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Are you interested in LIVESTOCK?  Then you might find one of these Homestead.org articles handy:

Dairy Goats, by Sheri Dixon

Livestock Guard Dogs - Just Like Lassie Only Better, by Sheri Dixon

Alpacas: Still the ultimate in exotics by Victoria Varga

Buying Your First Horse:  by Lisa Wiseman

Belted Galloways: The Oreo-cookie Cow, by Victoria Varga 

Icelandic Sheep: Triple-purpose Breed, by Victoria Varga

Highland Cattle: A Breed Apart, by Victoria Varga

Getting Started with Pigs, by C.J. Mouser

The Journey, by C.J. Mouser

Bottle Lambs: Reality vs. The Cute Factor by Anita Gerber

Healing Properties of Emus by Victoria Varga

 

 

Dairy Breeds: Little Calves, Big Profits by Allena Jackson

 

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You will have the cost of $65 per calf, about $106 for processing, $160 for grain/hay for a final profit of $630 per calf, or $5000 for all eight calves.  You will have to find buyers.  One farmer goes to farmerís markets and hands out fliers to interested people.  Many farmers report being able to easily sell all the meat they raise at premium prices.  People are interested in eating pasture raised meat, and will pay a good price for pasture raised veal.  Pasture raised veal is a great alternative for a small farm because you can raise the calves year round, feeding goatís milk, hay and grain and turn over a good profit in 12 - 16 weeks time.  That's a gross income of over $1000 per month, taking care of eight calves.

The interesting thing about raising Jersey and Holstein fall calves is that both breeds do better than traditional beef on a pasture fed diet, supplemented with grain, or just pasture.  They can be fed on winter rye grass, for a very low investment, and sold later in the year when prices are higher.  If you have a larger farm, you can raise a variety of dairy beef ages, and sell as you like for profit.  So with grain prices at an all time high, the idea of converting dairy calves into feeder steers is appealing.  If you can raise your calves mostly on pasture, such as rye grass or available pasture, and have a feeder steer by late spring/early summer, then you are looking at a selling price of approximately $650 to $910 at peak prices.  The bottom line there is how much each individual farm will have to spend to provide pasture for their weaned bottle calves.

 

Using the natural market fluctuations can easily give you a better profit margin, although like all investments, there is some risk.  The markets can and do fall, but if you can provide your calves with pasture, you can probably wait out the lows and get a better price.  Dairy beef grows a little more effectively on a pasture based diet, with some feed supplementation and can give a similar yield to that of traditional beef breeds.  Grass or pasture generally costs less to provide, especially if you can plant a winter crop, such as rye grass or cut your own hay.  Although dairy beef does not flourish or do well in the feedlot environment, it does excellent on pasture raised programs.  The smaller operation can better provide this kind of environment to raise up their dairy beef calves to nice feeder calves.

My personal philosophy is why step over a dollar to pick up a dime?  If you can make about $119 for your weaned calf,  $630 for pastured veal and $400 - $700 for pastured feeder calves, then I would want to look at how much you can sell a finished beef.  Dairy beef does not have the high amount of trimmable fat, so it has a harder time in the big marketplace.  I don't need to tell many of you, that our markets are entirely different.  Thousands of small farms are making good profits on pasture raising beef, turkeys, pigs and all other types of animals traditionally raised in confinement.  We know already that pasture raised meat is healthier, cheaper (for us) to raise and yields higher profit.

With dairy beef, you have a much better chance at a prime animal, but Jerseys will be smaller, weighing out at a finished size of about 800-1000 pounds.  Raised on pasture, with their grain supplimented, they can give you a finely marbled and higher quality prime animal, on less feed, less medications and less time investment.  So if you can raise  a better product, it stands to reason you can charge more for it.  Every person I personally know, that pasture raises any meat, can find a buyer for it in no time.  I recently pasture raised 100 chickens, and had people lined up to get a share of them.  Others tell the same story.  My question for anyone mildly interested in dairy calves, is if you have pasture available, why not keep your theoretical 8 calves, and finish them out if you can?  After taking it to the processor, you can easily turn that $130 per hundred weight into three to 7 times the cash with individual cuts of meat.

A local farmer in my area raises pastured chickens, and goes to farmers markets, just to hand out fliers.  He reports that he always sells out.  People marketing beef, lamb, pork and turkeys also report the same findings.  People are tired of eating chemicals, hormones and garbage in their food.  Even if you aren't organic certified, you can get people to buy your beef from you.  Either already processed, or on the hoof.  Your profit range is going to look more like  $800 - $1200 for dairy beef on the hoof at a peak auction price.  (That is providing a $10 per week grain budget, but assumes a free pasture/hay budget.  This would change if you had to buy hay)  As a pasture raised animal, you can get as much as twice that in some areas, and just load it up and take it to the processor for your customer.  That is an over all profit possibility of $3900 or more per beef, but you will have to market your product.  Your 8 calves can earn as much as $31,000 if you can take the time to market them and deliver them to the processor for your customer.

But, we should at least look at the idea of selling the cuts ourselves, since we've gone this far.  Researching I found pasture raised rib eye steaks were being sold for as much as $34 a POUND!  I do not need to show you the dollars, that are flying into the pockets of other producers.  Obviously there are costs, locally it costs $.89  per pound to process a beef, so you can cut $1200 or so off your profit.  But with prices for ground beef yielding $7 a pound, I don't need to tell you it bears looking into.  You will have to store the beef in a deep freeze and be prepared to pay for the power to run it, and maintenance on it, and the building it is in.  One dairy beef should give you from 500 to 700 pounds of meat, ranging in cuts, that are priced from $7 a pound up to $34 a pound.  Even at a rather modest $10 per pound, you just upped your profits to $ 7000 per calf, minus $600 for feed/care, and also another $1000 for processing.  So, you could get $5400 per calf.  You can take another $1000 off for running a freezer for a full year.  So we have $4400 left, at the modest prices I found pasture beef being sold for in my local area.  $4400 per calf that we started out on goats milk.  So, at the end of our growth season, you could have an profit potential of $35,000 on your original 8 calves.

Of course this is somewhat of an ideological presentation, there are hidden costs, and more overhead that I am probably missing.  There are no vet bills factored and probably expenses missing.  But there is definitely a market, and it bears looking at.  Really you can't tell what it's going to cost, until you look at your local markets and prices.  Corn here is about $14 a hundred, it could be more, or less elsewhere.  The prices and speculations here are based on a middle range of prices and profits for all of these ventures. 

Bottle calves can give you a great profit margin, especially if you consider raising them with alternative/less expensive methods.  You can easily raise some pasture if you have land, and provided you have a tractor, you can rent a no disk planter and plant winter rye or wheat to feed your calves on over the winter.  You can market your beef as weaned calves, pastured veal, feeder calves, finished steers, or steaks already packaged up and ready for the grill.  The options are vast, and dairy calves are easy  and cheap to buy.  In some areas, farmers are literally giving them away, I found them online for as little as $10 a calf!  There is a great chance that you could find a local dairy, and buy a few calves, raise them up and try some of these ideas and make a good profit.  Until you look at your own area's prices there is no way to really know the profit potential.  One thing is for sure, dairy beef is an intriguing and growing business, and I think we will see a lot more of it at the local market.

 

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