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Old 12-07-2012, 11:34 AM   #1
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My brother lives on 8 acres in a farming area. SIL's grandmother owns the house across the driveway on 7 acres (this house is currently vacant). Anyway, they have several acres available to them that are already fenced and just sitting there. SIL and I have discussed the potential of getting 2-3 calves to raise for beef next year. The goal would be to have enough meat for each of us to stock our freezers for the year and some to sell off to friends and family to balance out a portion of the costs in raising/butchering the animals. I've found lots of conflicting answers on various websites, so I was curious about your experiences.

1. What is a good age calf to buy?
2. How much do calves cost?
3. What age is best for slaughtering?
4. Is specialty grain necessary?
5. What veterinary costs are to be expected?
6. Do you have a rough estimate of slaughtering and butchering process?
7. Has anyone done butchering themselves? (FWIW, I am a chef and have done a little butchering in culinary school.)

Thanks for your help!

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Old 12-07-2012, 01:45 PM   #2
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Re: Beef cattle

I don't know much about calves, but if you google local butcher shops you'll probably find prices, I think it's usually the hanging weight and they charge by lb. I know I saw on CL something selling had links to different butchers who had prices listed. HTH!
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Old 12-07-2012, 02:08 PM   #3
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Re: Beef cattle

Slaughter usually at age 2 I believe, cows are herbivores so no grains needed, just good pasture and hay in the winter. Here processing is .65 a lb a carcass weight is around 500lbs per cow. I don't know about the cost of calf, You want to get them as young as possible if you want to have more control over that. I have heard that male calfs around here are almost " given away". I don't know of the vet costs, I do know that pasture raised cattle are much healthier than grain fed. We buy our beef from a local farmer, hasn't had his vet out in 9 years, no antibiotics, no grain, no vaccinations or meds.
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Old 12-07-2012, 02:48 PM   #4
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Re: Beef cattle

We do this with my parents. They raise cows on their property and we buy half a cow when they slaughter.

They have one bull, that "services" their small herd of about 10 cows. When the cows have a bull, they steer it (b/c two bulls can and will fight over cows in heat and can easily run right through a fence) and then they usually "dress it out" (that's what they call slaughtering it) when the steer hits about 2 yrs. old.

They hire it out to a guy that comes, he kills it, bleeds it, and then quarters it. Then he takes it to their place to process it. We get to choose the cuts of meat we want, and they offer to put fat in it for you if it's too lean (we always decline this, b/c it comes from other cows), and they charge per pound.

Last yr, we bought a half a cow, it was a SMALL cow (it was stunted in growth b/c it's mother died while it was still nursing so it never grew properly), we got about 200-250 lbs of meat and it cost us right at about $250 for the butchering and the grain and hay feed.

My parents do pen up the cow for about 6 wks prior to slaughter and feed it sweet feed and hay. This is so that the meat doesn't taste as "green" and isn't as tough. Though they've never tried it without penning it up, so I am not sure they really have anything to compare it to.

Even though I would prefer 100% grass fed, I think this is as close as I can get without spending $8+ per pound for grass fed beef at the store. And given that I get to watch the cow grow, and help care for and feed it, I feel okay with it b/c I can see it's a healthy cow, and I KNOW what it's eating, and that it was humanely slaughtered.

The cows also get vegetable and fruit scraps that we have (they love melon rinds, tomatoes, and other various plant stuff that humans don't eat), as well as bread occasionally. This is mostly during winter time b/c my mom gets it for free from her job, and it helps supplement the cow's diet, which they only need in the winter.

None of the cows are ever routinely given antibiotics or any other medicines. Although I know my parents will treat for illnesses if they see a certain cow is sick, b/c it is better than letting the cow remain sick and die. You can't eat a cow that dies from an illness. (we say "you don't eat an animal that dies lying down" - which basically means if it dies and you didn't kill it, you cannot eat it.) It's not a regular thing, and it's unusual to have it happen, as the cows have plenty of space to roam, lots of fresh grass, fresh water, fresh air, and sunlight.

As far as how much they cost, my parents buy cows at their local livestock auction. I know the first calves they bought were holestein cows (typically dairy cows, not usually meat cows) and they bought them for DIRT cheap, like $35 each. I think they were so cheap b/c they were expected to die b/c they had not been nursed at all and were very young still. But they did survive, and we did eat them. I could be wrong, but around my parent's place, a calf probably goes for about $75-100 if it's relatively healthy.

The extra expense of hay is only during dry months. Here in FL it rains a LOT and usually the grass is green and growing 90% of the year. We never feed grain except just before slaughter, and only to the cow being slaughtered. There are about 10 cows and they eat a big round hay bale probably in about 7-10 days. I *THINK* a bale of hay is around $20. I could be totally off on that number, it's been quite a while since I went with my dad to get a bale of hay.

ETA: My parents only have had a vet come once in the whole 15 yrs they've been raising cows. It was b/c they had a new calf and the calf laid down and wouldn't get up. Turned out it was ill and needed a de-wormer (or something, don't remember). The vert told my parents what to get at the local feed store, and how to give it. They did that and the calf was fine.

Now they administer any necessary meds themselves. But I don't think they've had a cow need meds for at least 6 yrs or so - and that was b/c they had a cow get stuck in their pond and they were trying to keep her from dying. It was a last ditch effort to save her. But she died anyway. Prior to that, It was years and years. It's very rare with the right diet and adequate living space to need any medicines or vet visits to raise healthy cows. They're pretty self-sufficient given the right environment.

Last edited by Kiliki; 12-07-2012 at 02:59 PM.
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Old 12-07-2012, 03:23 PM   #5
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The three pastures that are fully fenced already vary in size. On bro/SIL's property, there's a 2 acre pasture that's fairly long and narrow, and a separate 1 acre pasture. On SIL's grandma's property, there's another 2 acres. The ones on bro/SIL's property are level, the other is a little hilly, but was used for horses for a long time. Of course, there's plenty more land, but the fences are incomplete. Then again, we could complete them if needed. How much land should we plan on using for 2-3 cows?

Typos courtesy of my "smart" phone.
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Old 12-07-2012, 04:56 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by Mama*Kim
The three pastures that are fully fenced already vary in size. On bro/SIL's property, there's a 2 acre pasture that's fairly long and narrow, and a separate 1 acre pasture. On SIL's grandma's property, there's another 2 acres. The ones on bro/SIL's property are level, the other is a little hilly, but was used for horses for a long time. Of course, there's plenty more land, but the fences are incomplete. Then again, we could complete them if needed. How much land should we plan on using for 2-3 cows?

Typos courtesy of my "smart" phone.
That seems to depend on the cows diet and the quality of the grass. Is it planted pasture? Have the pastures been cut each year? Are thy mostly weeds? If you rotate pastures (which is best practice), I'd think it should be ok. I figured I could keep about 7 cows on our 8-9 acres?
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Old 12-07-2012, 05:19 PM   #7
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That seems to depend on the cows diet and the quality of the grass. Is it planted pasture? Have the pastures been cut each year? Are thy mostly weeds? If you rotate pastures (which is best practice), I'd think it should be ok. I figured I could keep about 7 cows on our 8-9 acres?
I don't know a lot of the makeup of the grass, but before they bought the property, it had horses and cows throughout the property. Now, they have it mowed/hayed 2-3 times a year. They let the neighbor who mows it take it for free for doing the work. The small pasture was used last year by a neighbor who was doing some work on his property and was short a pasture. The easiest thing to do would be to divide the larger pasture into two smaller ones and rotate between what would be three 1 acre pastures on my brother's property and not worry about SIL's grandma's property. She needs some fence work done, the property is currently for sale (they're asking way too much, so its not going to sell any time soon), and my brother's land is just nicer in general.

Would 2-3 cows be ok in one acre pastures and rotated between three pastures? Is that enough space?

ETA: 2 cows would probably be plenty, but 3 would be nice. As I said before, we do have more land available we could use and would if needed, but we'd prefer not to spend a bunch more on fencing if its not needed.
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Old 12-07-2012, 08:45 PM   #8
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Re: Beef cattle

on my tablet. I personally wouldn't put more than one cow on an acre. My parents little herd of ten is mixed with four or five other cows of my gma and uncle's. So abt 15 total cows. They have about twenty acres to roam.
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Old 12-08-2012, 11:44 AM   #9
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Re: Beef cattle

1. What is a good age calf to buy? I don't know because we have a cow-calf operation.
2. How much do calves cost? n/a
3. What age is best for slaughtering? 2 years
4. Is specialty grain necessary? no. We do a mixture of grain and grassfed for our cows that we personally butcher. Our main herds are purely grassfed though... I know strictly grassfed is healthier, but I'm still trying to convert my DH. So for now, we compromise. 2 cows on 3 acres seems like it'd be ok (depending on where you live).
5. What veterinary costs are to be expected? My hubby has never called a vet. out in my 6 years of being married to him and being on the farm.
6. Do you have a rough estimate of slaughtering and butchering process? We butcher ourselves, so no.
7. Has anyone done butchering themselves? (FWIW, I am a chef and have done a little butchering in culinary school.) DH does the butchering. He has a pulley in the barn and uses it to hang the cow up on to skin it (he uses the tractor to maneuver the cow). Then uses a sawzaw (spelling?) to quarter it. We have a meathouse and so then he takes the quarters in there to cut up the rest of the way. Then brings in the meat to wrap and the cubes to grind into hamburger. We've wrapped in foil and butcher paper and I'm in between on which wrapping I prefer. In January, I'll be buying the 1lb. hamburger bags online and will figure out how I want to wrap the roasts and steaks closer to the time of.
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