Meet Bambi, our two month old steer. My wife and I are raising him for beef. I highly doubt we’re going to save much money by raising him ourselves. Looking at the feed costs alone, we might end up ahead. But it’s the time spent feeding and caring for him that will ultimately make this a break-even or money-losing experiment. I’m going to track the costs and time that go into raising Bambi and share that information with you all in monthly updates until he goes to the butcher (probably in Spring 2011).
How We Got Bambi
My wife and I live in the southern part of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, which is home to many dairy farms. I’d say that well over half of the families in our church either currently are or were once connected to the dairy industry (either working on the family farm, selling feed, trucking milk, or doing custom farm work). It’s through one of the families at church that we received Bambi.
Konrad, the youngest of the family and the one in charge of breeding and feeding the family’s herd, had been trying to breed a Jersey heifer into the herd. He bred one of their small Holstein cows to a Jersey bull and got a heifer a while back. Once she was old enough, he bred her to another Jersey bull but this time he got a bull – Bambi.
Bambi was a bit premature so he was rather small when he was born. Dairy farms rarely keep bull calves, especially small ones, unless they’re going to raise them for beef or use them for breeding. Bambi was destined to go off on the truck and he faced a grim future. Because he was so small, he probably wouldn’t bring much money and the farm would end up with a bill because of the transportation costs. Konrad offered to let us have Bambi for free if we wanted him. I thought it would be fun, and Michelle couldn’t say no after she met Bambi.
Konrad kept Bambi long enough to get him dehorned and castrated when the vet (another member of our church) came by the farm. We got Bambi on August 31st, a week and a half after he was born (on August 21st). He’s two months old today, and he’s finally off milk replacer (powdered milk designed especially for calves). Here’s a picture of me with Bambi on the night Konrad dropped him off:
The Costs and Time
I’ve been tracking the costs and the time spent on Bambi so far, not including recreational time. (We sometimes take him on walks around the yard or through the corn fields surrounding our house. Yes, that does sound weird.) It has been taking about 10 minutes each time to feed Bambi while he’s been on milk, and we’ve had to do that twice a day since we got him. Plus, I had to spend some extra time getting things ready for him. I expect the time commitment to go down a bit now that he’s off milk, but we’ll see. Here’s what we’ve spent so far:
- Cost of Bambi – Free, my favorite price!
- Castration & Dehorning – $16.00
- Milk Replacer – $45.54 (You’d technically only need half that for one calf, but since we only have one calf we fed it all to him. I guess we could have sold the extra to a farmer, but then we would have needed to buy more calf feed.)
- Calf Feed – $10.84
- Miscellaneous – $39.90 (This was for stuff like buckets, a collar, a chain and connectors, some medicine, etc. We shouldn’t need to spend much more in this category for a while.)
So far we’ve spent a total of $112.28 and 30 hours of time. The next thing we’ll need to buy is some hay for the winter, more calf feed, and eventually some corn. I’ll be gleaning some fields around here for corn, and there’s a family at church with a machine that can grind it to the right size for Bambi. But eventually I’ll need to buy some corn.
This is not an experiment in exactly how much it costs to raise a cow for beef. We have a unique situation, and we’ll probably have some options that others won’t. For example, we happen to have a barn on the property we rent and our landlord (who happens to be my father-in-law) is OK with us keeping Bambi in the barn. We’ll also have access to some equipment and resources that others may not, which will help us keep our costs low. So keep that in mind when looking at the money and time we spend on Bambi. This is just a record of our experience and results.
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