The purpose of this article is to examine cow-calf profitability for a spring calving herd that sold weaned calves in the fall of 2020 and provide an estimate of profitability for the upcoming year.  Table 1 summarizes estimated costs for a well-managed spring-calving cowherd for 2020.  Every operation is different, so producers should evaluate and modify these estimates to fit their situation.  Note that in this table we are not including depreciation or interest on equipment/fencing/facilities, as well as labor and land costs.

“While no calculator exists to determine the exact price a producer should spend on a bull, there are multiple factors that can be considered to establish a base price,” he said. “Typical thumb rules I’ve heard for estimating the value of an average registered bull include two times the value of a fed steer, five times the value of a feeder calf at weaning, or 25 times the cwt price of feeder calves. Using these thumb rules in the current market gives us a range of $4,000 to $5,200, which is very representative of early sale reports from 2016.”

Different traits of bulls can contribute to different impacts on the bottom line of the operation. For example, a bull with a higher calving ease EPD may contribute to more live calves. Not surprisingly, bulls with higher calving ease (or lower birth weights) sell for a higher price (Simms et al., 1997). With the large variation in bulls available, bull prices extend over a wide range from $3,000 to over $20,000 per head.

What Is A Bull Worth?

I often get the question “How much should I pay for a bull?” My first answer is “Whatever the market will bear.” Admittedly, that answer really gives no insight into return on investment for the producer relative to traits of emphasis for their particular marketing goals. With the record prices currently being observed in all markets of the beef industry, it is no secret that this translates to increased prices of replacement breeding stock.

While to my knowledge, no calculator exists to determine the exact price a producer should spend on a bull, there are multiple factors that can be considered to establish a base price. Typical thumb rules that I have heard over the years for the value of an average purebred or composite bull include 2 times the value of a fed steer, 5 times the value of a feeder calf at weaning, or 25 times the cwt price of feeder calves. In the current market, using these thumb rules, we get an approximate range of $3975 to $4650, which is very representative of early sale reports from 2014.

Driving Factors Of Bull Price

The value a bull provides is in the calves sired over a lifetime, the long-term genetic change of the herd, and salvage value at the end of a productive life. (As long-term genetic change is not readily measurable by producers, this parameter was excluded from the calculator.)

The value provided depends on:

cost factors (i.e., bull maintenance cost and death loss),

performance factors (i.e., years of service, the expected cow to bull ratio, expected weaning rate, expected weight of feeders, and proportion of the calf value attributed to the bull), and price factors (i.e., expected price of feeders and salvage value).

What Is The Worth Of A Calf?

The cost of a cow will be determined by its size and its weight. If we talk about a calf that is only a day old, it will require an extra amount of care and work, as you will have to feed it milk from a bottle. They mostly cost around $40 to $50. Plus they have a high mortality rate.

A 4 to a 6-month-old cow is efficient and stable and that is why it is expensive. Whereas a beef yearly is around $650 and $750 each calf. Cows that are older will cost more based on what their weights are. A dairy yearling, however, costs little, around $450 to $600 per calf.

What Is The Worth Of A Beef Cow?

The cost of beef heifers is around $2,500 to $3,000 individually with an average cost of $2,800 per cow. The cost of the calf will generally be based on its weight. The unit of measurement used to put prices on cows is CWT which stands for 100 pounds. For a beef cow, CWT is between $135 and $165. It is an average of $140 per 100 pounds. A calf that weighs 500 pounds costs around $700.

As compared to a heifer, bred heifer costs more. A bred heifer can cost around $1,300. Whereas matured cows can cost around $4,000 to $5,000 each. A matured cow can weigh around 2,200 pounds i.e. $1.85 cwt.

What is The Best Breed Of Beef Cow To Raise?

In the United States of America, the most famous breed is the Black Angus. This breed requires extra maintenance and care during the calving season. There are more breeds of beef cows that are great providers of beef such as:

  • Charolais: This breed is heavier in weight and in winters their coat thickens.
  • Hereford: They mature early and their fattening abilities are great. They are docile and are efficient at milk-producing.
  • Simmental: Easy to work with during the calving season. They too have good fattening abilities.
  • Red Angus: They are docile and have good fat marbling.
  • Texas Longhorn: These are survival cows and they have longhorns.
  • Highlands: They have thick coats, they can easily survive in colder weather. Their meat is lean and marbled.

How Much Does A Dairy Cow Cost?

A dairy cow can cost between $900 and $3,000. This range is dependent on the price of a yearly to the price of a proven family cow. Yearlings and calves are less expensive as compared to matured cows. Moreover, a cow that is bottle-fed and hand-raised will be expensive as they are friendlier with people and can be kept around family.

The cost of Jersey cows can be as low as $1,400 to $1,800.

Cows that are sold by weight usually cost in between $1.05 and $1.35 (per pound)

As compared to bred cows, heifers are cheaper, they cost around $500 and $1,000.

The cost of lactating dairy cows is around $1,500 and $2,100.

Bottle-fed, tamed, and hand-raised cows are usually expensive because they are friendly with humans.

What Are Some Best Dairy Cows To Buy?

  • Jersey: They are smaller in size and they are great milk providers.
  • Brown Swiss: They are gentle and one of the older dairy animals.
  • Dexters: They are smaller in size but they are also used for meat.
  • Guernseys: They are smaller in size.
  • Hereford: They mature early. They are docile and great providers of milk.
  • Holstein: They are efficient milk providers and are used for beef also.

How Much A Cow Costs Annually?

Generally, cows cost between $500 and $1,000 per year to keep. This includes their care and feed. Purchasing a cow and raising it will automatically become less expensive if you have extra land to grass-feed it. 2 to 5 acres of grassland are required per cow.

How Much Does A Half A Cow Costs In The USA?

Full cow or Half-cow prices usually start from $3.95 to $5.50/lb., with an additional processing cost of $0.50/lb. $50 is a kill fee that is divided among the cow-poolers.

How Much Does It Cost To Buy A Cow In The USA?

Usually, the cost of a cow will be somewhere between $2,000 and $5,000. The weight of the cow, its gender, and its breed decides its actual cost. Yearlings are mostly less expensive than matured cows. They cost around $800 to $1,500. The differences in the prices are also based on whether the cow is used for dairy or for meat.

How Much Does It Cost To Butcher A Cow?

Cost for slaughtering an animal is $190 for a whole and $95 for a half, and that is payable to the cattle owner. $1.25 per pound hanging weight is the price for having the meat cut, aged, wrapped, and frozen so that it becomes ready to be taken to homes. 59 percent to 62 percent of the live weight is the hanging weight. This cost is payable to the butcher.

How Much Does It Cost To Raise A Cow?

The cost to keep/raise a cow per year is around $500 to $1000. Including the expenses of their feed and other necessities. Raising and buying a cow is less expensive when you already have some extra acres of land to grass-feed them and fulfill their grazing requirements.

How Much Does A Baby Cow Cost?

The cost of a calf is usually based on its weight. The unit for measurement is CWT that stands for 100 pounds. For a beef cow, CWT is between $135 and $165.

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