getting started in beef

Discussion in 'Cattle' started by LMonty, Dec 8, 2006.

  1. LMonty

    LMonty Well-Known Member

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    Our house is for sale, and feelers are out to Ozark real esates for a hobby farm that we can use for cattle and homestead type gardening and other livestock. Hoping to make the proerty pay for itself withthe beef cattle.

    Small operation maybe 20-40 acres, as we are both early 50's and want a reasinable challenge, not an "overwhelming" job. Start fairly slow,a nd work up as we learn and can. I'll probably work off farm, and if possible and things go well be able to reduce that to part time. As a nurse, jobs are available most areas. DH may end up with much of the farm labor, and is OK with that.

    This post by UpNorth in another thread really struck me:

    In Agreement with Agman's summary. The folks that make money with cattle in coming years will be those who become adept in the management skills of using highly managed grass resources and cattle adapted to do well on grass. The Era of cheap grain is drawing to a close.


    For this very reason, the research Ive done so far has convinced me that lowlines may be the optimal animal for a small acreage.

    Besides internet research, what advice would you give folks like us that are just starting out? (and will be real new in the area we move to, and not know others there for relationships we can tap into yet) Any books that you consider your "beef bible" that newcomers should invest in?

    I know its important to have the property set up BEFORE purchasing stock.

    What types of thing should I be looking for on the properties we go to see will help us in our goals? In your experience, what works and doesnt when it comes to physical facilites for this type of operation?

    I'm thinking most stock for beef, half lowline or more crosses for cows than a good full blood bull- though investing in some really good fullblood cows with wanted genetics for producing breeding stock for myself and sale.

    Any thoughts and ideas greatly apppreciated!
     
  2. daycab

    daycab Well-Known Member

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    I read Joel Salatin's "Salad Bar Beef" and highly recommend it. With only 40 acres of pasture, (twice what we have!) management intensive grazing (MIG) is right up your alley.

    Like all farm enterprises, it is imperative to have your marketing plan in place prior to purchasing any animals.

    Water, fence, soil type, forage type, outbuildings, soil test results are all worth considering when looking at property. It's a big plus if cattle have been raised on the property before so you don't have to start from scratch. We learned the hard way about the time and expense of just upgrading fence and installing a water system.Cattle loading chutes, gates, and sqeezes may also be already in place.

    Good luck!
     

  3. JeffNY

    JeffNY Seeking Type

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    Cheap grain might be coming to a close, but not all grains are going to go up. With more ethanol plants coming online, with more waste from these plants, which is commonly known as "distillers" grains becoming more available. Prices are expected to come down to the old corn meal price. So there will be some grains that wont be pricey available. Then there is the "am I savy enough, and have enough land, and know someone to grow my own? Some do it, and do well. Either way, yes you can make more money off of a hay only diet. When I say hay only, I am talking no corn silage.


    It costs a lot of money to grow corn. You have to plow or in some cases you can simply disk. But you generally plow, disk, pick the field, buy corn, plant it. Then you hope you dont get tons of rain, or its too cold or its too dry. If it works, you then have to hope you get through the 70-90 days of growing. After that you have to chop it, then store it, then hope it ferments right and doesn't become toxic. I make it sound complex, but corn has soo many issues with it, or that can happen it makes sence to grow hay.

    Many big farms grow corn for silage, and they do it because they can't get the volume out of hay, which is true. I talked with someone who is on a big farm. She said, she would love to feed mostly hay, but they cant get enough, and it would take more help, even with the big squares.


    Personally, I have fed nothing but hay and some grain. I have fed my beefers all hay, and grain to move them around, etc. But it is a hay diet. They have done well off it, and seem healthy. If some mold is in a bale, you dont have to worry about it being toxic. Corn silage as I said can be toxic if it doesn't ferment right (develops mold). I finished off a beef steer one fall. He had fresh chopped haylage and some corn meal for 45 days. He gained 3lbs/day, and the people who cut him up said it was really good looking meat. Marbled with a nice layer of fat. This was mostly hay, no corn silage.


    So my advice to you. Make it easy on yourself. Get a feeder you can fill up with hay, and doesn't touch the ground. I found one in Iowa. It sits up, has a basket in the center, can feed 35 beefers. You can put a wooden floor in the bottom so you dont loose leaves. It can be used for both square bales, and for round bales. I beleive you can use small squares as well. This feeder allows for less waste. A fence type is your choice. I have used a single strand of electric with the dairy and hereford crosses, and it keeps them in nicely. But a more permanent fence would be high tensile. Barb wire doesn't last long, and isn't as effective as high tensile. A good source of water is good. As far as what to look for. Well if the property has some woods next to a field. That would make for a good pasture. They could use the woods as cover, and the soil should be decent enough so it doesn't get super sloppy, and dries up easily. Because with a feeder, it will get mucky around it in the rain.

    You can go many different routes, but the key is making it easy on you, and the animals.


    Jeff
     
  4. agmantoo

    agmantoo agmantoo Supporter

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    What growing zone will you eventually be farming? I am convinced to be successful in a farming enterprise you must the the low cost producer. Currently I am reworking my rotational grazing paddocks to be more efficient. Unfortunately I have not be able to find another producer to emulate. My operation has and remains one that has evolved as needs and experience develop. I find my operation to be super simple but to get to that level has been overly complicated. This last statement may not make sense but once confronted with the many options it is difficult to conclude what direction to take. You need to back into what you want to achieve. Determine what income you want to net. Then determine if you can obtain the acreage that will support the headcount of cattle to meet that income. Realize that the acreage must be fertile enough and have a growing season to accomplish the task. Look, as you have done, for the most efficient animals to put on that acreage. As you recognize, you do need the pastures established and you need the fences in place prior to getting the animals. Be prepared to have some "teething" problems but they will not be insurmountable. The biggest suggestion I can contribute is "do not have too many services coming down the drive". You can provide a living (partial) for a lot of people and have nothing left for your efforts or you can take the initative and do many of these services for yourself and pay yourself for the efforts. Regardless, good luck and go forward.
     
  5. Country Doc

    Country Doc Well-Known Member

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    Alot of people around here raise cattle. Most think like me its a terrible business but do it since we like it. You will be competing with experts in a business that is making money now but doesn't 2/3 years. Don't quit the day job. The most I have made with cattle has been buying steers and feeding them through the winter when hay is cheap. ( It is not cheap now). One good thing about cattle is it a liquid asset. I can convert the entire herd to cash in a couple of days if in a jam.
     
  6. Karin L

    Karin L Bovine and Range Nerd

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    First of all, where abouts are you? And like daycab said, soil pH, topography, etc. is important in determining the physical facilities in this operation, which also determines where the best place to have your corrals, hospital pens and shelters, as well as waterers.

    If you want to go ahead with a small cow-calf herd, then don't get a bull, do AI, because a bull is a lot of upkeep in itself (he's 50% of your herd, actually), and, if your a newbie at the beef business end sort of things (which you don't sound like you are, at least to cattle), you don;t have to worry about a bull deciding to "have some fun" on you, and develop the "mean-bull" syndrome. This cow-calf thing is more on the high-productivity side of things, most of the time.

    If you don't want to go with a small cow-calf operation, then go with backgrounding some feeder calves, either steer or heifer. But even if you have a day job, you still gotta know that upkeep is important too, y'know. Like buying enough feed, or bedding, or tending the sick, and even vaccinating. Backgrounding is more in the low-productivity part, 'cause calves are easier to look after than a few 1200 lb momma cows (who take in a lot of feed, and I'm speaking from my parent's experiences)

    Where I live, my family farm runs on both income from a relatively large herd of feeders steers (about 80 head this year: last year was 100 hd.), and from barley/canola cash/seed crops. We raise our own barley for silage and grain feed, as well as selling it to the local feedlot as grain feed too, and have our own hay, so we don't have to worry about the high feed prices to buy feed for the calves to feed them over the winter (prices are great for selling though). But it still is work to harvest, bale, and silage crops, as well as keep our herd of calves healthy to get them shipped off to the feedlot next year, which means that this here farm is a full-time job in itself, a family-run business.

    So what I'm saying is that this small beef operation that you're looking at might end up being almost a full time job, depending where you're taking it. But, I think if you take it easy with the right things to do in mind, you're gonna enjoy it, nonetheless.

    I hope I answered some parts of your question(s); if not, then that's my unaskedfor $0.02.
     
  7. LMonty

    LMonty Well-Known Member

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    the Ozark mountains are zone 6 from what I can find out. microclimate would vary with property location and topography so that would need to wait till I found the right property to determine. I'm convinced of the value of rotational grazing and "intercropping" on pasture has some definite benefits.

    I am new to cattle, but have a little horse, goat and dog breeding/husbandry experience and have raised purchased pig and chicken for own consumption.

    I appreciate all the comments.

    Ive been reading about AI and have great interest in it. I can see the downsides to bulls, especially as a newbie. Do y'all do your own, or have it done by services? If I may ask, what kind of costs are involved? I see prices for semen and certificates, but I'd venture to guess thats the least expensive part of it :) I'd really like some at least ballpark idea of costs for an AI program (say, for @ 15 cows) so I know how to budget for it.

    failure to settle regularly and leaving breeding stock open for extra months is a concern in my mind. the better pregnancy rates and one time price for the bull is attractive in one way...so Ive been very undecided about that issue.

    lowlines are smaller, and thats one of the benefits, makes handling them easier. higher stocking ratio, like dexters. better feed conversion. and,the animals sold for breeding stock tend to bring more money per animal than the averge beef calf, according to the sales records and sale prices that are available. Full blood heifers are selling for 2k plus in most ads, with 3 and 4 k for good bloodlines being common. (not that I know what they are getting ,but thats the asking price! :)) with stocking ratio of 2.2 to angus, the chances of having a few heifers to sell each year is higher than with angus or other beef cattle. grass fed beef sells higher to the niche markets, so subscription sales makes sense too. identifying the right markets to increase profitability will be one of the challenges.

    I appreciate the suggestion for Salatins book, I will check that out!
     
  8. mtman

    mtman Well-Known Member

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    to make money in the ozarks you have to have enough land to graze and allso make your own hay we started with 1 cow we now have 9 and a bull we are still growing
     
  9. Razorback21

    Razorback21 Well-Known Member

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    If I was you, just starting out in cattle, I would start off this way:

    Buy weaned calves in the spring, MIG them on your pasture through mid to late summer and sell them at that time. You get your feet wet, still can hold down a steady job and are not subject to grain prices as much by pasturing them. Despite buying high and selling low, we have ALWAYS made money doing this, which those of us that raise cattle know isn't the easiest thing to do in this business. (And yes we raised cattle in 1995 and 1996!)

    Read all you can about cattle, but I would also read about grass, soils, pastures etc. Technically, your in the grass business, and you use the cattle to harvest the crop. And of course the best education will be when you just start doing it.

    Good Luck with your enterprise, and you will love the Ozarks. I'm just a tad biased since I'm originally from that neck of the woods.
     
  10. agmantoo

    agmantoo agmantoo Supporter

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    Make certain there is a market for whatever breed of cattle you choose. My brother in law was very disappointed when selling some of his hobby cattle recently. He was not successful in "finding" an individual buyer and ended selling through the local sales barn. He got exactly 1/2 the price per lb. that I got for my commercial Angus.
     
  11. LMonty

    LMonty Well-Known Member

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    agman- if I may ask- what kind of "hobby Cattle" was he selling, and what part of the country?

    I appreciate it. Good info to have.
     
  12. travlnusa

    travlnusa Well-Known Member

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    This is a post from another forum I belong to:


    http://cattletoday.com/forum/index.php


    1. There is no "Real money" to be made raising cattle. If you got to buy land, equipment etc etc to start up - you will be disappointed. Cattle are foragers. If you got land and forage, they are excellent tools to convert this to cash.

    2. Don't go chasing breeds. Find something that will sell, what the buyer wants and what will flourish in your environment and raise it - whether you like the breed or not.

    3. A cow will eat more than you can afford to feed them. They eat grass, learn how to grow it and everything else will fall into place.

    4. It doesn't matter as much about how fast your calves will grow as is the percent calving rate of your herd. View your ADG on the herd not the individual.

    5. Keep track of all your costs. Don't fool yourself. Cows are good about nickleing and diming you to death if your not careful.

    6. If you have a dependable source of good quality hay, it is cheaper to buy it. Land used for hay can be used to increase your numbers.

    7. Always, always give blackleg shots and if you are only going to worm once, do it in July.

    8. If you are going to buy machinery, buy used if possible and don't go borrowing money.

    9. Don't get in a hurry when you are fencing or building - do it right the first time and it will be the last time.

    10. Don't go skimping on fertility, follow the soil test to the letter.

    11. 99% of the time, the cow is going to be more successful calving without your help.

    12. If you can't get at least 100 days of winter grazing from rye or wheat, you are losing money.

    13. When in doubt, ask questions but keep in mind - "There are those who don't know who think they know and there are those who know they don't know and then there are those who know the answer".
     
  13. mtman

    mtman Well-Known Member

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    we planted rye our winters are only about 100 days long
     
  14. agmantoo

    agmantoo agmantoo Supporter

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    LMonty, I never saw the calves but he told me on the phone that they were some small type hereford. He is considering a change to full size beef cattle now but did not state what breed he will be converting to.
     
  15. agmantoo

    agmantoo agmantoo Supporter

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    travlnusa, I read the info you posted with great interest and I agree with most of the statements. The statement about no money in cattle is the one I will disagree with the most. Having cattle is like having trees on land. Both can be readily converted to cash and over time both will create some wealth. The land itself is a separate investment and should appreciate on its own. The money from the cattle is more of a dividend. Done right, the cattle will return a decent percentage. I bought the farm where my cattle are located in 1990. The land value has appreciated beyond my greatest expectency and the cattle are returning a gross profit of 18% plus of the land purchase price. My overhead is very low.
     
  16. Razorback21

    Razorback21 Well-Known Member

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    The money from the cattle is more of a dividend. Done right, the cattle will return a decent percentage.

    Agmantoo, that is the most accurate statement I have seen in relation to profitability of the cattle market. My wife and I view raising cattle as we do our financial investments, not as a job to try to live off of. If you are able to do it part time, you enjoy raising cattle (important!), and look at it like you would look at a mutual fund, rental property, etc., you can get a decent return. No, you're not going to get rich, but again, as I said in my earlier post, we have never lost money raising cattle, in good markets and bad!
     
  17. .netDude

    .netDude Well-Known Member

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  18. Pat

    Pat Well-Known Member

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    Mtman,

    Please tell me more about your planting rye. How many pounds to the acre? Did you keep the cows off it for germination? Does it supply enough green feed you don't have to give them hay? Did you overseed? If you overseeded, when did you do it?

    We also are located in the Ozarks (south of Yellville - between Harrison and Mountain Home). I don't see any pastures around here planted in rye. We have 2 feeder steer, 2 Highland cows, and 4 Highland heifers and 10 hair sheep.

    Pat
     
  19. agmantoo

    agmantoo agmantoo Supporter

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    Mtman hasn't shown up here and I will tell you what I did in western NC zone 7. We had a very dry Sept, Oct, Nov and my pastures that I rotational graze look pitiful. I have very little hay and I do not want to buy any. I attempted to purchase rye but could not find any seed other that some non specified variety. I like to know what I plant so I searched and found some triticale (cross of rye and wheat). In my pasture where the grass was eaten down to short I sod drilled the triticale starting in late Oct. No fertilizer was applied at planting as I had fertilized and limed earlier. The initial planting was at a 50/acre rate. In mid Nov. I increased the rate to 60/acre and near Thanksgiving is planted at the rate of 80/acre. The late Oct seeded triticale is already bunching and I estimate it is 4 inches tall. The mid Nov. seeded is up and has not grown more than a couple of leaves. The Thanksgiving planted is a no show thus far. Fortunately I only planted a few acres at Thanksgiving. I still have some stockpiled fescue and I always graze the tallest crop so it will be mid Jan. or later before I put the cattle on the tricale. I too am anxious to hear what Mtman has to comment. PS....I need winter feed to last approximately 90 days
     
  20. mtman

    mtman Well-Known Member

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    yes i am feeding hay there not eating much of it we planted 400 lbs on about 7 acres we have 37 acres of pasture no we did not keep them off it
    its about 2 in. high now the other part of the pasture has plenty to eat and there is a pond back there so they spend a lot of time back there
    the 7 that we put into rye is going to be our hay field next year we are fencing it in now now dont forget we only have 9 head now we planted the first week of sept.