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Like any animal, cows have a cost to them as well. Most livestock will have about the same cost, in differing amounts. A cow will eat more than a sheep for example, but they both require feed. The main difference lies in the potential income they produce.
Basic one-time costs (unless you break it or have a disaster), include shelter, waters, feed bunks or hay feeders, and fence. Now if you are blessed with abundant, year-round pasture, you may not need feed bunks or hay feeders.
The good news is for the most part beef cows are hardy and don’t need access to a barn all the time. Be sure to match the breed of cow to your needs and environment and you can save more money. You can read more on that here.
Keep in mind barns and fences will require maintenance to keep them in functioning order. The older the structures, the more maintenance cost is typically involved. For ease of figures, just plan on a basic number per year. There will also be a cost involved in moving manure around if your animals are in smaller pen areas instead of pasture at any point. For more on fence design tips, check out the blog here.
What your hay or grain feeder is made from will determine how long it will last. Wooden feed bunks outside may only last 5-10 years before they completely fall apart. Kept inside, they will last longer. Metal will last longer 15-20 years even outside.
At some point you will probably have a sick or injured cow or calf. You can’t just physically manhandle a cow to the ground and treat it like a sheep or goat. You will need some way to gently move the cow/calf to an area where you can physically restrain it for treatment. This is going to typically be some kind of working chute.
Of course, if you have a good horse and are a good roper, you can always rope and treat in the pasture. For a cow though you’re going to need at least one other person.
Now the fun part is the income! You will have extra calves at some point. The quickest dollar to figure is selling the calf after weaning. The different times when you sell and what weight the calf is will determine the price.
If you’re up for some marketing, you can sell sides of beef or directly to the consumer. Keep in mind, this is going to cost more to raise, and you will have processing and marketing costs involved.
At some point your cows will age out and no longer produce calves and your bull will no longer be able to breed. They still have value though as a cull animal, though it is much less than a calf. Be sure to factor this in as well.
The easiest way to see all the expenses and income together is to lay out all the expenses on one side of a chart and the income on the other. Then total the numbers. Keep in mind one time cost should be spread out over the lifetime of the structure/equipment for accurate analysis.
Now get figuring and go buy some cows!
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