Raising a Cow for Beef: Month 9

Corey —  May 24, 2010

       Last month, I posted an update about how my wife and I are raising a cow for beef. This is a summary of our activity and costs for month 9. As always, let’s first check Bambi’s growth. Here he is at eight months old:

Bambi - 8 Months Old

       And here he is at nine months old:

Bambi - 9 Months Old

       A few weeks ago we checked Bambi’s weight. He was around 520 pounds then, so he should be close to 550 by now. I think he’s growing quite well for a Jersey, and I’ve had several farmers comment that he looks like he’s doing well. Despite his increasing size, he’s still easy to handle most days. Even when he gets to acting up, it doesn’t take much for me to calm him down again.

Costs & Time

       I’m still taking Bambi out to graze every day except when the weather is especially bad. He’s actually become quite handy because I’ve been using him to mow down the weeds behind the barn. If he’s not out there, he’s in specific places in our yard (the places we don’t walk much…).

       We only had to buy feed this month. I estimate I spent a couple more hours this month than last because I’ve been taking Bambi out nearly every day. It takes time to move his stake and the blocks I use to hold his water bucket in place. Plus, I have to deal with trying to get him where I want him to go and then back to the barn in the evening. (Though I’ve gotten pretty good at that part now.)

  • Feed – $40.06

  • Time – 11 hours

       And here are our total costs over the past nine months:

  • Cost of Bambi – Free!

  • Castration & Dehorning – $16.00

  • Milk Replacer – $45.54

  • Miscellaneous – $46.87

  • Feed – $281.84

  • Hay – $88.00

  • Straw – $20.00

  • Medicine – $5.00

  • Total Spent – $503.25

  • Time – 83 hours

       After nine months we’ve spent a total of $503.25 and 83 hours raising a cow for beef. We’ve finally broken the $500 mark and Bambi’s pushing 550 pounds. It’ll be interesting to see what my final totals are and how much meat we get. I’ll have to figure out how I’ll measure the value of that meat later.

       Cleaning Bambi’s stall is going easier just as I expected. More time outside means less manure in the barn. This is a very good thing. I could have been finished in less than half an hour the last time if I hadn’t turned the compost pile first (which isn’t really composting very well). I guess time spent turning compost isn’t an actual cost for raising Bambi, but I wouldn’t have the compost pile if it weren’t for him.

       That’s it for this month. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below. And make sure you sign up for free updates to Provident Planning if you’re interested in knowing what it takes to raise a cow for beef!



Corey is currently pursuing a Master of Arts degree in religion. While he enjoys learning and writing about Christianity, another one of his new passions is writing about personal finances in order to help others make wise decisions with their money.

22 responses to Raising a Cow for Beef: Month 9

  1. Love the updates! It brings back memories of raising beef on the farm when I was growing up. The two names I remember are Yogi (Jersey) and Susie (Holstein). I was never attached to them because I was a farm girl, I understood why we had them. I hope you are not getting too attached to Bambi! lol

  2. Glad you like the updates, Donna! I’ve had a couple conversations over the past week with people who are slightly disturbed that I have no problem with raising him and then eating him. But like you said, I understand why I have him. He’s not a pet – he’s for food. Yes, he’s cute and can be funny, but he’s also annoying sometimes and takes a bit of work to care for. I sure won’t miss refilling his water bucket after he knocks it over or cleaning out his pen!

  3. $503 in expenses; that’s about $55/month. How long will you keep him before…doing the deed???

    How many pounds of meat do you expect to have at maturity? Are you planning on selling any of the meat?

    (Can you tell I know nothing about raising cows!)
    .-= Kevin@OutOfYourRut´s last blog ..Save Money on Vacations =-.

  4. Thanks for your questions, Kevin. We’ll probably have him for a total of 14-15 months before we send him to the butcher. I don’t know exactly what we’ll get back, but I think he should be close to 1,000 pounds by the time we butcher him. I’d expect about 500-600 pounds of meat depending on his bone structure & fat.

    We’ll probably donate some of the meat for Mennonite Central Committee’s meat canning projects, and we may sell some to family/friends if they want any. But I think we’ll keep most of it.

  5. Melissa Stoltzfus May 24, 2010 at 10:15 PM

    Just found your blog and low and behold. . . a fellow Lancaster Countian! I do know a bit about beef as I work for a farmer who also happens to be my Dad. We operate an organic farm store in Manheim by the name of Danda Farms. In my experience (Holstein breed) you lose roughly half of the beef weight in carcass and another 40% in the cutting and packaging process. So if we process a 1400 pound animal we expect roughly 400 pounds beef (freezer weight).

  6. Thanks for your comment, Melissa! When I saw your last name I wondered if you were from the county. :) My wife was a Brubaker before we married, but I can’t think of anyone she’d be related to up in Manheim.

    Thanks for the information on how much beef to expect. We may only get about 285 pounds or less in that case (which doesn’t make the financial side of this look very good). It’ll be interesting to see how it goes!

  7. Melissa Stoltzfus May 26, 2010 at 12:52 PM

    I would recommend keeping him to closer to 24 months if possible for better yield on meat. But I don’t know how big Jerseys get. I think it would not be as big as Holtsteins. The more you can feed him grass, the less feed you have to buy. Not to mention alot healthier meat too. I’ll be following this to see how it turns out for you!
    And don’t forget to compare apples to apples. . . seems like you’ve got a pretty healthy happy animal here. . . far cry from the “cheapest” beef you can find that was raised on a cement lot and give who-knows-what. Have you researched organic/grass fed prices? Are you going to process yourself or have you found a butcher? That usaully runs $400-$500/animal depending on the weight and how you get it cut up and wrapped.

  8. The plan was to keep him until next winter when he can’t graze any more. Feeding him over another winter would get quite a bit more expensive because he’ll be so much bigger than this past winter. This was based on the advice and experience of farmers in my church. Plus, I’ll be tired of him by then! :) Also, Jerseys don’t get as large as Holsteins, so I’m not sure it’d be worth much to keep him through the winter after he hits 1000 pounds or so. I could experiment and see if his rate of growth slows after a certain point, but I’ll be ready to finish up by November.

    I checked out the price list on the Danda Farms website. If those are typical prices for organic beef, I’ll come out ahead by quite a bit on this. The only problem is we wouldn’t have bought organic beef otherwise, so it’s not a great comparison to our budget. I’ll have to see what it’ll cost for the butchering. Others I’ve talked to said it should probably run about $300.

  9. Melissa Stoltzfus May 26, 2010 at 3:54 PM

    We get ours butchered organically and cry-vacked (vs paper wrap), so that does cost more than a standard. Your animal would not be organic in the “certified organic” terms, but in alot of other ways much more naturally raised. If I were you I would feel so much better about eating that than buying your beef in the grocery store! However I guess if you did it purely for purpose of saving money, you might not feel like you accomplished your goal. I think it is really great for you to raise your own beef though!

  10. I’m not too worried about saving money on this. We didn’t decide to raise Bambi because we thought we’d save money. We thought it would be a good experience and help me “blend in” more. Almost everyone at my church is or has been a farmer and so are most of my friends outside of church. When we get together, everyone is nearly always talking about farming. This at least gives me something relevant to talk about!

  11. Wow! This is the first time I’ve read about someone actually raising a cow for beef. Being a city guy, I also know nothing about this, so it’s interesting to read about.

    Question: If you’re not doing this to save money, is this project costing more than buying beef traditionally at a market?

    Anyhow, good luck with this!
    .-= Darren´s last blog ..Use Math To Alleviate Fear Of Stock Market Volatility =-.

  12. Thanks, Darren! I’m glad you find it interesting.

    This won’t be more expensive than buying beef at the market if you’re only looking at $ costs. But once you factor in the time, I think you’ll find it’s not really worth it strictly from a financial standpoint. We’ll see how it pans out in the end. Thanks for commenting!

  13. Denise Jordan June 8, 2010 at 4:17 PM

    Very Interesting. My husband and I have decided to start raising one or two beef cows for ourselves and our family. We have approx 15 acres and are fencing most of this in for cows and maybe a pig. We are gathering lots of information from the web and this was helpful. Will be interested in how this turns out.

  14. Glad you like it, Denise! I haven’t listed a lot of the specifics lately because there’s not a lot that goes into raising a steer. I basically feed him a bucket of grain every morning, move him to a new spot to graze (I don’t have fenced-in pasture. I use a stake.), and make sure he has water throughout the day. Not much else to do really. It would be nice to have a fenced-in pasture to use with access to water. It wouldn’t take much time at all then.

    We’ll see how it turns out. I’m interested to see myself. He’s hit 600 pounds now, so I’m hoping we get a good bit of beef out of him come Oct/Nov. Thanks for commenting!

  15. Are you able to sell the choice cuts back to the butcher? I have no idea of the markup, but if you were able to sell a portion of the premium parts that could offset some of the costs. This might make the remainder net out at a lower cost then what is in the store.

    Besides the eduction, you are also going to get far higher quality meat then the grocery store! Thank you for the updates! You have inspired me to start looking at raising chickens for eggs in my own home.

  16. I’m not sure about selling back the choice cuts. I’d actually like to keep some of those though. I’m not likely to buy them anyway, and after all this hard work I’d like to enjoy the beef of my labor. :) However, we may consider selling some of our beef to family/friends/butcher as we probably can’t eat it all before it’s freezer burnt. We’re also considering donating some to Mennonite Central Committee’s meat canning projects.

    We definitely know what’s going into our beef. He’s only getting grass and a steer grower mix (which is mostly just corn with some added nutrients). It’s not organic, but we’re not pumping him full of hormones either. The education part of it is a big benefit for me. I like learning new things whenever I can, so this has been enjoyable despite the time commitment and hard work.

    Thanks for your comment! Oh, and keep an eye out next week for a post I wrote to elaborate on your comments about mortgage refinancing. Thanks for prompting some good discussion on that!

  17. how are you making out with bambi?, no updates since month 9.

  18. I think you’ve just missed the updates, John. I haven’t missed a month. There’s an update on the front page today – month 14. Only a couple more left now!

  19. Hello, first time I have seen this site. I really like the updates. A friend of mine has some land and we have talked about getting a cow for the same purpose. He and his Grandfather have raised several cows before. This would be out first time doing it together. I grew up in the country and understand how to manage/care for the cows. I just have never done it myself. We figure we would split everything 50/50, cost and meat. Maybe give him a little more meat since it is his property the cow would be on. But we havent talked that much into it. So far I like what I have read, with the 9month check in weight vs total cost. Going by your updates, looks like it would cost us between $8-16/week from when we get cow to the 9month area. Interested to see how much more she eats/cost as she starts getting a bigger. Thanks for updates keep em’ coming.

  20. Thanks for your comment, Aaron. All the updates are finished on this project since Bambi was butchered back in December 2010. I think my final cost including the butchering was about $14/week all said and done. Without butchering the cost would have been about $10/week.

  21. Great Info! Please continue to share your up dates, Iam in Florida and have plenty of grazing land want to raise 4-6 cow s for food,
    Are milk cows wise to use for food beef?
    and what about the milk ,I dont want to milk cows.
    Is it best to buy a beef steer? for food?
    I understand so far they cost more as calves but yeild more beef true or false

    please post your final cost to raise ?

    and what should I pay to have a 1200lb cow butchered and wrapped?

    thanks for your blog any one that has this info especially if you raise cattle in florida would be great

  22. Hi, Ron! Thanks for your questions. You can find the final tally and links to all the other posts here: http://www.providentplan.com/3162/raising-a-cow-for-beef-the-final-tally-plus-video-tribute-to-bambi/

    If you can use a breed that’s designed for beef, that’s what I’d recommend. You’ll get a better return on your time and money. You can use breeds better suited for milking, but they don’t gain as much weight as quickly as breeds like Angus.

    Butchering fees may vary depending on location. I paid $305 for my steer and he was about 800 pounds live weight. There is usually a flat charge (kill fee – $45-75?) and then a per pound processing fee. I think it was $0.40/pound but I can’t remember for sure. Then if you have further processing done you’ll pay a little more – having patties formed, getting cured products, getting certain cuts, etc.

    Hope that helps!