Highland cattle, starting out

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This may sound funny, but my husband and I are thinking of leaving the suburbs w/our 3 kids and renting a 200 acre farm (house and outbuilding, big barn no longer there, currently no animals, land is sharecropped hay and beans) buying some highland cattle and raising them to sell the beef. How would we begin? How much of an investment would we expect to plunk down to get started? Could we likely make any money doing this? Husband has worked w/dairy cattle as a boy, otherwise we are completely green. Thanks!

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If the land is rented, where will you raise the cattle? Crop share on hay and beans goes to the land owner.

If there is some unimproved pasture, you might be able to run 20 cows for the summer, but will need hay for the winter.

If you buy 20 bred Highland cows, minimum price probably $800 per. Thats $16000. Fences and misc. for the summer, figure $1500. Buying hay for the winter, even at $50/ton, 2 tons/cow $2000. Get lucky and save every calf, you will have 20 cows and 20 yearlings to pasture the second summer. If you sold them off the cow you could take in some income, likely $320/calf, but to get them ready to sell as beef, you'll need to keep them longer. Highlands take 3 years to get big enough to sell as beef.

If you hit the high end private beef market, you could take in $1000 per head after the 3 years. Figure in feed and other costs, you'll have $400 net. Even on the full 20 head, thats $8000 net, before taxes. If you can live on $8000 a year and not get any of it until 3 years from now, go for it.

You could place an ad looking for a job on a cattle farm, specifying you will work cheap for the first few months in exchange for experience and a start. Otherwise, don't quit your day job.

Jason Trowbridge Southern Angus Farms Alberta Canada

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I gotta ask, Heidi, why Highland cattle? Are you planning on marketing the calves as "meat" and processing and selling it yourselves to a niche market? Or are you thinking of a registered herd and showing and selling to other registered breeders? No problem with either if you can establish that market, but on the regular sales market, you'll have a challenge marketing the Highlanders. If you got in a situation where you just had a group of steers you wanted to take to the sale barn to raise a little cash, you'll get killed pricewise. I think those are considerations for you when thinking of a small cattle operation. If you want marketability and minimum costs, think black hides and easy fleshing, moderate sized, familiar cattle.


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