Raising Your Own Beef: Is It Worth The Time And Money?

Raising your own beef is approximately 20% to 40% cheaper than purchasing meat from the butcher, but does require 5 to 20 hours per week of maintenance. Benefits include control over what you feed the cattle and free manure for your farm.

The cost of buying a calf is only one part of the equation. You’ll also need to consider the costs of feeders, feed, vaccines, and other supplies.

The cost of beef calves ranges from $75 to $1,200. The wide price variation is due to age, weight, breed, and location. A beef cow on a grain diet matures in about 15-18 months, but a grass-fed beef cattle can take up to 2 years.

This article will help you calculate the cost of raising a calf to slaughter weight and how raising cattle can be more economical so you can determine if it’s worth pursuing.

Costs To Raise A Cow

Costs associated with raising a beef cow can be categorized into two categories: initial costs and ongoing costs.

Initial costs

Initial price$875
Fencing$92. 4-435 per year (Estimate a 1320 ft. fence)
Feeders and waterers$100

The initial price of $875 is calculated as follows.

We’ll calculate the cost using a market report with these figures: 400-500 LBS. $175-225

  • A 400 pounds feeder calf will cost $700-900
  • A 500 pounds weaned calf will cost $875-1,125

The price listed (175-225) is per 100 pounds (cwt). So we should first divide the weight by 100.

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For example, 500/100=5 meaning the lowest price is 5X175=875 for a 500 pounds weaned calf

The costs indicated are estimates and may vary greatly depending on factors such as market prices and type of calf. For example, dairy calves or dairy cow and beef crosses like Holstein and Red Angus are cheaper.

Ongoing costs

Feed (lifetime cost if butchered at 2 years)$620
Veterinary/Medicine/Minerals ($50/year)$50

Feed cost includes the cost of hay and some grain from weaning to finish. You’ll need 1.5-2 tonnes of hay because the calf will need 15-20 pounds of hay daily.

If the average cost of hay is $200/ton, the total cost of hay is $300-400. If you decide to use grain for weight gain, include it in the diet for the last three months.

Grain consumption is an average of 15 pounds for 90 days so a total of 1350 pounds. If the cost is $20 for 100lbs the total grain cost is $270.

So to keep things simple:

Average feed cost for hay$350
Average feed cost for grain$270

This cost can be much lower if you choose to raise grass-fed cattle and avoid grain in the cow’s diet.

Costs Reduce With Volume

The estimated total cost of raising a single beef cow is $1275+670=1945. This cost doesn’t include factors such as depreciation, mortgage repayments and electricity.

Economies of scale are one of the reasons why large-scale cow-calf operations are successful. The same principle applies to small-scale operations. The cost of production decreases as the number of cattle increases.

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This is because many expenses are fixed, such as feeders, fencing, and housing. It’s also easier to negotiate lower calf prices if you buy more than one.

Volatility in Raising Cattle

Raising cattle is a volatile business. Price movements in cattle prices can be difficult to predict. While there are strategies that you can employ to reduce the risk associated with raising cattle, remember that there is always some level of risk involved in any business.

Weather issues such as drought and floods can have a big impact on cattle production. A drought can lead to lower yields, while floods can result in the loss of fences, barns, and feedlots.

Disease outbreaks can also have a significant impact on your cow herd. Cattle diseases such as foot and mouth and bovine viral diarrhea (BVD) can have a devastating effect on calf mortality rates.

Market rates of feeds can impact the cost of production. If feed costs rise, it is more expensive to produce beef, which will result in lower profits.

Recessions can also affect cow-calf operations. When the economy is doing well, people tend to eat more meat and dairy products, which pushes up demand for livestock products. During recessions, people are more likely to cut back on spending.

Supply and demand also impact the market price of beef. When there is a lot of cattle on the market, prices are lower, and consequently, when demand is high and supply is low, cattle prices are high.

Worth The Time and Money?

To answer the question of whether it is worth it to raise beef cattle, let’s do a little math.

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From the cost section above, the total cost of raising a 1000-pound steer or heifer is $1,945. From this steer, you’ll get around 430 pounds of beef. So the cost of production is $4.52 per pound.

Processing cost is another cost that you’ll incur and it includes slaughtering, cutting, and wrapping. Slaughtering is $90 and cutting and wrapping are $650. Total is $740 so $1.14 per pound for 430 pounds.

Production cost$4.52 per pound
Processing cost$1.14 per pound
Total cost to produce your own beef$5.66 per pound
Cost for butcher’s choice$7.15 per pound
Cost for custom cuts$8.25 per pound

Ultimately, it’s worth the time and money to raise your own beef because:

  • It’s cheaper than buying beef from wholesalers or retailers
  • You will also have control over feeds
  • You can pick a breed that fits your needs
  • You’ll get manure that you can use on your farm

If you don’t want to raise your own beef, you can save money by buying a cull cow. Cull cows are ones that are no longer suitable for breeding and are usually sold for meat.


Tabitha is a writer and farmer, living on a farm where she helps in raising cows, dairy goats, sheep, chickens, and ducks while growing vegetables and fruit. She is passionate about good food, nature and is a firm believer in raising animals in a way that’s sustainable and humane.

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