I can make money selling freezer beef

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GoWyo

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We sell 7-10 beef per year by hanging weight with customer paying processing. Spring calves get weaned in fall and a half dozen put on feed at neighbors feedlot for September harvest. Open yearling heifers go on feed in September same feedlot and harvest late January. We book appointments a year in advance. Book extra slots and a month out call processor to release slots we don't need. They fill them easy with their wait list. We found our neighbors feedlot maybe costs more, but no hassle for us and they can get them to 1500# and more finished than we can do. Having silage is a big plus in getting them to gain and finish. We don't do grass fed and our customers don't want grass fed.
 

Luckiamute

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I think in the current situation we are in, there is money to be made selling quarters, halves and wholes. I do it on a small scale and have done OK. Not getting rich, but covering all of our expenses and making a few dollars. When I figure that and take our property tax reduction for being in an exclusive farm/ranch zone, we come out several thousand dollars ahead each year. People, especially those in the city, have found out during the Covid pandemic that food and other necessities don't magically just appear in the grocery store. Like money, beef doesn't grow on trees. In some instances they have actually developed an appreciation for what some of us do and are now more than ever willing to pay a premium price for a quality product, be it grass-fed or grain-finished beef. I haven't set my prices for this year (we butcher in November) but I'm estimating that I will be charging around $4.25 to $4.50 per pound based on the hanging weight, and that includes the processing costs. I think I'll get that. We have a waiting list for our beef and most of our customers are repeat and come back year after year. I think it is all in how you market and how you educate the customer. They need to know what they are getting and how to use it (not everyone knows how to cook a chuck roast or a brisket or the short ribs). They need to know how much freezer space they will need. They need to understand how you sell the steer/heifer and what live weight means and what hanging weight means and what the actual final yield amount will likely be. If you're willing to hold their hands and walk them through the process, they will appreciate it. Like Dave said, the biggest issue is dealing with the people. They do not understand the restrictions that are placed on us and the small processors when selling sides/quarters and that they can't have things done exactly as they want when only buying a quarter. And most importantly, be sure that when you are figuring out your expenses that you are paying yourself. If you aren't doing that, you're not making any money and not truly covering your time and your expenses. If you are truly interested in doing this, I recommend a course called the Western Meat School. While I don't agree with everything that the speakers and instructors share/believe/promote, it is an excellent source of information on the whole process involved in selling your own produced meat.
 

libertygarden

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I've read here that some rancher are making $100 to $150 per cow. Unless you're selling 1000 cows a year, you might as well get a job in town. For small producers, the cow/calf or feeder steer operation is not profitable from what I've seen. A lot of producers are in it for tax deductions, land appreciation or a host of other reasons besides running a profitable operation.

I think there is massive opportunity for small producers to coalesce to sell directly to customers. My plan is also to sell directly to customers 10 to 12 steers per year with 1/4 beef being the smallest purchase. A lot of people would love to have access to grassfed beef that's not outlandishly priced like at the store.
 

Ky hills

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We have been finishing out some calves for a few years for our own beef and just starting to get into finishing out calves on a very small scale to friends. So far we have had repeat customers. I would like to expand that end of our cattle operation some. We grain finish ours. When we were a part of the local farmers market, there were some meat vendors there. They sold buy the cut, I am not sure that I would ever want to go that route, as it would require a lot of freezer space and likely end up with some cuts being hard to sell. I like the idea of selling whole, halves or quarters better, and having it already sold and not having to have it on hand waiting to sell.
 

adammck15

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Hmm sounds like a group of small beef producers need to group together and form either a whole processing company that they all hold shares to, or some sort of co-op. As long as the processing plant pays for it’s own operating cost, the ranchers get cheaper processing costs and ready availability. If the plant makes money, it gets distributed or re-invested in the plant depending on shareholder votes. They could even build a marketing team and sell the beef as part of the company or opt to get their beef back and sell privately.
As long as they get a USDA certification then the options could be endless. They could even open it up to farmers of other meats (depending on certifications). Or allow other producers to use them at a higher rate if all shareholders don’t have anything pending.
 

shaz

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One thing I’ve noticed is that younger customers don’t know how to cook and have never heard of cube steak and no idea what to do with a roast. Once they get half a cow in the freezer they have to learn.
 

504RP

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Over the years I have done a lot of direct sales. Started with the first one I raised while in grade school. By the time I graduated from high school I had done enough to pay for my first two years of college. I always sold halves and quarters. The ones I did as a high school senior I got $0.73 a pound hanging. The last year I put an effort into it was 2012. I got $3.00 a pound. That year I did 18 steers. For me the biggest hassle was dealing with the people. Not everyone you deal with will be happy.
What kind of problems did you have dealing with people ? Ever have any back out at the last minute ?
 

Dave

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What kind of problems did you have dealing with people ? Ever have any back out at the last minute ?
Back out, Try to pay less than the agreed on price, wanted grass fed late in the season and then complained on quality........... I had a job where I dealt with people all the time. I don't raise cattle so I can deal with more people.
 

504RP

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Back out, Try to pay less than the agreed on price, wanted grass fed late in the season and then complained on quality........... I had a job where I dealt with people all the time. I don't raise cattle so I can deal with more people.
I kind of understand some how to grain finishing but how do you grass finish one ? Outside of keeping the beef on good grass until it is ready for butcher is there anything else you do to finish it for butcher ?
 

kenny thomas

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I kind of understand some how to grain finishing but how do you grass finish one ? Outside of keeping the beef on good grass until it is ready for butcher is there anything else you do to finish it for butcher ?
I am on the hook for 1/4 of one right now. First time but it was a new customer. Oh well, I usually have room for a 1/4 in my freezer.
504RP, I can't remember ever seeing a grass finished here. Lots of grass fed but none finished. I'm not sure one can really be finished on normal pasture grasses. It takes a lot longer to put weight on one just on grass also. Only ones I know of that are "grass fed" in my area are just pulled off low quality pasture and slaughtered. They say its great lean meat. Sure it is, there hasn't been anything given to the beef to make it marble.
 

Ky hills

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I would recommend getting a deposit down before going too far in the process. We had some family members back out on a beef a couple years ago. They lived a couple hours or so away, and I always had in the back of my mind that they would not follow through. It works out fine as we were going to process that beef anyway for ourselves if we didn’t sell it. I think it’s a good idea to prepare your customers up front to what around about the dollar amount will be, as well as the a guesstimate of how many pounds of meat to expect and make it understood that all that is just an estimate.
 
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HDRider

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shaz

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You usually need to coach a new customer when placing an order with the butcher. They need to understand what cuts are available. The butcher will usually lead them through the order process but most people aren’t realistic about what comes out of a cow.
 

greybeard

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You usually need to coach a new customer when placing an order with the butcher. They need to understand what cuts are available. The butcher will usually lead them through the order process but most people aren’t realistic about what comes out of a cow....
One thing I’ve noticed is that younger customers don’t know how to cook and have never heard of cube steak and no idea what to do with a roast. Once they get half a cow in the freezer they have to learn.
They probably know it as a 'minute steak' since that's how it's usually referred to on US TV.
 

skyhightree1

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I am still new to cattle. Some of you have spent a lifetime in this business, and have forgot more than I will ever know. I have now sold five calf crops.

Many of you know my opinion of how the cattle business is run. I think the deck is stacked very heavily against us. The processors own the market, they control the market as much as one can.

I have done everything I can do to keep operating expenses down. I do not include capital costs, or land in my profit loss calculation. I have sold at every weight class to feel out the market.

Feeder cattle are about $153 right now. 400# sells for $612.
Live cattle are $116. 1,000# sells for $1,160.

I can get $3.50 per pound hanging weight. 600# hanging sells for $2,100

Sure I do a little more work, but not much. Of course my expenses are a little higher, again, not that much.

I can make money selling freezer beef. The processors know that. They will do everything than can to squash small processing facilities to keep me down, and themselves up.

We need lots of new small processing plants brought online.

One of my friends who is from where I am from has done exceptionally well on selling beef and pork and has a kill date for several cattle every month for the next 2 years i think he said... He said he had no clue he could make the amount of $ hes making.
 

Little Joe

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Decide who your customer is.

For example
Grass Finished
Grain Finished
Halves/Wholes/Quarters/ By the piece
Find a processor (good luck)


I aim for 1,000 pounds


I carry

The buyer pays for processing

Big bucks, like $400 to $500 per square foot

Here a guy that does deer is called a custom processor, and can do hogs, beef, etc. They can only process for the owner of the animal. No by-the-piece sales, the opposite of a USDA processor.


This guy in NC has it nailed
Did the bill not pass here in Arkansas allowing us to sale without usda inspection within state lines? I thought it had passed.
 
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HDRider

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Did the bill not pass here in Arkansas allowing us to sale without usda inspection within state lines? I thought it had passed.
They passed a law for state inspection. They did not provide any funding.

I argued against it. State inspection is ever bit as rigorous as USDA, but you can only sell in state. In a state as small as Arkansas puts most of us within an hour of a state line. I do not like that limitation.
 

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