Raising a Cow for Beef: The Final Tally (Plus – Video Tribute to Bambi!)

Corey —  January 24, 2011

       Last month, I posted an update about how my wife and I are raising a cow for beef. This is the final post in the series. Bambi is back from the butcher and sitting in our freezer right now. Generally, we start each post by checking Bambi’s growth. That’s not an issue any more, but here he is at fifteen months old on the way to the butcher:

Bambi - 15 Months Old

       And here’s a more recent picture:

Bambi Mignon

       Yes. He is delicious.

Video Tribute

       In my last post I promised a video tribute for Bambi. Those of you who came in on the end of this little experiment can catch up on all of Bambi’s growth with this video. And those of you who followed the whole time can remember him fondly – plus you’ll get to see pictures of the processed beef in our freezer. You should at least listen to the song if nothing else… :)

The Final Tally

       All the numbers are in and I can tell you exactly what it took to raise and butcher Bambi (but this is specific to our situation – you’ll have to read the old posts for details – it’s probably less expensive if you’re in the business of raising steers). Here are the totals:

  • Cost of Bambi – Free!
  • Castration & Dehorning – $16.00
  • Milk Replacer – $45.54
  • Miscellaneous – $46.87
  • Feed – $362.77
  • Hay – $88.00
  • Straw – $20.00
  • Medicine – $5.00
  • Boarding – $100.00
  • Butchering Fee – $305.42
  • Total Spent – $989.60
  • Time – 102 hours

       Here are the cuts we ordered, how many pounds we got for each cut, my estimate for what it would cost to buy each cut at the store, and the total value of each cut.

Cut Lbs. Est. Retail Price Total Value of Cut
Mock Tender 3.438 $2.99/lb $10.28
Flat Iron Steaks 3.438 $3.99/lb $13.72
Petite Tender 0.781 $2.99/lb $2.34
Brisket 8.031 $2.29/lb $18.39
Short Ribs 4.986 $2.49/lb $12.42
Delmonico Steaks (Boneless Rib Eye Steaks) 12.375 $8.79/lb $108.78
Skirt Steak 1.313 $2.39/lb $3.14
Top Round Roast 9.688 $2.99/lb $28.97
Eye Roast 1.875 $3.29/lb $6.17
Sirloin Tip Roast 3.969 $3.29/lb $13.06
Soup Bones 6.875 $1.99/lb $13.68
NY Strip Steaks 9.280 $8.79/lb $81.57
Filet Mignon 4.156 $11.99/lb $49.83
Sirloin Steaks 7.156 $4.79/lb $34.28
Flank Steak 1.688 $3.99/lb $6.73
Beef Cubes 21.156 $2.99/lb $63.26
Stir Fry 6.313 $2.99/lb $18.87
Ground Beef 74.000 $2.29/lb $169.46
6 oz. Patties (4/pack) 69.000 $2.69/lb $185.61
Totals 250 lbs. Wtd. Avg. $3.36/lb $840.54

       I based the estimated retail price on a combination of data from the USDA, wholesale meat prices, and store prices. I may have overestimated on some items and underestimated on others. If you have suggestions for alternative prices, please let me know. I did the best I could with the information I had and tried to remain as accurate as possible.

       The weighted average for the retail prices I came up with was $3.36/lb. Based on what it cost us (just money) to raise Bambi, we spent about $3.96/lb. So I guess if it’s worth $0.60/lb to you to know where your beef comes from then this isn’t too bad of a deal – especially for mostly grass-fed, hormone-free beef.

       Interestingly enough, my cost to raise Bambi before considering butchering fees is similar to what I would have paid if I had bought the same amount of beef from a farmer. Bambi’s hanging weight was 406 pounds and my cost before butchering was $684.18 or about $1.69/lb for hanging weight. Farmers tend to charge around $1.65/lb for hanging weight in my area. (Hanging weight is the weight of the cow after it’s been initially skinned, gutted, and cleaned but before it is cut into smaller pieces – so there’s still a good bit of bone and fat there.)

       But if you figure in the value of my time, things don’t look so good. If I valued my time just at minimum wage ($7.25/hr), that would increase my total cost to $1,729.10! And that would bring the average cost per pound to $6.92. That’s some expensive beef! To be honest though, I probably chose the most time-intensive methods for raising a cow for beef. This was especially true for the first few months of Bambi’s life. We bottle fed him for two whole months – a total of 60 hours of time. In contrast, most farmers take calves off the bottle in two weeks or less.

       But as I’ve said many times before, this was never really an experiment to see how frugal it would be to raise your own beef. I did it more to get the experience and have something to share in common with people in my church and community. Raising Bambi was interesting and occasionally fun. I’m glad I did it, but I’m not in a hurry to raise another cow for beef any time soon. If I had wanted it to be a strictly frugal experiment, I would have gone about it a little differently.

       I will say it’s kind of nice having such a huge selection of beef in our freezer. Unfortunately, it also makes meal planning a bit too easy. To finish all this beef in one year, we’d need to eat about 2/3 of a pound every day. That’s a lot of beef to split between two people each and every day of the year – especially when we’re used to not eating much meat. All I know is we’ll be having quite a few parties this summer because we’re not even close to being on schedule to eat all of this beef within a year.

       I’d say I’m going to miss Bambi, but I’d be lying. Some of you will find that harsh, but I’m going to guess you never raised a cow for beef either – especially the way I did it. It’s not that I hate animals. I just knew Bambi’s purpose from the beginning and kept it in the front of my mind. Plus, he was a bit of a pain and that certainly didn’t help him build a place in my heart.

       As far as I can tell, this is the last post I’ll have about Bambi and our experience of raising a cow for beef. If you’d like to read all the posts, here they are in order: (There is no month 1 post. I was tracking everything the whole time. I just never posted about it until month 2.)

       If you have any questions, feel free to ask me in the comments. Thanks for following along!



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.

13 responses to Raising a Cow for Beef: The Final Tally (Plus – Video Tribute to Bambi!)

  1. Good for you, Paul, but I’m sorry to say I could never eat an animal I personally raise or even meet once, even if you pay me :)) When I was young, my mother raised some chicken and pigs. I could eat the chickens but could never eat the pork chops from those pigs, and I was only around 9 or 10 then.

  2. Some people just can’t do that, and that’s fine. If we had really treated Bambi as a pet, I’m not sure how I would feel. But I knew all along he would be food and made it a point to think of him that way, so it hasn’t bothered me.

  3. I’m glad you kept track of this on the site. I’m sure that you’re going to have a few great parties throughout the year…sponsored by Bambi!

    It was definitely not as expensive as I assumed it would be, but then again, I know nothing about farming.

  4. Haha, thanks, Khaleef! It’s definitely been a tasty experiment, though we really would never eat as much beef as we have been now.

    It probably could have been slightly less expensive (especially on the time side), but I’d say it’s not too far off. Also, we did not raise him to full size, so this isn’t indicative of the total cost for a full grown steer.

  5. I really enjoyed reading your posts on this. Raising a calf for beef is something my husband and I have been discussing lately. We live in Louisiana and the cost for locally raised and processed (grass fed, chemical & hormone free, etc) beef is almost $5/pound. We’ve been trying to determine if it would be cheaper to do it ourselves.

    You had said you would do things differently if you were trying to be frugal. What exactly would you have done different? And when your freezer starts getting low is this something you would do again?

    By the way, your humor cracked us up. Loved the song with the Bambi video!

  6. Hi, Heather! Thanks for your comment. At $5/pound you could certainly do things cheaper yourself, though my numbers won’t quite work for you. I used some grain in feeding Bambi, especially toward the end, and I did not use chemical free feeds. For example, his milk replacer contained antibiotics to help prevent scours and other common diseases for calves. Additionally, we gave him some medicine a couple times. You can get alternatives for all of this, but they will cost more.

    As far as being more frugal, one thing would have been to take him off milk replacer sooner. Many farmers only keep them on milk replacer for a couple weeks (or less). This saves a lot of time as well. There are reasons for keeping them on longer, but if you want to save money you could wean them quicker. In that case, you’d want to find a way to buy just enough milk replacer to get you through. A whole 50 lb bag will last you two months for one calf.

    If we had a large enough area for grazing, we could have spent less on hay and feed. So if you’ve got the land, that’ll save you some money as well. The “feed” part was for the steer feed and for the transition feed between milk and steer feed (I can’t remember what it’s called now…). If you’re going pure grass-fed, you won’t need to buy that. But you will need hay over the winter unless the grass grows enough all year round down there.

    We could have gotten a cheaper butcher, but this one was USDA certified and it was where our friends were taking theirs.

    I doubt we’ll do this again, mostly because we just don’t need that much beef. But it’s also because we don’t have the ideal situation for taking care of a cow. If you have a large enough pasture and a water source, it’s not much work except at the very beginning. We don’t have that so it was a real pain to keep him fed and watered.

    Glad you liked the humor. :) I couldn’t have found a better song for the video!

  7. I literally LOL’d when I saw the 2nd picture of him on the plate! (Still giggling) This was a wonderful way to show the costs and time committment! We are in a similar situation in renting,no pasture but our landlords are dairy farmers and we are considering asking them about getting one. They already let us have goats and chickens so hopefully this won’t be a big deal. We are a large family (11 total with 7 boys at home currently) and think this will be VERY economical for us. Thanks so much for documenting! Be blessed,
    Michelle K

  8. Glad you liked it, Michelle!

  9. what was his live weight?

  10. I’m not completely sure, John, but I think he was probably between 700 and 800 pounds – maybe a little bit more.

  11. that seems a little on the light side for a 15 month old steer. i know he’s not a feeder but i would have thought he might have been heavier by the pictures. thanks for the month by month pictures though. i enjoyed watching him grow up. i have 3 feeder steers we’re raising for my family and freinds. how hard was it to ween him?

  12. Well, it’s hard to tell because we didn’t really weigh him before he went to the butcher. He might have been closer to 850. He also may have had a worm at one point which would have reduced his gain for a while. I also didn’t push to feed him a ton when we had him because I knew we’d have way more beef than we’d need.

  13. Just a thought on the frugal side for other readers. If you have the space and the time you could butcher the animal yourself. My husband is an avid deer hunter. One year we spent over $100 to get about 60 lbs of meat. The next year we bought a meat grinder and have processed it ourselves. The grinder has paid for itself about 10 times.