Archives For cost to raise a cow

       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!

       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 15. As always, let’s first check Bambi’s growth. Here he is at fourteen months old:

Bambi - 14 Months Old

       And here he is at fifteen months old (technically, fifteen months, one week, and three days old):

Bambi - 15 Months Old

       This picture isn’t the best because I had to take it on my phone (forgot my camera…). And yes, he’s on the cattle trailer (more on that later). True to form, Bambi wouldn’t cooperate for a good pose either. However, I think it’s clear he’s gained a good bit of weight since the last picture. He’s filled out a bit more, especially around his haunches. I’m not sure why his coloring has changed so much. Part of it is lighting, of course, but his color has changed over time anyway so I’m not worried about it. I’m sure it won’t affect the taste.

Costs & Time

       As of yesterday, Bambi is no more. He went to the butcher on Wednesday night (when I took the picture) and they slaughtered him on Thursday. However, I still don’t have a final tally on the costs because I’ll need to settle things up with my friends who’ve been boarding him and pay the butchering fees. Here are my totals so far (same as last month):

  • 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
  • Total Spent – $684.18
  • Time – 102 hours

       Bambi will probably hang to age for about a week, so it’ll probably be late next week or early the following week before we get our beef back. Figuring out which cuts to order took a while because there were some that I was not familiar with. It’s also difficult to think about all the beef you’re going to want in the next year and in what proportions. For better or worse, this is what we ordered (though we’ll have a chance to review it with the butcher the day before they start cutting):

       All the meat will be vacuum sealed. Our roasts will come in 2-3 pound packages. Our steaks will come two per package and will be cut 1 1/2″ thick. The liver, heart, and tongue are all for other people. (I hear the tongue is really good, but I’m going to pass for now…)

       After searching for a good used freezer with no luck, we bought our chest freezer on Black Friday from a local business. I figured they’d have a sale and we got $50 off – a decent discount. But I was surprised when we got a free turkey as well. :) I had no idea they were doing that so it was a nice bonus. Our freezer should get here on the 6th – just in time!

       All that’s left now is to add up the last few costs (final boarding costs and the butchering fees) and compare it to retail and/or bulk prices. Any good ideas on the best way to make a useful comparison? Let me know in the comments. Also, be sure to stay tuned for a special tribute to Bambi in the final post of this series!

       If you haven’t already, make sure you sign up for free updates to Provident Planning so you don’t miss out on my last post where I’ll figure up all the costs, compare it to buying the beef elsewhere, and see how this whole thing works out.

This post was included in the Carnival of Personal Finance.