Cost Per Day for a Cow

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WCBR1025

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Hello all,
I’m looking at purchasing some heifers to expand my operation and am currently trying to budget what a cow cost over her lifetime vs what her weaned calves will bring over her lifetime. Basically it’s a lifetime budget of a cow. So to figure the budget accurately I need to come up with a cost per day per cow, I know it depends a lot on individual operations and feedstufs. I don’t expect somebody running 1000 head in the West to have the same amount per day as somebody running 50 head here in the East.

With my rough figuring I came up with around $1 per cow per day and that’s figuring everything (hay, grain, fertilizer, shots, fuel, fencing, hauling, tractor work, pasture lease and upkeep, etc) that I could think of.

So my question is what do you all spend per cow per day?
 

5S Cattle

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:D Pretty sure cb has it figured to the penny. I get by cheaper than most because all my cattle are at work. Interested in the responses
 

bball

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I have skinned mine down to the $1.25....$1.30 range. There's many a hidden cost and expense in maintaining cow/calf operation. Liability insurance for your operation, vehicle insurance, taxes on the property you own and run the cows on, trailer tires, grain/hay price fluctuations, etc.
From what I have gathered, some of the best folks who live in the heart of 'cattle country' struggle to keep things at a buck a day in our current economic climate.
 

Stocker Steve

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1) Depends a lot on location. USDA publishes some truly scary numbers by region. SE is usually the lowest cost for cow/calf.

2) Depends a lot on cow size. University of Kentucky has a good spreadsheet to use, which includes size for calculating consumption and cull values.

3) Depends a lot on how good you are at accounting. It should include both direct costs (like most of the items you listed) and indirect or overhead costs (which you missed in some cases). Search for University of Minnesota FINBIN data base, and run a "benchmark" report for your state or region.

4) Depends alot on if you are trying to make a profit. Many don't, and total costs over $2 per day are often the result.
 

cotton1

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$300-$400 a year per cow is not too far out of line from my experience.
 

snoopdog

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1.00 to 1.35 if you want to make money , preferably to the lower side. But you have to love it , and good luck!
 

Caustic Burno

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5S Cattle":2fzuetcq said:
:D Pretty sure cb has it figured to the penny. I get by cheaper than most because all my cattle are at work. Interested in the responses

1.37 last year. They can still pay their way at a 1.50 with today’s prices.
It’s not pretty, they are not on welfare at those inputs.
 

farmerjan

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We figure between $450 -500 per year per cow MINIMUM... like CB it comes to 1.36/day. But with fuel prices creeping up it is closer to that 1.50 a day. We lease nearly all our ground, and do as much rotational grazing on the places that we can that have fencing and WATER. This year the cattle have had exceptional grazing, making hay has been the problem with all the rain. But in this area, our cattle will not bring what they seem to in other areas due to expensive trucking costs. We are seeing prices in the 1.25 to 1.65 for steers, and 1.20 to 1.40 for heifers in the 4-6 wts.
We have seen some pasture rents go up and have lost 2 places where we made hay although we are not upset by either one as they were further travel and steep ground. We are considering giving up another place as she wants to go up again, and we cannot justify the increased cost and still do the bushhogging and weed spraying we have done in the pastures and the hay field. They all want more money AND the land use tax break, but most don't want any of their own money to be put back into it.
 

Coosh71

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$294.66 last year. Includes all feed/minerl costs, truck fuel/maintenance, meds, windmill work, misc fence materials and basic supplies and taxes/ins. We own the land so no leases.
 

True Grit Farms

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We figure about $100 less than we made on the cows for the year. I can't see how it's possible to keep track of cost per cow per day when you have more going on than just cattle on the same piece of property. I think it's impossible myself, just trying to figure fuel cost in a vehicle to check cows isn't practical. Most times when we're heading to or from town we ride by and check cows or hay fields.
 
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WCBR1025

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Thanks for the replies everyone, it looks like $1-$1.50 per day is the most common range. With that being said let me run a basic budget by y’all and you can tell me how far off I am.

Say for easy math we buy 10 bred heifers that are 1.5 years old at the time of purchase. The heifers cost $1200/hd and they are due to calve at 2 years old. The plan is to keep them till around 10 years of age on average, some might be culled at 8 years and some might stay till 12 years.

The cattle have a calf a 2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10 for a total of 9 calves per cow.

9 calves sold at 500lb weaning weight =4500 lbs of calf over the lifetime of the cow.

4500 lbs x $1.40/lb (approximate 10 year average price here) = $6300
The cow weighs 1200 at culling and brings .60 cents per pound = $720

So the total INCOME the cow has produced is $7020 now let’s look at expenses.

The heifer cost $1200 at purchase and she’s kept 9 years or 3285 days.
If we use an average of 1.25 per day that comes to 3285x1.25=$4106
$4106 + the cost of the heifer 4106+1200=$5306 total expenses

So if we take total income ($7020) and subtract total expenses ($5306) we come up with a net profit of $1714 over the cows lifetime.

Now we go back to the group of 10 heifers we started with and figure they produce 90 calves in their lifetime and at a 4% calving loss were left with 86 calves.

86x500= 43000 lbs x $1.40/lb =$60200 + $7200 for the cull cows

So total income over the group is $67400

Expenses for the group are 10 cows x 365 days x 9 years =32850 “cow days”

32850 x $1.25 per day =$41063

$41063 + $12000 for the cost of the heifers is $53063 total cost.

So income ($67400) minus expenses ($53063) is $14338 over the “life” of 10 heifers.

That adds up to $1593 per year profit or $159 profit per cow per year.

I know that’s a lot of variables and I’m planning on y’all to tell me how far off I am on this figuring.

Now I think I’m gonna go have a cold beer to cool my brain off after all that calculating :D
 

Stocker Steve

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Cost of replacements is a big one. Rerun with 90% of heifers settling, and lasting 3 calves, average.
Rerun with more realistic death losses, for both cows & calves.
And so on. You are on the edge of an expensive biology lesson.
 

holm25

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Some cows die. Some have to be culled at a very young age due to injuries. These are some things to consider.
 

Dave

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I use to figure I stayed under $1 a day for feed cost in the winter. The last winter feed cost was $1.43 a day. I had cheap pasture rents but that averaged out to about $0.45 per day. That works out to $0.94 cents a day just for feed cost alone.
 

farmerjan

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$1.60 per cow per day. Or it costs $575-580 per year per cow. That is allowing for boughts, solds, dieds, raising up replacement heifers, everything that has been thrown out here as indirect and direct costs. If a 500 lb calf doesn't average 1.50 for $750 return then I am basically working for nothing. My son said that if we got 1.70 lb for 500 lb calves we could actually make a little bit but anything below that we were just sitting in place or losing.
So a weaned calf has to return $750 with costs in the $600 range, so that is $150 per calf "profit" for the year. Takes 100 to make you $15,000 per year. Not a very good return for your time. That's why we are all a little bit crazy and have to love what we do or have no common sense and nothing better to do with our time. They maybe full time work, but they are still a "hobby" as far as payback goes.

One reason I have the nurse cows. Costs me closer to $700 year to keep the cow with extra feed to get more production. I used to figure less but feed has been creeping up so let's say closer to $1.90 to $2.00 per day. Sell at least 3 calves off her @ 400 lbs @ $1.00 lb due to them being dairy crosses. So I make $1200 off her, less the average cost of $100 per calf so actually make $900; keep her calf as replacement or say a value of $1300 total as her calf is dairy so not worth as much but I didn't have to outright buy it, costs more to raise that calf up to calving again due to the dairy type needing more concentrated feeding... but the potential of her to raise more calves will offset the added cost to get her to calving age. And if I breed her to beef, then her calf is a potential sale also. Or can be put into the beef herd as a replacement and she will usually raise a bang up calf due to the extra milk in the background.... But then pasture only for a dairy cow is tougher and they often don't hold the condition as well.....because they are putting more into the "milk making"....
Still isn't much payback for your time no matter how you figure/slice/ or dice it. The ag exemrtion on the taxes is figured in, but it does help on taxes.....and gives you a reason to have to get up and get going on mornings you really don't feel like it.
 

Coosh71

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I dont think your math is off, but like has been mentioned it usually doesn't work out that way. I've seen/read that the avg cow stays in the herd only 3 years. Hard to pencil any chance of profit with that as a reality. We do far better in our operation than 3 years. I will cull a cow if she consistently breeds back last and calves aren't growers. I know the "live calf" think vs weaning weight, but feed costs are high and she's eating groceries daily that could be fed/grazed by another that's producing better calves. We have retained 10 and we have purchased 10. In 1 group after 4 years there's 6 remaining and in the other there's 9. We can do all the homework we want, but at the end of the day we cannot predict out 10 years on a heifers production. Also, we have had better retention luck out of buying a set of 3-5yr old bred cows. Good luck with whatever you do on this. Let us know...
 

farmerjan

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We get more than 3 years average out of our cows. Maybe on some of the bought ones as we cull out the old ones or the ones that don't raise good calves. But on our own raised up heifers, I would say that the average is 10 years. Really. I have many 2008 models now, some in the spring calving group and a bunch in the fall calving group.
I guess I keep a different "set of books" so to speak on the boughts, because they are often not very high priced, we don't buy the "best ones" but the lower ends. Sometimes we hit a good batch, but sometimes we get some that will only raise that one calf and both will get sold in the fall. Often we buy some to take advantage of the spring/summer grass at rented places. And a few times we have raised a few nice heifers out of some old cows, and kept them. On average, we calve out 20-25 replacement heifers every year, but sold more heifers in 2013 & 2014 when prices were high. Of the last 2 groups we have culled only 1 each year, so still have 12 from 2014 and 2015. We went from 40 cows to 100 to 150 and up to 200. We have culled about 25-30 of the old, infirm, and not preg old cows this past year. Then bought about 20 to use all the grass we have. Most of them will only be here a lactation or 2.
The 2015's (16 fall born heifers calved in spring 2018) with calves on them now, will all get preg checked and I expect to have 90-95 % preg. There are 2 that have big whoppers of bull calves, and if they are open they will go in the next breeding group so will be 6 months behind. That will be their "free pass". Both were only 25 and 26 months at calving and we usually calve closer to 28-30 months. Both are out of good cows. Sure, some people feel that they should calve by 24 months, but for us 27-30 works better. We also do not do a lot of supplementing, so they grow a little slower. Hay and grass is the mainstay.

I have one heifer going into the breeding group that is the 4th generation.... still on the farm. The old cow is 13 or 14, I think, and she still does good. Teeth are short but she holds body condition. She will be here until something happens; not preg, legs start to give her trouble & doesn't get around, has a poor calf from not enough milk, doesn't hold her body condition, ...something.

We have bought several from a farm that regularly sells cows after 8 years old. We have gotten some nice cows, some nice calves out of them, kept a few heifers as replacements, and have often kept them 2-5 more years with no problems. They cost a bit more, but sometimes not.
 

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