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  1. #1
    Veteran Member TSO's Avatar
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    Default Anybody raise cattle for profit?

    I was planning to raise some small scale cash crops for cash sales on my property, but I'm wondering if it would be worth my time to look into raising and selling cattle

    I've got a nice four acre pasture that would be perfect for putting the cattle on, and another nice pasture that already grows grass that I can use for hay, approximately 4 acres as well.

    We already have some experience raising egg Birds, meat Birds, and hogs... I'm just wondering if anyone here has any useful experience or recommendations they can give me on how to best use that property to be as profitable as possible. I'm not talking about getting rich here, I'm talking about extra cash.

    We already have a couple small cattle operations near us, all on relatively small property as well. Obviously there is a lot to learn, & I would have to find a way to market and sell it, but if its worth it I'd like to give it a shot. We are planning on raising 1 or 2 for ourselves anyhow next year, just want to know if we should do more.

    Thoughts?
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  2. #2
    Super Star Member brin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Anybody raise cattle for profit?

    TSO, I used to raise cattle and always made a profit...I kept a Santa Gertrudis Bull and ten or so commercial black cows & heifers - after calving and weaning, when the calves were all on grass, I would run ads in our Farmer's bulletin, the local news paper and Craig's list...for grass fed freezer beef ( I had an arrangement with a local state approved slaughter house) folks who bought from me...would be referred to this butcher to arrange how they wanted their beef cut up...and then I also just sold the calves ...mainly to city/farmers..gentlemen farmers who just wanted a couple for pets...It was a niche I carved out and worked well until we ran into several back to back years of drought ....then I sold my stock....pastures were just worn out...no rain...

    You might want to discuss this with your local county extension agent and he can let you know the best practices for your area....good luck...
    Bob

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  3. #3
    Veteran Member TSO's Avatar
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    Default Re: Anybody raise cattle for profit?

    Hi Bob, thanks for the response. I'll definitely go talk to my Ag agent. In your experience, what would be a reasonable or proper amount of cattle for the size property I'm using? Would the 4 acres (during summer) be enough area to make it worth my while? And the other 4 acres (for growing my own hay) be enough to sustain them in the winter? Do you feel it would be better to raise them from young calves to feed lot age, or better to raise them to finish for butcher?

    I was thinking my best bet (for a niche) would be to contact local restaurants around the detroit area and offer the custom grass-fed "natural raised" beef to them. Higher end restaurants around here like to tout that they use locally grown "organic" or similar ingredients. We had thought about it with pork, and it has proven to be very easy to raise hogs... but there doesn't seem to be a strong market here for that. We may just stick to raising our own hogs (us & friends/family only), our own chicken (we did about 150 this year, sold about 100 to friends/family). But it seems with beef, there's more potential for profit.

    Again, I know it won't be big money, but I like making things pay for themselves, and if I can do that with some of my property (over time), all the better.
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  4. #4
    Super Member farmgirl19's Avatar
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    Default Re: Anybody raise cattle for profit?

    I figure 2 acres per head, and that is if you get rain on "schedule". You'd need 3 cuttings per year off of 4 acres to get enough hay to try to carry more than a couple of head through winter. Of course, if you have room to rotate the cattle for a few weeks in the early Fall, you can seed with ryegrass or other winter grass, and need less hay. Still hoping "Mother Nature" is not fickle.

    My best advice would be to get 3 head of young calves, next Spring, and let them graze your pasture all summer, while you bale the other pasture. See how those are carried by your pasture. If they do well, you can always sell them in the Fall, or the following Spring. That will give you a good idea of how well your plan will work. If they cannot grow well, and increase weight on just pasture, the pasture won't carry even a small cow/calf operation. Use the money you get from the sale of those calves to get into the cow/calf, if it looks feasible.

    Here, I think my biggest advantage with cattle is the tax breaks on property taxes. I have been in and out of the cattle business many times. I've never lost money, but I also don't try to feed things if I don't have the pastures, due to a drought, etc. I have run both the cow/calf, as well as buying young calves and keeping them a year, then selling them. If I get rain, and therefore pastures, buying young calves seems to yield the best return. But, be sure you look at what you are buying. One sick calf, can send your profits into the red, with loss of weight gain, vet bills or even the loss of the calf or calves.

    I'm in Texas. Our winters are relatively mild. If you have harsh winters, your feed bill, can be high, if you run low on your own hay.
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  5. #5
    Elite Member Larro Darro's Avatar
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    Default Re: Anybody raise cattle for profit?

    TSO, I used to raise cows with my father. We had 225 acres of our own, about half of which was pasture or hay, the other half being equally divided between cropland and woods. And we used another 300+ acres of wooded family land. We ran two herds of 35-45 cows. We used the woods for grazing, especially in the winter. The more leaves they ate, the less hay it took. But even then you had to feed them protein blocks. While we always made money on them, you had to work like heck to do it. We always sold to the same buyer, and he paid in cash. {The tax write off for the farm was more valuable than the little we made off it}

    Unless you already own hay equipment, I would use all 8 acres for grazing and buy the little hay it would take for 8-10 cows. We had several small pastures and would let the cows crop the grass all the way down, then put them on a fresh pasture. I would think about breaking the pastures down into two acres lots. You could use one for a high protein crop like clover or rye grass, and the others for pasture.

    Something else to think about is raising veal. My cousin in Miami only had one acres of land. He bought day old calves from a dairy and raised white veal, or milk fed. But you can do red veal, which is grass or grain fed in addition to milk. My cousin slaughtered the calves and cut up the meat himself. That might sell to the local chefs while older beef wouldn't. Just something you could think about.

    Larro

  6. #6
    Veteran Member TSO's Avatar
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    Default Re: Anybody raise cattle for profit?

    Thanks guys (and gals) ... all great info. I have been trying to read up on this matter, but I literally know NOTHING about raising or keeping cows, so every bit of information is helpful.

    I know this is very hard to say accurately because on our areas, quantities, all that jazz.... but what is a general price (and I do mean general) I should expect to pay for cows, at their different stages of life? If I just buy calves to keep for say the summers only then sell to feed lots, what age do I buy & sell them, and what are the general prices I'd expect to pay for, and sell for? How about if I keep a cow year round? What type of a shelter do I need to build them for winter (Michigan winters are unpredictable, but January is our coldest sustained month and regularly gets down to 0 at night. People I've talked to that raise their own cows (1 or 2 at a time) for finish beef say that they typically take about 18 months. Is that better to do? Sell them for weight that way?

    Regardless, I won't be starting this until Spring... I won't get a chance this fall to do any of it, and I'd rather get all the info before I bother with it.

    I agree with you guys about the tax benefits. Between that, and the small income generated by it, I think it could pay for itself and still feed us. We've managed to accomplish that at least with the chickens & hogs, and the small amount of money generated made it worth our while with those two ventures. Not to mention the quality of the meat!
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  7. #7
    Super Member farmgirl19's Avatar
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    Default Re: Anybody raise cattle for profit?

    Your local cattle auction barn should have a website that posts prices from each week's sale, in your area. We have several sale barns within driving distance, and when I am considering getting back into cattle, I begin checking the prices, at each location, for a few weeks prior. Same when I am thinking it is getting time to sell some off. Even within relatively close proximity, prices can vary more than you'd expect. It helps me determine where I want to buy or sell.

    With calves, if you are equipped to deal with young ones, I like to get them 100-250 pounds, and keep them a year. This is for beef calves. You can get day old dairy calves MUCH cheaper, but they also won't be worth as much when you sell them, and they eat just like the others. The smaller ones will be more likely to need a little help, due to the stress of weaning and shipment, sale, etc., so one must plan for that possibility. 200-250 pound calves will usually be hardier.

    Once you get things figured out, if there is a dairy or two neaby, they sometimes are looking for someone to raise their replacement heifers. I have known a couple of people through the years that did that. I've never done it, and am not really in a dairy area, so can't offer specific advice on that, but throw it out to give you something else to think about, research and consider.
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  8. #8
    Elite Member smstonypoint's Avatar
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    Default Re: Anybody raise cattle for profit?

    Quote Originally Posted by TSO View Post
    <snip>

    I know this is very hard to say accurately because on our areas, quantities, all that jazz.... but what is a general price (and I do mean general) I should expect to pay for cows, at their different stages of life? If I just buy calves to keep for say the summers only then sell to feed lots, what age do I buy & sell them, and what are the general prices I'd expect to pay for, and sell for?

    <snip>


    I agree with you guys about the tax benefits. Between that, and the small income generated by it, I think it could pay for itself and still feed us. We've managed to accomplish that at least with the chickens & hogs, and the small amount of money generated made it worth our while with those two ventures. Not to mention the quality of the meat!
    Two points.

    1. Cattle prices vary according to location, season, stage of the cattle cycle, weight, grade, frame, sex, and a host of supply and demand determinants. It is impossible to define a general price that would be of any practical use.

    I was going to suggest that you look at the USDA's AMS Market News Reports for Michigan, but I see that Michigan is not included in the list of states with reports: Agricultural Marketing Service - Market News.

    To give you an idea of how prices can vary by weight, grade, frame, and sex on a given day at a given location, here's the market report for the Sept. 26 sale at Denison, IA: http://www.ams.usda.gov/mnreports/nw_ls120.txt. If you track the Denison market (or any other market) over time, you will find variation in the reported prices.

    2. Are you talking about a property tax advantage for use-value assessment? Assuming Michigan has property tax assessments for ag. use, you should check on the requirements for obtaining that assessment.

    If you are talking about income taxes and filing Schedule F, you should become familiar with IRS Publication 225, Farmer's Tax Guide -- http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p225.pdf. This will be helpful if you are audited for operating a hobby farm rather than a farming enterprise.

    Steve

  9. #9
    Veteran Member Bigfoot62's Avatar
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    Default Re: Anybody raise cattle for profit?

    I have 110 acres, and I've raised cattle all my life, but it has rarely been for profit!

    With that 4 acre pasture, you're probably maxxed out at 2 anyway. You could fence the other 4 acres, giving you room for a couple more.

    Just be happy raising your own beef. I don't see how you could make any money. (Just trying to be honest about it)
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  10. #10
    Elite Member smstonypoint's Avatar
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    Default Re: Anybody raise cattle for profit?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bigfoot62 View Post
    I have 110 acres, and I've raised cattle all my life, but it has rarely been for profit!

    With that 4 acre pasture, you're probably maxxed out at 2 anyway. You could fence the other 4 acres, giving you room for a couple more.

    Just be happy raising your own beef. I don't see how you could make any money. (Just trying to be honest about it)
    I didn't want to be the one to say so, but you have nailed it.

    Steve

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