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  #1  
Old 01/29/11, 07:50 PM
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Cost of raising a holstein steer

I am planning on getting a holstein bottle calf and my husband was asking me about cost of raising it to butcher weight. I did some searching but am not coming up with answers and seeing different feeding practices. I understand the calf will need milk replacer for 6 weeks then starter ration for another few months, but after that is where the info is varying, some placing on grower ration others saying just giving hay/pasture with corn and/or silage. Maybe it has to do with location too? Would I be able to just feed grass and hay once it gets to a certain point? How long do you grow one out before butchering? My thought is we will at least be able to break even if we sell half the cow- thinking that should pay the butchering and most if not all the feed cost for the entire cow. Am I incorrect?

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Old 01/29/11, 07:56 PM
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To me the cost doesn't matter. Just knowing that my family and friends are eating healthy beef is really the point. It's also comforting to know that your freezer is full of beef for the year with prices per pound remained constant....Topside

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  #3  
Old 01/29/11, 08:30 PM
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Willowynd thats all depends if you want to butcher
a 1 year old steer that gained 3 pounds a day every day
2 year old steer that gaind 2 pounds a day every day
or 3 year old steer that gained 1 pound a day

on what it will take to get it to gain those weights per day butchering at 1200 pounds

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Old 01/29/11, 09:15 PM
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Once again it depends on how you want to feed that animal. Do you want it grain fed, grass fed, some of both, you have to answer that question. If you give that animal nothing but pasture and hay, it is going to take several years to get him fed out. If you give him some grain that will speed things up some, on full feed of grain will speed it up more but will cost you a whole bunch more money. Now a holstein will eat alot of grain, and grain is going up in price more everyday. I some what doubt that selling half of your steer will pay for the processing and the feed, don`t think that will happen. You better be happy if it pays for the feed. Now as topside said sometimes you can`t always figure into what you eat if it is cost effective. If you want something more cost effective, and want to grass feed your steer to save on money for feed, I would suggest you get a differant type of animal. There are alot of beef breeds that feed out better on just grass as it `s feed source. Hope this helps, > Marc

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  #5  
Old 01/29/11, 11:02 PM
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Here's what I just did.
I bought 2 bottle calves. I have a cow so I didn't have to do the milk replacer. I feed mine milk for 8 weeks - but again, I have a cow. You will need to dehorn them. I use the paste -it's about $12 here. You will need to band them - that's about $14 for the tool and a package of bands that will last you 10 years. (If you know someone that has one of those, make them a plate of cookies to use their tool and a band). I don't have to vaccinate here so I don't know about that. I only raise them to weaning size- then we sell them - except for the one we keep for ourselves. I feed them grain from the first rather than the calf manna. My grain is $10/50 lbs. 50 lbs will get it to weaning size very easily. I give mine a mouthful of grain from day 3 and every day after I feed them until I see the eating it on their own. If I walk past their pen, I stick some grain in their mouths. I have hay available for them all the time. My current steers are 4 days old and were already sniffing the hay - not eating yet, but sniffing like they thought it was interesting.

After they are weaned, you turn them out to pasture. I still grain mine just a bit - maybe a pound a day to keep them friendly and so they come running when I am outside. If pasture isn't available, feed them hay. They won't eat much as babies. My last two ate 4 flakes of hay a day - cleaned it up entirely.

You just need to see that they continue to grow. If they are not growing, you are not doing something right or they are sick. Many feed grain to get them to grow faster. That's up to you. I feed just a bit less than a bale of hay a day to each animal of about a year's age when it is really cold out- that's kind of an average not an exact science. You feed - let them clean it up and feed them more. I feed grass/alfalfa mixed hay. I butchered mine at 16 months this year, but the timing is really up to you. You can go younger or older. There's a point where you aren't making money by feeding them hay and grain. For me that point is about when I start to feed hay in the winter. Ideally, mine would be 3-5 months the first winter and in the freezer by the 2nd. I had to buy all my hay this year so I am sensitive to feeding it out.

I sold 1/4 (1/2 of a 1/2 is what it is actually called) to pay for the butchering feed and make sure I had enough room in the freezer. I won't do that again since I want all the meat and my freezer will hold plenty. I butchered a jersey steer this year - he was almost 700 lbs hanging weight - we realized 440 lbs of meat from him at 16 mos. i assume a holstein would be a bit more. I feed him a gallon of corn 2x a day for the month before we butchered him. It was a long, hot, dry summer and I wanted to marble him up a bit. He is yummy!

My dad always got frustrated with dairy steers (the only kind he ever raised). He said they spent too much time growing up before they grew out. So be patient with them and don't expect angus size. Now the real question - did we break even on our steer? Absolutely not. But the meat we eat is MUCH better than in the stores. The next one we will do smarter and better and cheaper. It's a learning curve.

Good luck.

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Old 01/29/11, 11:12 PM
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Thanks Callieslamb- that is the info I was looking for! Now if you were to have sold the other 1/4- do you think you would have broke even? How are you going to do it cheaper and smarter next time?

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Old 01/29/11, 11:54 PM
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If I sold another 1/4? That would depend on what you sold it for but yes, I would hope so. If not..I have no business raising beef except for an expensive hobby.

It's so hard to tell what's profit and what's breaking even. Would I ever had bought this good of beef to eat? No. So I can only use grocery store meat prices, not the elite prices to figure what I gained- which is what others tend to do. We raised a heifer along with our steer so it's hard to divide it out who ate what and how much.

I am doing it cheaper by raising this one at the right time of year and not holding him over a 2nd winter. The last one was a big guy for an entire winter. That's a savings of about 1/2 the price of raising him right there for me. The little guy we have now was born here so there's a bit of savings also - though jersey bull calves were $20 each last year. Before I start feeding hay in late fall, he will be ready for his trip and hopefully, replaced with a baby. Also- I buy my feed in 500 lb quantities -that saves me a bit. And I have figure out about hay and eliminating more waste. I was too afraid for them to go hungry before. Now...well, if it's decent hay, they can just live with it and eat it until it's gone.

I didn't inclued in the cost of an individual steer the water troughs, hoses, bucket heaters, fences, etc. That also added to my 'not coming out even" with the last one. We had to start from scratch on all the "tuff" bottles, buckets, pitch fork, hay feeder, you name it - we had to buy it. The barn was already here and that was it We bought a tractor this year so we can put up our own hay. It will reduce the price of raising a steer since I wont count the tractor as cost (I can cook the books however I want). The tractor won't cost to raise the steer but it will to plow the driveway...LOL!!!!

Now here's something for you to consider also. We bought steers a couple months ago for $70 each - holsteins. We raised them to 11 weeks - and sold them for 75 cents a pound - it was the going rate for them at the time. They were just over 225 lbs each so for $175 someone got a calf that is past that bottle stage. You might look for something that age and come out a bit ahead. One sickness that needs a vet and you can fail to make money in our game. DS, 10, is actually the one raising the steers for us. So we aren't blood and guts - gotta make a profit. We hope he does and won't let him lose his life's savings through this project, but learning to raise them with a profit is the name of the game. We can make a pretty profit by raising them to feeder size. In fact, if I had had 20 of them, I could have sold them all. I just bought to more bull calves from a different source - $40 each. It's not an exact science by any means. A little drought and I have to feed hay earlier than I thought. I just wanted to give you some averages. You can also feed a lot more grain and get them bigger faster, but I don't know what that does to the cost.

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Last edited by Callieslamb; 01/29/11 at 11:57 PM.
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Old 01/30/11, 06:27 AM
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I do this every year, just got the call that my friend's farm has a 4 day old bull calf. We will pick him up today.

I did not keep real close records but I can tell you all total it costs us about $1000.00 to buy and raise him up till November.
At that point he will be about 800-900lbs at least the last few were. We feed extra raw goat milk, or milk replacer, then calf manna, then grass and hay till about 2-3 weeks prior to slaughter. Then he gets corn.
I figure about 400-500lbs of meat-$2 a lb of great tasting and well fed beef that last us well over a year. Heck $2lb you can't even get chopped beef at the supermarket for that.

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Old 01/30/11, 07:32 AM
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Thank you for the replies! Only one thing has me concerned- I saw somewhere on here about the percentage for bottle calf deaths being VERY high...like 30-55%! If that is true, then I am wondering if I should get 2 - even though I only really want one.

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Old 01/30/11, 08:56 AM
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If you buy them from the sales barn the death rate can be very high.
Buying them from a farmer you know and ensuring that they have had enough colostrum in their first day of life and less stress from shipping drops the rate pretty well.
We always try to have 2 around anyway.

We feed ours goat milk instead of milk replacer since we have many goats. Start them on 18% calf starter switch to a 16% mix at around 6 months and feed 4-6 pounds of that a day till butcher. Other than that they get decent hay or pasture. We follow no fattening or finishing procedure and like the meat we produce. We buy early spring and butcher late the next fall.
We make our own hay so the costs aren't too great.
Start up costs can be high or they can be rock bottom, depends on what you want. Start with old ice cream buckets instead of new bottles and a plastic barrel cut in half instead of a brand new water trough.....attend auctions and farm sales......
I would say we have around 800 in a steer by the time we sell or eat him.

We did do 2 one year and finished them on straight whole shell corn and the meat was fantastic but back then you could get a ton of corn for 100 bucks..not anymore...

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  #11  
Old 01/30/11, 10:08 AM
 
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I've only done one year so far and I broke even which was great. I would have made money if I'd been smarter. I overpaid for the calves $150 each for a Holstein and a Holstein jersey cross. They were sick and I had to vet them a LOT, luckily my vet is a nice guy and only charged me for the meds not for a visit every time I went in about them. I got them in May 2009, did MR for 7 weeks~ I used two 50# bags of calf starter between the ages of 2 weeks and 8 weeks for 4 calves (so about 25# each) when I put them in the big pasture in June 2009 it was nice and lush green and they were eating great so I didn't grain. I fed hay through the first winter in Big round bales~ about one bale a week for 5 calves and 2 horses. They didn't really start putting weight on until summer 2010 just over a year old. They gained a LOT of weight in the summer, no grain at all just pasture all summer long.

Sent them in to butcher Oct 2010, two steers hanging weight just over 500lbs each, sold 3 halves of the two steers for $3lb so I came out with $2250 in my pocket and half a steer in my freezer and two heifer calves to keep, breed and milk next year.

I paid $650 processing fees
the $150 each for the steer calves, $300 each for the heifer calves, total $900
about $300 in medical expense when they were babies for all 4 calves,
about $500 in MR and feed for all 4 calves feed
total $2350

So I spent a couple hundred more than I made in $$$ but like I said I came out with 1/2 a really yummy steer in my freezer and two heifers to breed this year. I didn't count my labor~ and there was a LOT...so basically I call it broke even~ would have been better if I bought cheaper healthy calves to start with!

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  #12  
Old 01/30/11, 10:36 AM
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I have Holsteins cows (one is half Angus) whom I keep as pets. I don't have pasture, so I have to buy all my feed. Every week I go through 28 square bales of hay @ $4 a bale and 300# of grain at $16/CWT. That's $160 divided by 4 cows, or $40 per cow, multiplied by 52 weeks comes out to $2080 for the year. Adding another $160 for incidentals like wormer, fly control, straw for bedding and salt blocks brings the cost to $2240. (Yes, I have expensive pets!)

Now, if you have pasture to feed for part of the year, you can deduct the cost of hay for those months (less what you would earn if you leased the pasture or sold the hay off it). Likewise, if you plan to do grass-fed, you can subtract the grain. You will need to add in shipping and processing costs. But this should give you a rough formula to work with in determining what your cost will be. Good luck!

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Old 01/31/11, 03:59 AM
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I think I may go with 2 just to be on the safe side and give the calf a buddy of its own species. Thanks for all the info!

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Old 01/31/11, 07:14 AM
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2 is good! the will compete for food and eat a bit more (and faster). I have a jersey steer for our freezer for later this year. He was raised alone - well, with the sheep. He still piddles with his feed.

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Old 01/31/11, 01:44 PM
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willownd,
I'd recommend you read the sticky at the top of the cattle page about salebarn bottle calves before starting your venture. If you have any questions, we'll be happy to help all we can.

As far as cost are concerned, I don't try to get all the raising done according to a date on the calendar. I just bottle the calves or put them on a nurse cow until weining. Then, I kick them out on grass until I look out there one day and see an 800lb calf. (may take 10 months or may take 1-1/2 years.) Then, I make an appointment with the butcher and put them on full feed for about 90-110 days. They usually eat about two tons of bulk feed at $260 per ton. The cost is minimal compared to the quality of beef I get in the end. It just takes time.

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Old 02/01/11, 03:06 AM
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I did read that. I am not buying from a sale barn. Thanks Francis, I will go that route, though I know I will have to give hay through winter till until grasses get going good in spring.. I am in no hurry. I get a good price on alfalfa hay from the dairy farmer next door (actually he is now out of milk production as of a week ago and just raising heifers for sale). He said he is not going to be farming as much hay this year, but he promised to keep me in hay for the same price I have been paying ($2 a square bale). I was wondering if round bales may still be an even more cost effective option with my current cost of square bales or if there is more waste with round bales.

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Old 03/12/11, 12:14 PM
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I just had my holstein butchered. It took 2yrs. to get him (steer) to 1150lbs. What I was told to do is to give a much hay as the animal wanted (which led to alot of wasted hay) and to supplement 1% body weight worth of grain. I chose cracked corn and a sweet feed combo. He ended up with a hanging weight of 712 lbs. and we ended up taking home 350lbs of mostly boneless meat.

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Old 03/13/11, 01:24 AM
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I know that ultimately grass is the cheapest way to put size on a steer and for me, grain is the best way to finish one. I was talking about the subject of finishing a holstein steer to my extension agent the other day and he told me a personal story of his that brought things into perspective. His story was verified when I talked to my custom butcher when I took a couple of dairy steers to the packing house.

He said when he was a kid his dad ran a feedlot. He had the chance for a free holstien steer from a dairy down the road and jumped on it. Once the steer got weined, he went to the feedlot where he got full access to all the feed and good hay he could put away. As it turned out, the steer never did fit into the criteria of weight and size as any of his dad's shipments to custom beef buyers so the holstein steer ended up staying around for a while. (two years actually) As time went on, the steer became more and more aggresive and turned out to be a hog at the trough pushing other critters away.

His dad told him one day that the steer was going to the packing house to be put on the family's table and he was fine with that. (considering the steer had gotten so ornery you had to feed him with a feed sack in one hand and a club in the other.)

He ended up weighing over two thousands pounds liveweight and they figured they were about to end up with steaks as tough as shoe leather as old and big as he was. They were sorely mistaken. My extension agent says he remembers vividly the size of the sirloin steaks and said his mother would fix only one to feed a family of four. He said they were as tender as prime rib and very well marbled.

My butcher told me the other day that a holstein steer never truly "finishes" like beef steers. He said they just keep getting bigger. So, for those who wonder about how long it takes to finish one out, there you have it: It takes as long as you're willing to feed it and the amount of feed you want in the freezer. Me personally, I've got a 250lb. steer at the house that's fixing to get experimented with. I'm keeping him on the place until he's as big or bigger than any of the beef cows and then he's going to the feed trough for a while. Next stop: Butcher.

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Old 03/13/11, 08:28 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Willowynd View Post
I did read that. I am not buying from a sale barn. Thanks Francis, I will go that route, though I know I will have to give hay through winter till until grasses get going good in spring.. I am in no hurry. I get a good price on alfalfa hay from the dairy farmer next door (actually he is now out of milk production as of a week ago and just raising heifers for sale). He said he is not going to be farming as much hay this year, but he promised to keep me in hay for the same price I have been paying ($2 a square bale). I was wondering if round bales may still be an even more cost effective option with my current cost of square bales or if there is more waste with round bales.
If you just have one or two - a big bale can be too big for them. The waste is that they can't eat it all before it goes bad. Once the hay is exposed to the air and moisture, it needs to be eaten. I found that a lot of it was wasted and some even went bad before the bale was finished. I have a very nice hay feeder that keeps the hay completely out of the weather too. For just one or two, for me, the small bales are easier.
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Old 03/13/11, 08:29 AM
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Another factor to figure is the butchering fees. It isn't cheap. Our butcher charged us $360 for our steer. Finding one is another challenge. I'd call them NOW and ask what they charge per pound so you will have a better idea of what your costs will be.

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