Cow-Calf profit for newbie!

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Thomas32

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90 cows on 100 acres with 5 acres of hay and a wife that wants to go back to South Carolina to be with her family,
and your agricultural experience is? God bless your efforts of good will.
Haha yeah I really don’t have any actual agricultural experience, she has some just from growing up there but I’m extremely good with my hands and have no issues learning new things. We were more just curious on the financial side of it and what we should do.
 
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Thomas32

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For some extra income, if your wife wants to be primary caregiver for grandpa, there are programs that allow her to earn pay as a caregiver. Check with your state department of health or social services. Might be a little “best of both worlds” and let her monitor cattle during the day
Well without going into too much detail, she’s in nursing and has much more passion for her job than I do for mine so she would like to continue working as a nurse down there. Which from the responses, it sounds like at minimum one of us should and could have a job with no issues.
 
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Thomas32

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Something not right about the numbers. 90 cows year round is probably too many for 100 acres. Depending on many factors, 30 to 50 might be a better number. With 90 cows on 100 acres, you will probably need WAY more than 5 acres of hay. Investigate the numbers more. Is it 90 cows? How many bulls does he have? How many hay bales does he feed per year? How many bales did he buy last year? How many calves does he sale each year? Where did he sell them last year? How much did he get for them? What kind of tractor and equipment does he have? Regardless of the answers, I think you will find that the best case would result in income less than the poverty level.
Are there engineering jobs in that area? There are some counties in SC with mostly timber and farming and little other employment opportunities. Don't quit your job and relocate without a business plan - which I think will require a lot more information than you have so far.
If the goal is to take care of family and keep some cattle, look at cutting way back on the cow numbers in order to have minimum input costs. If there is some year round grass, look at cow numbers that eliminate or minimize hay usage. Maybe that is only 10 or 20 cows. Find a good job first. You then have adequate income, able to take care of family, able to still look out in the pasture and see some cattle, able to keep grandpa's cattle operation going, just at a much reduced level. You won't be a cattle baron on 100 acres.
That’s the main reason I tried getting others rough estimates. He is very old fashioned and doesn’t do it for the money and doesn’t keep records of anything. He just has a passion for ranching. Only real information I could get is he has roughly 90 at a time on the 100 acres. He only runs one bull and it’s year round, so doubt he’s selling many calves a year. He takes just a few cattle to the auction at a time. Property is in good shape, fencing and structures don’t need many repairs for the time being. The equipment is all very old though, he just “makes it work”. I think cutting back some on the cattle numbers to make it easier would be a good idea. All in all, we just want to keep his ranch going for him and be near family. It sounds like we both may be able to work full time if we just cut back some so that may be our best bet.
 

Warren Allison

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Well without going into too much detail, she’s in nursing and has much more passion for her job than I do for mine so she would like to continue working as a nurse down there. Which from the responses, it sounds like at minimum one of us should and could have a job with no issues.
Dunno what part of SC you will be in, but if it is close to Augusta, they have an Army hospital a VA hospital, and the state of GA prison system's hospital there. Also some private owned hospitals. What kind of cows does the grandpa have now, Thomas.
 

WFfarm

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As others have said, 90 cows on 100 acres sounds like a lot. Maybe it's 90 head? 45 cows with 45 calves sounds more in line. I'm an engineer too and work full time with great benefits and work 30 beefs cows with my brother who also has a good full time job. Don't quit your day job, you're not going to make a living on cows. It's an expensive hobby and you need to really enjoy it and have a passion for it. Most years you look to break even or make a little bit of money to reinvest into the place and equipment.
 
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Keep your engineering job for sure. We have 90 cows, a lot more field, but our grazing/haying situation is different from yours (cold Alberta Canada). My husband works full time and I take care of the cows, some field work etc.
It's sad to say, but with that size of herd you are just about at the threshhold of being a hobby farm. Unless you get the land and cows for free from her family and don't have to mortgage it.
As somebody suggested in and earlier post, if I were you I would reduce the herd size to maybe 40-50 cows. You might have to anyway not knowing how much grandpa culled throughout the years and age of most of the cows.
With a lower number you wouldn't have to worry about having to buy extra feed or needing more pasture. What does your wife think about herself working with cattle and machinery? Because that's what she will have to do with you working a fulltime job.

Taking over the family farm is a nice dream, but reality........... not so much.
 

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That’s the main reason I tried getting others rough estimates. He is very old fashioned and doesn’t do it for the money and doesn’t keep records of anything. He just has a passion for ranching. Only real information I could get is he has roughly 90 at a time on the 100 acres. He only runs one bull and it’s year round, so doubt he’s selling many calves a year. He takes just a few cattle to the auction at a time. Property is in good shape, fencing and structures don’t need many repairs for the time being. The equipment is all very old though, he just “makes it work”. I think cutting back some on the cattle numbers to make it easier would be a good idea. All in all, we just want to keep his ranch going for him and be near family. It sounds like we both may be able to work full time if we just cut back some so that may be our best bet.
If you’re interested in some alternative thinking look up Joel Salatin and polyface farm. He wrote a book about raising grassfed beef that will help you get started (Salad bar beef). Instead of raising calves for auction you raise grassfed beef and sell directly to customers. Might be something you want to consider. Even if your not interested there’s great information in there!
 

Walking W

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If you are a engineer it would probably best for you to keep working making an engineer's salary and benefits and hire you a young man to help out around the farm. Like the other say you won't have a lot of time to look over the cows and put out hay in the winter when the days are short. A good FFA student that has some tractor and on the farm experience would fit the bill. You can always do it full time when you get old and wore out like the rest of us.
I would agree with Bird Dog. Do what you know best and pay someone that needs a job do the farm work. Everyone is a winner.
 

darcelina4

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Do I could definitely make money in that situation but I have lots of ag experience. I would divide the place to rotational grazing and get help with deciding what different for ages to grow. South Carolina you can grow something all year long in pastures if you manage it well. You will need to live there a year or more and evaluate the cattle you have and do some culling to upgrade but don't dump his cows and bring in all new. His are probably adapted to his place. Spend lots of time with him and learn all you can. Go to the salebarn and sit and watch many many times. You will learn what sells in your area. You will begin to judge weights. Stay thriugh the bull cow part so you can learn to identify things that go wrong with the cows. You will need to work hard to learn and you should keep your day jobs, both of you. I care for 46 head myself and do lots of other stuff plus I have limited pasture so I feed year round. I would kill to take over an operation like that.
 

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It's sad that in America a farmer can't make decent living with 100 acres. That said, small farmers will never turn a profit competing against big Ag. I'd look for other avenues of income such as direct marketing of grassfed beef to consumers. This may not work well if you're very far from a metro area but if your farm is close to a big city you may find a market for organic eggs, grassfed beef, etc...
 
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Thomas32

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Dunno what part of SC you will be in, but if it is close to Augusta, they have an Army hospital a VA hospital, and the state of GA prison system's hospital there. Also some private owned hospitals. What kind of cows does the grandpa have now, Thomas.
We will be about an hour south of Charlotte, close to the border. She’s looking to maybe work in matthews, NC or somewhere in that area. He has mainly all Hereford with a few Charolais I believe.
 
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Thomas32

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Keep your engineering job for sure. We have 90 cows, a lot more field, but our grazing/haying situation is different from yours (cold Alberta Canada). My husband works full time and I take care of the cows, some field work etc.
It's sad to say, but with that size of herd you are just about at the threshhold of being a hobby farm. Unless you get the land and cows for free from her family and don't have to mortgage it.
As somebody suggested in and earlier post, if I were you I would reduce the herd size to maybe 40-50 cows. You might have to anyway not knowing how much grandpa culled throughout the years and age of most of the cows.
With a lower number you wouldn't have to worry about having to buy extra feed or needing more pasture. What does your wife think about herself working with cattle and machinery? Because that's what she will have to do with you working a fulltime job.

Taking over the family farm is a nice dream, but reality........... not so much.
Well my wife definitely wants to keep her full time job in nursing as she has a passion for it. I on the other hand wouldn’t mind leaving the engineering side of things and putting my full effort into ranching. My biggest fear, is like all of you have said, it’s not the most profitable thing so if you don’t love doing it, it’s not worth it. So hopefully I will. Everything that it entails I enjoy, so I believe I will. Maybe I could spend a year with the current herd size learning everything and if it’s not what I love, we can reduce it to a more manageable amount like you mentioned and I’ll get a more steady job.
 
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Thomas32

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Do I could definitely make money in that situation but I have lots of ag experience. I would divide the place to rotational grazing and get help with deciding what different for ages to grow. South Carolina you can grow something all year long in pastures if you manage it well. You will need to live there a year or more and evaluate the cattle you have and do some culling to upgrade but don't dump his cows and bring in all new. His are probably adapted to his place. Spend lots of time with him and learn all you can. Go to the salebarn and sit and watch many many times. You will learn what sells in your area. You will begin to judge weights. Stay thriugh the bull cow part so you can learn to identify things that go wrong with the cows. You will need to work hard to learn and you should keep your day jobs, both of you. I care for 46 head myself and do lots of other stuff plus I have limited pasture so I feed year round. I would kill to take over an operation like that.
I think that’s a good plan. We are leaning towards my wife having a full time job while I learn all the ins and outs of ranching for about a year like you said. And then if I can manage a full time job and maintain the herd size, I’ll go ahead and do that. Definitely a lot to learn from him!
 
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Thomas32

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If you’re interested in some alternative thinking look up Joel Salatin and polyface farm. He wrote a book about raising grassfed beef that will help you get started (Salad bar beef). Instead of raising calves for auction you raise grassfed beef and sell directly to customers. Might be something you want to consider. Even if your not interested there’s great information in there!
Thanks! I’ll definitely look that up!
 

Warren Allison

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We will be about an hour south of Charlotte, close to the border. She’s looking to maybe work in matthews, NC or somewhere in that area. He has mainly all Hereford with a few Charolais I believe.
If he has 90 cows, then first thing to do would be to get rid of the bull, and get 3 Brangus bulls. One bull for every 30 cows. If he has been doing year round calving.. which he has if he has 90 cows, and 1 bull that stays in with them all the time... then you gonna have to let the cows stay open til the last one has calved. You are probably gonna wanna shoot for spring calves, Feb and March.. so you'd wanna put your bulls in the herd 1st of May. That way you can sell the calves in the fall before you have to start feeding. You wouldn't want fall calves with 90 cows on 100 acres. Or, to prevent having to leave some of the cows un-bred for a year or so, you could breed 30-40 in January for some fall calves, and the other 50-60 in May spring calves. If you did this, you would only need 2 bulls.
 

Son of Butch

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You are probably gonna wanna shoot for spring calves, Feb and March...
so you'd wanna put your bulls in the herd 1st of May.
To expand on that thought... put bulls out May 1st pull bulls July 20 (80 days)
Sept 1st (42 days) have your vet preg check entire herd and sell all open cows.
Bank that money, then use it in December to buy bred cows due in Feb.
Carrying open cows/problem breeders to align with a calving season change is a money loser.
 

shaz

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I don't think any of us can really help without some accurate numbers. 90 cows, 100 acres and 5 acres of hay. At least one of those numbers must be wrong. Maybe you could visit the place and do a count before you make any decisions.
 

Brute 23

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I was in an AI class with a guy from Georgia and if I remember correctly he said they had like a pair to 2ac stocking rate and he talked about shredding grass regularly to keep it fresh. He talked about cutting some hay out if their pasture but buying pecan hay real cheap.

I'm not sure if I got it all correct buy remember it being pretty amazing.
 

Warren Allison

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I was in an AI class with a guy from Georgia and if I remember correctly he said they had like a pair to 2ac stocking rate and he talked about shredding grass regularly to keep it fresh. He talked about cutting some hay out if their pasture but buying pecan hay real cheap.

I'm not sure if I got it all correct buy remember it being pretty amazing.
Yes. Here in north Ga, 1 acre per cow.
 

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