Cow calf vs steer operation?

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Lrj505
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Cow calf vs steer operation?

Postby Lrj505 » Wed Aug 01, 2018 8:56 am

Which is more profitable buying weaned steers/bull calves , or cow calf operation? Cow eats about 4 tons of hay a year. And the time to get your money back takes a while. Plus you have to feed a bull. I feed hay, I have 6 acres of quality alfalfa. I figure you can buy a steer for about $300 and sell in 5 months for $800 Ish. Or buy an old cow for $600 let it raise the calf for 2 months sell the mom, keep Calf for 4-5 more months then sell calf. Any experience? Thanks. Slaughter weight is .50 cwt in my area.
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Re: Cow calf vs steer operation?

Postby willow bottom » Wed Aug 01, 2018 11:46 am

I am cow/calf. I enjoy the cow/calf operation. Don't know much about running steers besides it's a volume game if you want to make any money. There's no easy way to make money in the cattle biz. In regards to your example above the numbers on the steer look good on paper, but it's so many other variables that come into play. Some guys on here will chime in I'm sure.

Buying older cows is def profitable, but like anything else alot of variables and risk involved.
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True Grit Farms
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Re: Cow calf vs steer operation?

Postby True Grit Farms » Wed Aug 01, 2018 12:54 pm

I like buying bred cows. But I'd sure like some $300 steers without spots. $300 won't buy you much of a around here besides problems.
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MtnCows93
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Re: Cow calf vs steer operation?

Postby MtnCows93 » Wed Aug 01, 2018 1:37 pm

the steers you can buy for $300 arent gonna be worth $800 in 5 months. your gonna be buying junk or something less than 200 pounds that isnt weaned yet. if your gonna do it i would buy the best 3wt steers you can get in november and sell them in april maybe sooner if the market goes up
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Re: Cow calf vs steer operation?

Postby Lrj505 » Wed Aug 01, 2018 1:48 pm

What should be the most I spend on 300 pound steers to make a profit ? And how heavy should I sell ? Black hide ?
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Re: Cow calf vs steer operation?

Postby shaz » Wed Aug 01, 2018 2:01 pm

I calculated the spread between heavy and light weight steers was only about $200. Razor thin margin even for a mostly grazing operation.
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Re: Cow calf vs steer operation?

Postby True Grit Farms » Wed Aug 01, 2018 2:08 pm

With the tariffs and trade bs I wouldn't gamble myself. A decent 300lb steer is going to cost around $500. And a decent 500lb steer will bring $750 at today's prices. Not much there if you ask me, and if we start having to sell steers for a $1lb again you've lost your tail.
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Re: Cow calf vs steer operation?

Postby Nesikep » Wed Aug 01, 2018 2:09 pm

If you ever want to take holidays, go with the steer operation.. the cows will keep you home!
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MtnCows93
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Re: Cow calf vs steer operation?

Postby MtnCows93 » Wed Aug 01, 2018 2:09 pm

where im from in nc in april 2018 a 600lb steer sold for $1.45 and in november 2017 a 300lb steer sold for $1.60 thats the general market high and low thats the only way id try it but who knows what the market is gonna do
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Re: Cow calf vs steer operation?

Postby okiek » Wed Aug 01, 2018 2:51 pm

I've done both for many years and could argue either side. Agree with True Grit on pricing. I'd take 2 truck loads of $300 steers with no spots!!

I can give you my exact steer numbers for last year. I bought heavy 4 and light 5 weights. I put them on native grasses, and other than a little cake on weekends to keep them coming in the lot, that's all they got. Bought them mid May and sold them 11-1. I did not do ear implants last year. Everyone dreams of 2lb a day gain, but without implants my steers averaged 1.32 adg. You can figure the profit based on your market. Based on my available grass, I can run a lot more 5 weight steers than cow calf pairs. However, I lose more and treat WAY more sickness in stockers than I do my own herd.

If you run maximum carrying capacity of both, I don't feel there's a huge difference in profit margin. My grandfather started his cattle business in 1916 and kept way more meticulous records than I do and he always told me the difference wasn't great enough to keep you from doing the one you enjoy most. That being said, I enjoy the pairs more and feel the work they cause is somewhat more enjoyable and they cause me personally less stress.
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Re: Cow calf vs steer operation?

Postby Lrj505 » Thu Aug 02, 2018 8:52 am

A very successful cattle trader I know gave me a model. Buy old bred 3 stripers cows $600 tops let them calf and take the mom away in 2 months for hamburger meat or sell on Craigslist. Anyone do this before ? And he also recommended not castrating bull calf’s , says that even though they get docked the extra weight they gain from having testicles will off set the loss ?
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Re: Cow calf vs steer operation?

Postby shaz » Thu Aug 02, 2018 10:35 am

Lrj505 wrote:A very successful cattle trader I know gave me a model. Buy old bred 3 stripers cows $600 tops let them calf and take the mom away in 2 months for hamburger meat or sell on Craigslist. Anyone do this before ? And he also recommended not castrating bull calf’s , says that even though they get docked the extra weight they gain from having testicles will off set the loss ?


Taking the mom away in 2 months is really going to hurt the calf. Let her raise it.
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Re: Cow calf vs steer operation?

Postby Lucky » Thu Aug 02, 2018 2:36 pm

Lrj505 wrote:A very successful cattle trader I know gave me a model. Buy old bred 3 stripers cows $600 tops let them calf and take the mom away in 2 months for hamburger meat or sell on Craigslist. Anyone do this before ? And he also recommended not castrating bull calf’s , says that even though they get docked the extra weight they gain from having testicles will off set the loss ?


Every old cow trader has the “trick” or “secret” to making money in the cattle biz. All I can tell you is if you wanna do stockers you better have deep pockets and be cowboy. They’ll drive you crazy at times. Cow calf operation is pretty straight forward plus you can play both games at once.
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Re: Cow calf vs steer operation?

Postby Lrj505 » Thu Aug 02, 2018 2:50 pm

This is my operation so far. Dad has all the farm equipment I need. I grow about 60 tons of alfalfa a year. I have 10 acres of dormant alfalfa grass November 15-March 1st ( suppports 8 cows until February then have to supplement ) also 3 acres of irrigated permanent pasture year round. What model would make most money. I also have a full time job and 2 babies so time is valuable. Thanks
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Re: Cow calf vs steer operation?

Postby shaz » Thu Aug 02, 2018 3:19 pm

I've never actually seen a 10 cow herd make money. You could try some summer stockers so you can avoid hay feeding. I would think you could handle 15 to 20 calves with ease.
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