Cow-Calf profit for newbie!

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Thomas32

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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.
I know it is about 100 acres, and he said it’s about 90 on average. He uses only one bull and the bull stays with them year round and he sells the calves as they come. I’m not sure how much hay he has to purchase on top of the 5 acres he’s been bailing
 
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Thomas32

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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.
Thanks for the advice! I’m going to talk to him more in depth about the different methods and see why he chooses to do the one bull year round. Maybe it’s just easier and he isn’t necessarily doing this for profit?
 

Brute 23

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Thanks for the advice! I’m going to talk to him more in depth about the different methods and see why he chooses to do the one bull year round. Maybe it’s just easier and he isn’t necessarily doing this for profit?
The good thing is if he has been running like that the cows are naturally in a rotation to be bred. More bulls do add more money and headache in a lot of cases. Down side is he may not be keeping up with who is calving and how often. I would be sure all the cows have ear tags and see if he will help you start logging the cows as the calve. Knowing which calf is their calf is not important now just what cow has a calf, roughly what day its born, or even just write the month and year is close enough. Start logging that in excel or a notebook or some thing. I'd write down any calves you see sucking on cows in the pasture now with a date and note like #100 bull or #200 heifer. Pics on the phone work great because you can get a pic of the cow, its tag, the calf, and it puts a date on the pic.

That is one of the biggest killers of profit... cant have open cows running around. It takes very little effort to be sure of that one thing.
 

JRGidaho`

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Hey everyone! Little back story, currently working as an engineer, make good money but wife wants to move back to her hometown to be with and take care of family. Her grandpa wants us to take over a roughly 90 cattle ranch on about 100 acres in SC due to very old age. He really doesn’t know how much he makes a year off the cattle. I’ve tried researching but have come up with a lot of different answers. We are prepared to put in as much work as it takes but are wondering if one or both of us will need another job as well. Roughly what do people make profit wise per head if everything is paid off? I appreciate any and all replies!
Hey Thomas, I have come a little late to the conversation, but here are some things to think about.
1) Feed cost is the number 1 determinant of profitability in the cow-calf business. This is pretty well true regardless of where you are located in US.. In SC you should be able to graze year around with effective stocking policy and grazing management. According to Ranching for Profit records, the best predictor of probability of profitability is number of days hay is fed.
2) It is performance and profitability per acre that matters in ranching, not performance per animal. There is an inverse relationship between individual cow size and whole ranch profitability. The larger the cow, the lower the profitability.
3) Calving in the winter months usually drives up cost feed costs and reduces profitability. You should always plan for calves to be born on green growing grass. Never while hay feeding.
4) As others have already pointed out, when your father-in-law says he runs '90', I suspect that is 90 head of combined stock and not 90 cow-calf pairs. If he has 90 cow-calf pairs, he is probably buying feed for several months.
5) The idea of direct marketing grassfed beef can be a good plan, but recognize in a conception-to-consumer (cow-calf/growing/finishing) grassfed beef business, about 60-65% of your total grazing resource will still be going to cow maintenance, so the volume of GFB you sell off the farm will be limited.
6) Layering pasture poultry or hogs with the CC operation can generate additional revenue streams. Feed brought in for those other enterprises contributes to the overall fertility of the farm.

Definitely have your wife keep her day job for the benefits.
Can you do free-lance engineering projects from your home.
BTW, 90 cows should never be more than an average of 2 hours/day actual working so it is far from being a full time job.
 

Pep Union

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Investing in the cattle business seems risky in recent months. Artificial meat advocates can produce a disease at any time that will cause radical decline in meat sales.

 

Jeanne - Simme Valley

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"Newbies" call all cattle "cows". As others have guessed, I "think" Grandpa is running 40-50 cows (mature bovines). Grandpa is also probably running the bull year round because it is simple. But - as suggested, he probably has no idea what cows actually calve each and every year. A producer's goal is for every cow to produce a calf every 12 months.
A well-managed (IMO) herd calves in a specific time period - generally a 60 day calving "season" - bull is only WITH the cows for 60 days. That way you have a specific time to vaccinate/deworm cows and a specific time to vaccinate/deworm calves. All calves get weaned at the same time.
Grandpa is just looking at his calves - picking out the biggest ones several times a year - load them up and send to sale barn. The mommas of those calves may or may not be pregnant, he probably does not know.
This is all assumption, but may be quite accurate. When he needs some money, he sells some calves.
Whether you can "make a living" on the farm also depends on how much spending you like to do. LOL Making a living on a farm also entails LOVING to live on a farm. That is where we are soooo much richer than city folks. It is a great LIFE.
 

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Investing in the cattle business seems risky in recent months. Artificial meat advocates can produce a disease at any time that will cause radical decline in meat sales.

 

Dave

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Making a living on a farm also entails LOVING to live on a farm. That is where we are soooo much richer than city folks. It is a great LIFE.
The wife and I were joking about getting a very small check in the mail. I said "are you rich beyond your wildest dreams?" We looked around and said yes we are. Money is not what makes a person rich.
 

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From what has been posted, I tend to agree with @Jeanne - Simme Valley in most all ways. I think that the 90 head is more likely to be 40-50 head of mature cattle and the rest calves of varying sizes. If Grandpa does not "depend on them" for his daily living, then he probably does just sell some as they get bigger and he needs a little extra cash or to pay the taxes or something like that. The bull is most likely in there, because it is easiest.... and because at his age, messing with a bull might not be in his best interests.... he might not have the fences to keep a bull in a separate bull lot....he might not even be able to get the bull in. And at his age it is prudent to not put himself in a position to get hurt. I am also thinking that he might not be banding the calves so is selling young bulls rather than steers. There is anywhere from a $.10 to a $.40 dock on bull calves over steer calves... again it may be because he is not able to get them castrated. I see it alot here with the older farmers. No one to help them, facilities not as workable or as sturdy... and most are not as user friendly for a single person working their cattle.

There are things that you let go because you cannot do it by yourself. But, to give up his cattle would be giving up a part of his reason for being. If your wife really likes what she does, then her keeping a full time job is the best. Do like you said, take a year or so.... HELP grandpa and see what he is doing. As was suggested, go to the stockyard/sale barn and see what sells, get a feel for it. You will be surprised what you can learn just by sitting and watching and listening. Grandpa would probably like to have some company to do some of that stuff too. He might be more inclined to make changes if someone could help him... and still feel like he is contributing. And as you get a feel for it, you will see what the time frame is for doing stuff... and find something part-time for you to do....
Alot too will depend on how you and your wife live... what your expenses are and what you are willing to do without or do with less. How "high on the hog" do you live now? New vehicles, dinners out, expensive tastes?????
Another thing to consider... if the equipment is older, and according to what kind of shape it is in.... for a 5 acre field, what about having the hay made custom if necessary? It is hard to justify new or newer used for that small of a hay field....Surely there might be someone there to either just outright pay to make it or work out some sort of agreement... and maybe you are a whiz mechanic and can make anything keep on working....
 
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Thomas32

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I apologize for such a late response to some of you. Just wanted to give an update on what we've decided if anyone was interested. To answer a few questions, he does have about 70-80 head with 1 bull year round on roughly 100 acres. He has a helper that does mostly all the work for him since he's getting older. My wife's whole family lives in the area and all of them have a decent amount of land so a lot of his feed in the winter comes from bailing hay and storing it so no additional expense there. However, with talking to him and a lot of advice from everyone on this site, at this time I don't think it's a going to work for us just do to the financial side of it. Like many said, it's not very profitable and you mainly do it because you're passionate about it. We aren't ruling it out completely because we don't want him to lose everything he's built so it's still a consideration in the future. I really appreciate everyone's advice!
 

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at this time I don't think it's a going to work for us just due to the financial side of it.
This is a good decision if finances won't support the endeavor.
This is where so many beginners go wrong. They can't or won't see that financial part of it.
Cattle can get into and break your heart, mind and wallet with equal ease tho I believe the emotional fracture is the hardest to bear.
 

KAstocker

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You can make money in cattle. Most don't, but some do. If all you have is 100 acres, you couldn't make it full time but it could be a decent side hustle. I suggest going to a livestock marketing school if you're serious about making money.
 

Cattlelow

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Hey everyone! Little back story, currently working as an engineer, make good money but wife wants to move back to her hometown to be with and take care of family. Her grandpa wants us to take over a roughly 90 cattle ranch on about 100 acres in SC due to very old age. He really doesn’t know how much he makes a year off the cattle. I’ve tried researching but have come up with a lot of different answers. We are prepared to put in as much work as it takes but are wondering if one or both of us will need another job as well. Roughly what do people make profit wise per head if everything is paid off? I appreciate any and all
 

Cattlelow

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Hey everyone! Little back story, currently working as an engineer, make good money but wife wants to move back to her hometown to be with and take care of family. Her grandpa wants us to take over a roughly 90 cattle ranch on about 100 acres in SC due to very old age. He really doesn’t know how much he makes a year off the cattle. I’ve tried researching but have come up with a lot of different answers. We are prepared to put in as much work as it takes but are wondering if one or both of us will need another job as well. Roughly what do people make profit wise per head if everything is paid off? I appreciate any and all replies!
Yes, one of you will have to work. We started our first herd last year. No sales yet, so income is required. Good luck and have fun!
 
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