meat production. 

These are the points that distinguish the steers from bulls. Don’t get carried away with the color or horns which people think of as a distinguishing character when they see steer for sale in Texas. The quality of a bull or steer is decided by genetics not just with the appearance.