Cattle (Beef)

Last updated 26 September 2022

Note: the words ‘cow’ and ‘cattle’ are used interchangeably in this article to refer to both male and female bovines. Cow is technically a female, however there is no singular word to refer to cattle that is gender neutral, as a result cow is often used to refer to singular cattle, male or female.

Cows are gentle giants, each having their own unique personality and traits. They develop social structures within their communities, spending time in different groups depending on their ranking in the herd. Cows have incredible memories and can individually identify up to 70 other herd members. Cows are affectionate creatures and build relationships with other members of the herd who are important to them.

A cow has a personality as distinct as a dog, with his or her own life and purpose. They have been observed chasing balls and running around just for the fun of it. As they are kept away from urban areas, most people never get a chance to make meaningful connections and see just how unique cows really are.

Australia is the third largest exporter of beef in the world behind Brazil and India, exporting 1,610,000 metric tons of beef annually1. In 2019, 8.5 million head of cattle were slaughtered in Australia, an 8% increase from 2018 2. As of 2018 there were 26.4 million head of cattle in Australia. Beef cattle typically start their lives in grazing paddocks, sometimes with little shelter or shade when the heat is extreme. As a result, approximately 18% don’t survive. For those who do, a third will be taken to feedlots to see out the last 6-to-12 months of their lives before being slaughtered.

Australian cattle and their distribution. Source: Meat and Livestock Australia


Lives cut short - number of cows killed in Australia.

While a cow can live up to 25 years naturally, the average lifespan of beef cattle is just 18 months.