Archives For raising a steer

       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.

Raising a Cow for Beef: Month 14

Corey —  October 20, 2010 — 3 Comments

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

Bambi - 13 Months Old

       And here he is at fourteen months old:

Bambi - 14 Months Old

       I had a hard time getting a good picture this month due to lighting levels and moving cows. (Still haven’t gotten Bambi to say cheese…) It’s hard to tell from the pictures, but he did seem to be a bit bigger to me than the last time I saw him. He should certainly bulk up now that he’s being fed a high corn diet. We’ll see how he looks in a month!

Costs & Time

       I’ve finally got the costs for boarding Bambi included in this update. I’m paying about $1/day for boarding him, which seems to be a reasonable rate. (Is it? Anyone know for sure?) This is actually a better deal than feeding him myself, but that’s because farmers are able to buy feed in bulk and/or grow most of it themselves.

  • 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

       I paid ahead for the next month or so for Bambi’s last bit of boarding costs, so next month there won’t be much to add. The final update (after he’s slaughtered) will include the last $10 or so for boarding plus the butcher fees. I’m not sure yet, but I’m estimating butcher fees will be around $300. So maybe I’ll have a final cost of right under $1,000 (more if I include the cost of my time). I have no idea how much meat I’ll get, so it remains to be seen how this all works out financially.

       This month Bambi moved from one farm to another. Why? Well, the friends that have him now are the ones who will be taking him to the butcher when they take their cow, so it just makes things a little easier. But also, several people recommended finishing Bambi by feeding him lots of corn for the last couple of months and we can’t do that where he was staying before. He was in with many other cows, so we couldn’t feed him anything special. Now that he’s at our other friends’ farm, he’ll be staying with just one other cow and they’ll both be on a heavy grain diet.

       Other than that, there’s not much to talk about. We’re still looking for a freezer. I think I’ll need at least 14-16 cubic feet of storage space for the meat. And we still have to decide on the cuts we want, but there’s plenty of time left for that. I’ll probably focus on getting these things done in November before he goes to the butcher in December.

       If you haven’t already make sure you sign up for free updates to Provident Planning so you don’t miss out on the final steps in the process of raising a cow for beef!

Raising a Cow for Beef: Month 13

Corey —  September 22, 2010 — 5 Comments

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

Bambi - 12 Months Old

       And here he is at thirteen months old:

Bambi - 13 Months Old

       I don’t see much difference between this month and last month. But the pictures were taken from slightly different angles so it’s hard to tell. Bambi’s not one for posing exactly the way you tell him! I’m not too worried about his weight gain though. I think he’ll be fine.

Costs & Time

       I’ve been on my friends to give us a cost for keeping Bambi on their farm, but they’ve yet to give me a price. I’m going to keep asking, but if they don’t give me a price I’ll just end up paying them $30/month because that’s the best estimate I can come up with. (Anyone have an idea what it should cost to board a 700-800 pound steer?) I won’t be able to update the costs until I get that sorted out. But for your reference, here are our total costs so far:

  • 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
  • Total Spent – $584.18
  • Time – 102 hours

       I’d guess the total costs will be about $650 after we get a payment figured out for our friends.

       The big news for this month is that I finally have Bambi’s slaughter date! He’ll go off to that big pasture in the sky on December 2, 2010. (No, I don’t believe animals have souls, but it sounded nice…right?)

       So the two big things I have to do before then are find a chest freezer and decide what cuts we want. We have been planning to purchase a chest freezer anyway to store up any good deals we find and for keeping veggies and such. So I’m not considering this an additional cost for raising a steer. But you’d certainly need something beyond your regular top-of-the-fridge freezer if you’re going to be getting an entire steer (or even 1/4 or 1/2 of one). I haven’t been trying very hard to find a freezer yet, but that’s something I have to do before Bambi comes back in little vacuum sealed packages.

       We don’t need to decide which cuts of beef we want until the day before Bambi goes to the butcher. I have to say it’s a bit of a daunting process for a first-timer. There are many options and a few cuts I’ve never heard of before. (And I’m pretty familiar with my critter cuts thanks to Alton Brown!) Thankfully, the butcher we’re sending Bambi to has a very helpful beef processing form with plenty of explanatory notes and I can always call if I have questions.

       I’m still not sure what the cost will be for butchering, but we won’t be getting any beef processed (jerky, dried beef, etc.) so that will keep the costs down. I also doubt we’ll get patties since burgers are better when you pat them out yourself (in my opinion). If anyone has experience with butchering a steer and wants to offer some tips, I’m all ears!

       And if you haven’t already make sure you sign up for free updates to Provident Planning so you don’t miss out on the final steps in the process of raising a cow for beef!

Raising a Cow for Beef: Month 12

Corey —  August 24, 2010 — 5 Comments

       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 12. Bambi just turned one year old on Saturday. Happy birthday, Bambi! As always, let’s first check Bambi’s growth. Here he is at eleven months old:

Bambi - 11 Months Old

       And here he is at twelve months old:

Bambi - 12 Months Old

       I’m not really sure how much Bambi weighs right now, and I probably won’t know again until he goes to the butcher. Now that he’s living with other cows and has little interaction with humans it would probably be difficult to check him with a weight tape. But I can definitely see an improvement between these two pictures. He’s a bit stockier and more filled out.

Costs & Time

       Thanks to moving Bambi to our friends’ pasture, I haven’t spent any time on raising him this past month. I will be paying our friends some amount per month, but they haven’t let me know what it will be yet. I’m thinking it should be somewhere between $20-40/month. I was spending about $40-60/month to feed Bambi, but it won’t cost our friends that much since they have a large pasture. He’s still being fed some grain, but he gets most of his fill from the pasture. So I don’t really have anything to report in terms of time or money spent this past month. But here are our total costs so far for your reference:

  • 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
  • Total Spent – $584.18
  • Time – 102 hours

       If you want a more accurate estimate after a year, let’s figure on about $620 so far.

       Moving Bambi to our friends’ farm was probably the best decision I’ve made. It’s nice not having to move him around our yard, feed him every day, and refill his water buckets several times a day. We couldn’t have simply paid our friends to keep him from the beginning because bottle feeding requires a good bit of time.

       But it would have been better for us to raise him on the bottle, get him used to eating grain and grass, and then send him back to our friends. Then, we could have paid them a set amount to cover his boarding costs. This would have saved us some money (maybe about $160?) and a ton of time (probably well over 60 hours). The nice thing is that it doesn’t take any extra time for our friends to feed Bambi since they already have other cows to care for.

       We’ve found another friend from church who can send Bambi up to be butchered when he sends his cow in November. All that’s left now is to get it scheduled with the butcher and decide how we’d like things cut, packed, and processed (jerky, sweet bologna, etc.). I’ll be learning about that process in the next month or so because we need to get it scheduled soon.

       Make sure you sign up for free updates to Provident Planning if you don’t want to miss out on the final steps in the process of raising a cow for beef!