Beef calf raising question-which is better? : LUSENET : Countryside : One Thread

While looking at the local sale barn a couple weeks ago, I bumped into an older famer who asked what I was interested in there. I told him I was looking for a couple calves to raise until fall to butcher. He told me I would be better off buying an older dairy cow, than buying that spring's beef calves and only raising them until fall. Said the money to meat ratio would be larger. TRUE? My parents used to buy a couple calves every spring, and pasture them until fall, then have them killed and hung, and cut and wrap them themselves. Of course, we don't have pasture here, would have to feed them, so what do you think? Any experienced beef raisers? Beef calves were going for about $1 per pound, the dairy girls for about half that or less. Jan

-- Jan in Colorado (, June 09, 2000


The old farmer gave you good advice. Now, let me clear up where he may not have been specific. I would go for a Jersey, fresh from a working dairy, not some farmer's cow. The Jersey has a good meat/bone ratio and if from a working dairy, she will have been on concentrates (grain). The meat is not a fat as beef, but is soooooooooo good. You can always get a tough one beef or dairy. She will cost less than the feed and labor of two beef calves just for 6 months.

This all changes if you can pasture them for a year, get some size on them, then feed concentrates the last 90 days or so.

-- JerryR(La.) (, June 09, 2000.

I agree with the farmer. Feeding them until fall without pasture, just won't cut it. I don't know about the dairy cow. I would rather get an old cow and milk her. To me you get more return on your dollar that way.

Little Bit Farm

-- Little bit Farm (, June 09, 2000.

Jan, are you talking about buying calves a few days old or started calves (usually older then 6 months)? You are going to be spending a good bit of money if you get an animal you have to bottle feed, then hay and grain until autumn. Even then you'd be slaughtering a 6 to 9 month old animal - not much of a return on your money. An older calf will reach a better slaughter weight, won't require bottle feeding and is less likely to drop dead on you. Still, if you're buying hay you'd better plan on at least a bale a day, plus grain or whatever alternative feed you want to add to keep it fed. Also you're going to need some good fencing. Last fall many farmers up here in central Maine would have been delighted to see $.70 a pound on their beef animals (and that's dress weight). The farmer gave you some good advice, but you might want to take it a bit further and attend some livestock auctions, follow prices, check out feed costs, and make a few contacts so you can make an informed decision based on what's happening in your area.

-- Anne Tower (, June 10, 2000.

I don't see how you can come out purchasing all the inputs. Some times it is just better to buy an animal ready for the butcher. If you know the producer & how he manages his opperation you will get a better cut of beef too. Lots of chances of the calf not making it to butcher weight for various reasons. You get a beef for market price with out all the work & take none of the risks that we producers deal with daily.

-- Okie-Dokie (, June 10, 2000.

spring to fall raising is not long enough at all to raise a cow you plan on butchering. You'll have to take it thru one winter to get any size out of it. If you butcher a 6 month old, you may not even get as much meat off of that as you would 2 full grown deer. We took a 5 month steer thru one winter and butchered him at about 1 yr. old and he weighed over 500 lbs. They say that if you want a good meat to get a dairy / beef mix. I've only done the beef. Regardless, if you buy a real young one you definately won't get much return and if you buy an older one, you should grain it for better quality meat.

-- Pat (, June 10, 2000.

I am just finishing off 2 of the 3 calves I bought last August. They are Angus/Hereford or Baldy. I paid $.75 per pound for them and they were around 350-450#. I just butchered one and he hung at 758#, I sold it for $1.40# I know I am losing money but I will end up with a side of beef that I know will be good and what he has eaten. One might better find someone who has done the same and buy a side of beef by hanging weight. Calves this year at the same weights, 350-500# are now, (in this area) selling at auction for $1.00 per #.

-- Hendo (, June 11, 2000.

When it comes to tenderness, dairy cattle are rated higher than most beef breeds. With no pasture, buying a yearling dairy steer or heifer ready to go to the processing plant may be the best option.

-- Ken Scharabok (, June 16, 2000.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ