Raising a beef cow -Looking for advice and info

Discussion in 'Other Pets & Livestock' started by Tacswa3, Jan 26, 2014.

  1. Tacswa3

    Tacswa3 Out Of The Brooder

    Dec 16, 2013
    I would like to raise ONE cow for my family. I did some searching on the boards, but info I found was back in 08'. I'm looking for some more recent pricing and such.

    I can keep it on my land but there will be no pasture. It would penned and would like an approximate size where the cow would maintain sanity? Lol.

    I could walk it to a nearby field/pasture and let it graze for a change of pace.

    So, I'm wondering what the average cost is for a weaned calf?

    How long will I have to raise it until butcher?

    Cost of hay, grains, etc?

    Average cost of processing form a butcher?

    Oh, and whats the most cost effective fencing I could use for the pen?

    If all goes well IF I decide to do this, I would probably be raising one every year or so.
  2. my sunwolf

    my sunwolf Chillin' With My Peeps

    This is all IMO. I have some experience with grass fed beef, not grain finished.

    As much space as possible is better. You may be able to get by on 200 sq ft while it is young, but I like to have individual adult cows on at lest 1/4 acre each for their own sanity. However, they will eat the grass down so low that it is bad for the pasture. This can cause erosion and excess nitrogen runoff in the long term. To prevent this and save your pasture, you need to rotate even in the wintertime. A method that my neighbors use is to have a paddock area of about 400 sq ft as well as a few acres of pasture. They then raise calves in the paddock all fall and winter, letting them get it muddy and bare, and then release the calves onto the pasture in spring. Then they till the paddock and use it as a garden during the summers. Just to give you some things to think about.

    For a weaned calf, prices change by week and by breed. For a beef breed calf specifically, expect to pay a lot more, especially if it is in good health. For a mixed or milk breed, you will pay less. Remember: you usually get what you pay for. I've seen people get bottle babies for $100 from dairies, but they were sickly little things. Usually, calves that are weaned are a few hundred dollars. $1 per pound is not unusual. You probably want a steer if it's for beef. Milk breed steers go for pretty cheap. Make sure you buy it castrated or know how to castrate yourself. Or, be prepared to pay a vet to do the job. Heifers don't have to be castrated, but they also don't have as fast of a growth rate or get as big.

    Cows do MUCH better if they have friends. Without company, they will bawl all day and will want to be friends with you. If you just have one, you must spend a good deal of time with it for its mental health.

    The ideal age for slaughter is between 12 and 24 months, depending on how much meat you want. Most people I know slaughter around 18 months. Some people buy weaned yearlings in the spring, raise them on grass acreage, and slaughter them in the fall.

    Around here, I can get decent quality round 5x5 bale of hay for $20 to $30, not including delivery. I've heard that it's more expensive in other parts of the country, so you'll have to check local prices. These round bales are hard to maneuver as they tend to weigh a few hundred pounds, sometimes up to a ton depending on how tight they were rolled. A decent quality 5x5 round bale can last a 500lb steer between 2-4 weeks. It depends on the current temp, your cow's genetics, protein content of the hay, age of the hay, field or barn stored, etc.

    Grain is much cheaper, which is why people use it. Around here, I pay $20 for 100lbs of 16% protein sweet feed. I have never fed grain as part of the diet, only as supplement, so I couldn't tell you how long that would last you.

    No idea on processing costs, but it is fairly expensive to just have one cow done as opposed to a group.

    Most cost-effective fencing for a steer would be electric, in my opinion. But, if he's not aggressive and if he has enough room, you might find it cheaper to use heavy-duty t-posts with some tight wire strands. Anything you can get for cheap or free would be the most cost-effective.

    That's my 2 cents on the subject!
  3. res

    res Chillin' With My Peeps

    I don't know where you are in MD, but I am in "southern" MD in Charles County. We bought a 6 mth old black baldie (Hereford/Angus cross) in December 2013 for $400. It was a local purchase via word-of-mouth by a neighbor, so the price was probably lower than if the calf were advertised on Craigslist, etc. The breeder also sold it to us cheaper than what he would have brought at sale because we saved him transport and commission costs.

    I would shop around locally. Ask feed mills, ask butchers. Often they can send you to someone selling calves for a reasonable price. I wouldn't go to a sale. Often those calves can be stressed, and bust out with respiratory issues due to that stress. Plus, you won't always know what you are getting.

    Amish feed mills can be a very affordable resource for grains. I am purchasing 100lb bags of 13% textured feed for $13.50 from my local mill in Loveville. I also get 50lb bags of alfalfa haylage for $15 to supplement "Oreo" during these cold snaps. 800lb round bales are $15, or 40lb small squares are $3 just down the road from me. Neighbors helping neighbors - again, not an advertised dealer, just sells by word-of-mouth.

    Raising your own beef WITHOUT free-range pasture is NOT the cheapest way to fill a freezer. You have to want to do it because you want to know where your meat came from, and how it was raised. You can often find cheaper "home-raised" meat on Craigslist, being sold by the half or quarter. If you visit the farm that is raising the animal, and are comfortable with their process, that can be a cheaper option for you.

    As far as the "leading the cow to pasture" goes... Good luck. You will need to start VERY young with that process, when you still outweigh and out-muscle the cow. Wait too long, and you WILL need a big tractor to make them learn how to lead. Some breeds are more docile and willing to learn than others, too.
  4. res

    res Chillin' With My Peeps

    Forgot to add that I agree with everything HeartMoss Farm posted.

    I will add that most calves/cows will respect electric fence when it has a GOOD charger and powerful shock. However, you will still want at least 4 metal pipe panels to make a "stall" of some sort for confining the calf/cow when needed. If they are spooked enough when you try to work with them, they will leap thru or over the electric fence.
  5. Tacswa3

    Tacswa3 Out Of The Brooder

    Dec 16, 2013
    Thank you both for your informative posts. Really helps a lot. I'm not trying to save a buck to fill the freezer. I want to get into small hobby farming and it would be nice to raise my own beef knowing exactly what went into it. This particular idea has an expensive start up cost and the more I research this idea it seems I don't have the best set up for it.

    I would like some animals to raise that give back in one way shape or form. Thought about a pig or two, but they are some stank animals and not sure I want those up near the house.
  6. my sunwolf

    my sunwolf Chillin' With My Peeps

    Not just smelly, but LOUD! Although all animals are loud and smelly to some extent, I guess. Pigs are also notoriously difficult to fence. It is not that hard to raise cattle compared to other livestock, but it does help to have pasture. If you're looking for another source of meat, I would suggest getting into rabbits as the startup cost is extremely low. From there, people often move on to goats--though they are awful to try to fence.
  7. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

    Jun 18, 2010
    Southern Oregon
    You seriously need to research the price of hay in your area. I don't see how anyone can afford to raise a beef without pasture. I don't know about your area, but they're already talking drought here....hay's going to go through the roof. I'm finally looking at reducing the equine population on my little acre......
  8. squirescastle

    squirescastle Just Hatched

    Jan 23, 2014
    Even with pasture you still need to supplement with grains and hay. You can't skimp on the nutrition. It's very expensive to raise a beef cow.
  9. Tacswa3

    Tacswa3 Out Of The Brooder

    Dec 16, 2013
    I doubt there will be any pasture, It would be all bailed hay, alfalfa, grains, mineral blocks, etc

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