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Veteran Contributor

Size Matters

Hey guys!

I'm studying agriculture at the local Community College at the moment, and haven't really had any livestock related classes since I'm planning to go into the Crop Science side of things instead.  Anywho, I was wondering how big of a beef cattle operation it would take to live solely off the income?  I guess assume that they would be raised on a bermuda/alfalfa hay mix from the same farm.

Please help with an idea of the size needed or at least an idea of what questions I need to be asking?  Thanks!

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2 Replies
BA Deere
Honored Advisor

Re: Size Matters

Well that depends on the standard of living that you`d be happy with and the salary of your wife`s off-farm job  🙂     I know a couple guys that have about 80 cow/calf opperations, but they aren`t living high on the hog.  


If you own the pasture and hay ground and have no debt, that makes alot of difference too.  There were alot of lean years way back with cattle.  A 500lb feeder brought 60¢ or $300 and that`s what it cost to carry the mother cow for the year.  Old cattle feeders can tell of stories of buying a high priced feeder calves, fattening them up and selling the steer for LESS than what was paid for the feeder.   So, alot of variables over the years.   Good Luck.

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Re: Size Matters

No doubt there are people who know way more about this than I do and I welcome their comments.


But anyway, while doing boring stuff I've occupied my mind by running mental budgets on grass fed beef.


The key matter is that I believe that niche is for real, not a fad that's going away. But like other niche markets, supply and demand are paramount- when there isn't quite enough, premiums are good. When there's a bit too much, they evaporate.


Good news is that it isn't like having an ostrich that you can't give away- there's a pretty decent default value to the cattle. Low input cost but a lot of money wrapped up for long periods in cattle.


With some legumes in the grass it would be about as close to a low-input sytem as you can find although making hay isn't a cheap enterprise. With forage quality of high importance I think you'd probably wrap baleage? Also not cheap.


I think that rather than going cow-calf I'd buy un-implanted black or black cross calves (go for the angus thing in that premium market) and if you're trying to provide a fairly continuous supply to a market buying the right calves year around would be a challenge.


Dunno. Like I said I'm interested in comments from people who know more.






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