Why homesteaders should steer clear of cattle.

Born 3-20-18
Born 3-20-18

I am watching a John Wayne movie, McClintock. He is on a wagon riding into town and stops to look over his cattle. The setting is roughly 1895. He is pleased because he is getting 15 cents a pound. His cattle are a horned range breed. That made him a rich man 123 years ago. I repeat…123 years ago.

You want deflation? I just sold a fatter version of the same steer for a whopping .53 cents a pound! Yet, you go to the store and want  one-hundred percent lean hamburger with no steroids, grass-fed and you pay 7.99  a pound! Hmm… why are farmers are going out of business? Why are farmers feeding the cheapest, crappiest steroid infested feed they can get?

I can say this, after this farmer gets through this time period; cows are off this farmer’s list. We have fourteen to get rid of. It will be the end of trying to raise cattle for us. We had thirty-four.

The death of cattle, illness, mud, freezing temperatures, heavy bags of feed, tractors sliding in the mud with thousand pound hay bales, barb wire fencing, coyotes and being put in the red before you even get started is not worth the sleepless nights, thorn bush scratches, kicks and bruises.

To Consumers who would rather pay cheap prices at the store I say: Import the meat, for all I care. I hope it is infested with black leg and pesticides. I’ll never run another steer through the auction again. I’ll enjoy my homegrown steak, but, I am not growing anymore cattle at these prices for the general market.

I am sticking with goats. At least I can make cheese, soap, and kifir then sell the goat for a twenty dollar profit! See if you can do that with a steer.

If insult to injury is not bad enough I just had our cantankerous long horn cow, Fruit-loops, sent in to butcher. I believe she is the culprit which ripped the ear completely off a hefty, pregnant cow; killing it. Fruit-loop’s baby we found dead; thrown into the hay ring.  She was using her horns to literally lift other cows up and even flipped one into the feed trough.  In one last good kick to the wallet she was an eight-hundred pound cow. I was told I her hang weight was three-hundred and forty-five pounds. Okay, so you got the fifty dollar kill fee and sixty-eight cents a pound to wrap. I got back one-hundred and eighty pounds of steaks, roasts, canning meat and hamburger. So where is the rest of the beef?  Turns out she was one-hundred and sixty-five pounds of bone. This is why you should never buy a dairy-cross or a longhorn, for that matter.

Let’s figure this out:

Cost of a two-hundred and twenty pound calf- $2.37 a pound is  $521.40

Cost of wintering three winters in anticipation for her calf:

24 scoops in bag of feed. 12 days of grain. Jan-April 120 days 10 bags x 8 is $80.00

Hay- one cow can eat a bale a day. Dec- April 150 days. $2 bale $300

We have $380 per year in feed and 3 winters into this cow.   Total  $1140

Wormer $45, protein bucket $40, salt blocks 6 x $6 ($36), shots $40, fly powder $20, fly bags $5, water hauled in $5, fence repairs $40 Fuel $20 that all comes to total $251 for her three year stay.

521.40+1140+251+butcher fees $286.40= $2198.80

So the cost per pound for the meat I got back from the butcher was the total of her cost divided by the amount of meat I got back.  So that would be:

$2198.80 /180 lbs=  $12.26 per pound.

Now 80 pounds was hamburger. If I was selling this cow I would probably sell the hamburger for $4 a pound and there would still be people saying that was way to high to spend for one-hundred percent grass-fed steroid-free beef. Someone suggested I should lower it to three dollars for a half or a whole. I had to bite my tongue. Now I might charge $6 a pound for steaks and roasts.

At the best that would be 100 x $6= 600

80 x $4= 320

So how much did I lose on this wretched cow. $2198.80-$920=  -1278.80

Yah, in the hole over a grand.

Also keep in mind, this cow cost me her calf which was a really pretty calf I could have gotten $200 for, a cow she ripped the ear off and its unborn calf which I might have got a $1 a pound at the sale for and she weighed 900lbs. So that is $900 plus the calf $200. So there is another $1300 I’m out.

Now this is why homesteaders should steer one-hundred percent clear from trying to raise beef for profit. If you can raise your own hay and graze the cow and get milk from it for your own personal use then you are ahead. A Dexter might make a nice between breed. Otherwise, find some idiot like myself, buy a half or a whole for $4 a pound and be glad you did not waste your time, and fencing, on a dull-witted animal that would be glad to run you over for a bucket of feed and kick you just because you happened to be standing there.

As for this idiot, I am passing on the knowledge of numbers and experience and I hope there is some wise person who will sit down and think it through before they try to spend their hard-earned money on a cow.

John Wayne  made a killing at .15 cents a pound in an era when a thousand dollars could have bought my whole seventy-six acre farm. Today, get out a shovel because cattle will put you in the hole and it is a long dig back out.

 

Author: cynthia queen

Living on a small farm just three miles short of the West Virginia border I am kept extremely busy with writing, working part time, remodeling our rental mobile homes and running the farm. I lived most of my life on the New York border in the Tyoga County backwoods. Our family has known nothing but hardship and scraping by. I bought this farm with the intent of bringing my family to a better place. I'm hoping my writing will begin to supplement the income and make bringing the family here a reality.